MISSOULA — Kermit Merle Edmonds, of Missoula, died Sept. 20, 2019, at the age of 81. He was a beloved father, brother, friend and teacher; and a noted historian, archaeologist and soldier. He died at the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls.
Kermit was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1938 to Art and Anna Edmonds. He had two brothers, Thornton, who predeceased him, and Severn. He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1964 with a bachelor's degree in history. In 1970, he earned his teacher’s certification from the University of Montana.
Kermit was a highly respected, admired, and influential history teacher. He was continually recognized for his depth of knowledge, creativity, and dedication. He taught history at Florence-Carlton High School in Florence in 1971-1972, and at Hellgate High School in Missoula from 1973 to 2000, where he taught history and social studies. He also developed two popular extracurricular courses, Thanatopsis and America in the Emerging World.
As a historian and archaeologist, Kermit specialized in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. He served as a museum curator for the Mojave Pioneers Historical Society, Arizona; the Wyoming State Museum; the Montana Historical Society; and Sitka National Historical Park in Alaska. Kermit also served as a seasonal park historian for the National Park Service for 16 summers, at Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana, and Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming. From 1993 to 1997, he worked as an interpretive planner for the Lolo, Bitterroot, and Clearwater National Forests in Montana and Idaho. He was project manager for an archaeological investigation at Fort Assiniboine, and a National Park Service volunteer at Little Big Horn National Battlefield in 1985. In 1989 he worked at the Reno-Benteen battle site at Little Big Horn National Battlefield. Kermit also volunteered for a number of other archaeological projects throughout the West, and was well-known and respected for his expertise on military history and material culture. Kermit was a Fellow of the Company of Military Historians and a member of the Native American Cultural Awareness Committee in Missoula.
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Kermit served in the 6th U.S. Army Light Weapons Infantry, California Army National Guard, from 1959-1965, and the Montana Army National Guard from 1976-1998, where he served as a historian and photojournalist with the 103rd Public Affairs Detachment, and as a curatorial specialist for the Command Historian. In 1990, Kermit was activated to serve in Desert Storm as a combat photographer with the U.S. Army XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery. He received the U.S. Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, a Meritorious Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the Montana Army National Guard Distinguished Service Medal. For his service in Desert Shield/Desert Storm he received the Southwest Asia Service Medal and the Liberation of Kuwait Medal from the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Kermit will be long-remembered as a loving dad, a favorite teacher, a mentor, an encyclopedic source of knowledge, and a friend. He loved rainfall, the smell of sagebrush, classical music, dogs, and camping, and dedicated himself to the conservation of the natural world. Through his passion, intelligence, wit, and kindness, Kermit made a profound difference in the lives of many — a difference that still resonates as those who loved and learned from him continue to pay it forward.
Kermit is survived by his daughters Jennifer Edmonds and Amy Secrest; son-in-law Lee Secrest; brother Severn Edmonds; nieces Lisa Edmonds and Tori Fallis; and honorary daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter Lea, Kevin, and Freya Colvill. A memorial and celebration of life will be held in Missoula Oct. 12, 2019, at 3 p.m. at the University of Montana University Center third floor conference rooms, followed by a reception at 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree Inn, 100 Madison St. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Humane Society of Western Montana or The Nature Conservancy. However, attendees to the memorial are invited to bring a flower to contribute to a collective arrangement. Funeral arrangements are under the care of Garden City Funeral Home in Missoula.