Dr. Donald H. Cheever went home to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. His most prominent characteristic was his servant's heart, always investing himself in others and showing kindness to all he knew.
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Don was born on Dec. 1, 1929, to Hurlbert and Myrtle Cheever. He grew up on S. Tracy Ave. in Bozeman, enjoying the life of a young lad while attaining the status of Eagle Scout. One of many skills he carried over into adulthood was sending messages in Morse code with a flashlight as well as whittling and whistling.
Don was always musical, playing both the flute and piccolo in high school and college marching bands. He played the piano by ear and tales are told of him playing the guitar and harmonica at the same time, not to mention the ocarina (sweet potato). Don also sang a lovely baritone. His children have fond memories of him marching around the living room to John Philip Sousa as well as selecting music to match the ethnicity of the evening meal, for example, a polka to go with brats and sauerkraut.
Don definitely added joy to the home. Anyone who knew him appreciated his ability to tell a good joke and recite long poems such as "Casey at the Bat" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee." (Yes, we know that mentioning the latter might not seem appropriate here, but some of us voted that the poem be read at his memorial service – we lost.)
After graduating from Montana State College in 1951, Don began his life of service by attending medical school at the University of Oregon; he graduated in 1955. He married Shirley Koger in 1955 and they were blessed with two daughters, Kathy and Connie. He enlisted in the Air Force and served with distinction until Shirley was diagnosed with leukemia. He was honorably discharged and moved his family to Bozeman to care for Shirley and work as a physician at his alma mater. Shirley passed away in 1961, leaving Don with two small children, a dog, and a turtle.
Don continued to work at MSC where he would spy a single mother who also faced the task of raising two young children on her own. Don and Winnie were married in 1962 after a whirlwind romance and his family suddenly doubled as he became one of the best step-dads of all time to Dan and Dianne, whom he would adopt. Mary was born two years later.
Along with their five children, Don and Winnie took in several foster children. But as true servants do, Don felt led to do more and in 1968 began stints overseas, first caring for civilian casualties of the Vietnam War and then aiding Cambodian refugees in Thailand, Ethiopian victims of draught and cholera, and Bosnian refugees in Albania. Don and Winnie both served twice with Wycliffe in Colombia, S.A., and spent a summer in Zambia, Africa, researching the feasibility of a medical clinic. During his time in Ethiopia, Don rescued at least one young man from a life of poverty and persecution who came to live in Bozeman.
More than simple compassion, Don's service to others was a testament to his love for the Lord and his belief that he should live as much like Jesus as possible. He continued his service at home for decades as an elder at Grace Bible Church and as a member of the Missions committee, his passion. To him, the greatest message the world can hear is the love of God revealed through his Son's death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.
Don was also an ardent Bobcat fan, traveling with the football team as team physician for years. He was an avid hiker, skier, runner, and cyclist and, when he needed to put food on the table for his family, enjoyed hunting. Well into his retirement years, he could be found at the gym at 5 a.m. He ran several marathons, half-marathons, and 10Ks – his appearance at the finish line will be missed by many friends. Prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, he was chosen to run with the torch on its way through Big Sky.
In his final race, Don's legacy will be: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Don is preceded in death by his parents, Hurlbert and Myrtle; his brother, Raymond; his first wife, Shirley; and his grandchildren, Stephen Lorang and Angelica Heide. He is survived by his wife, Winnie; his son, Dan Cheever (Karen) of Beaverton, Ore.; and his four daughters, Dianne Lorang (Mike) of Littleton, Colo., Kathy Cheever-Bonfire (Mars) of Lancaster, Calif., Connie Cheever of Lakewood, Colo., and Mary Heide (Gale) of Bozeman, Mont. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Michelle Nichterlein, Bart Lorang, Kaye Zahrowski, Tracy Cheever, Liz Lorang, and Trina and Alethia Heide and two great-grandchildren, Maya and Ty Nichterlein.
Gifts in memory of Don's life of service can be sent to Grace Bible Church Missions Fund or Montana Bible College.
A memorial service will be held at Grace Bible Church at 3625 S. 19th Ave. in Bozeman on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 11 a.m. Private family interment will take place at Sunset Hills Cemetery. Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service, www.dokkennelson.com.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Aug. 14, 2013