After 64 years of owning and manufacturing masonry blocks at Kanta Products, George Kanta died peacefully on Aug. 27, 2010. George never tired or retired from working, having visited the block plant he helped open in 1946 just two weeks before his death.
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George was born on April 25, 1919, to Mary and Joseph Kanta in Ingomar. In his early years, the family moved to Bozeman and owned/operated a family farm. After graduating from Holy Rosary High School in Bozeman, George enrolled at Montana State University, where he completed his mechanical engineering degree in 1941.
George married Kathryn Coffee on April 14, 1942, in Chicago. Very soon afterward, George and Kathryn moved to Canton, Ohio, to practice his engineering skills for the Hoover Company, which slowed vacuum production and started manufacturing electrical components as part of the United States involvement in the war effort.
During his time in Canton, George longed to return home and pursue his dream of manufacturing a Montana-made product. His dream was postponed due to World War II, but in 1946, he and Kathryn returned home to Gallatin County and along with his brother, Joe, opened Builders Products, a block manufacturing plant in Three Forks.
A few years later, George and Kathryn assumed ownership of the company. In 1960 his brother, Tom, joined the business and the name was changed to Kanta Products. George's son Joe, son-in-law John Neuhaus, daughter Elaine, grandson Pat, Tom's wife Carol and their daughter Kim Kanta Fink all joined the family business. George was very proud of the family and employees involved in the business, often commenting that success of the business was not only due to quality products, but also loyalty of the employees and their customers.
George had several hobbies including fly fishing, fly tying, bow hunting and spending time at his family cabin, which he built in 1970. His passion was hard work and a commitment to his family and Catholic faith. George, Father James Dowdall, and numerous parishioners broke ground and constructed Holy Family Catholic Church in Three Forks. George, Father Dowdall and a handful of employees and friends donated their time and manufactured blocks on Saturdays and, along with masonry friends from Butte and Anaconda, completed construction of the church in 1950.
Throughout the years, George and his crew manufactured blocks used to build several hundred schools, buildings, churches and jails all across Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Canada and even overseas. Wherever there is a block building in Montana, it's a good bet George had a hand in building it. George also spent some of his spare time designing and building various items, securing patents on several of them including a dog buzzer, garden cart and "front gate" used in manufacturing blocks. Years ago, he made an antelope decoy and in a quiet, soft chuckle and a grin, he often told the story about a hunter "sneaking up on it and shooting it!" Throughout his life, he had five different dogs, all boxers and all named "Sam." He was seldom seen without his dog. Friends would often hear him exclaim, "Katie made me do it."
George was preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Mary Kanta; his loving wife Kathryn, to whom he was married for 60 years; his brother, Joe (Betty) Kanta; his sister, Helen (Jake) Jensen; and his dear friend and sister-in-law, Carol Kanta.
He is survived by his sons, Joe and George (Jackie); his daughter, Elaine (John) Neuhaus; his brother, Tom Kanta; his grandsons, Pat and Jim (Christie) Kanta; his granddaughter, Kristie (Nate) Lane; his grandsons, Michael and George Neuhaus; his granddaughter, April Neuhaus; his nephew, Tommy (Wendy) Jensen; and his nieces, Patty Jensen, Dawn (Tom) Burgess and Kim Kanta Fink. He is also survived by his great-grandchildren: Wyatt, Desiree, and Lowrance Metzer; John and Sarah Kanta; Kyle, Jade and Brandon Lane; Jeffrey Kanta; and Sam.
Vigil services will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept.1, at Holy Family Catholic Church in Three Forks. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 2, also at Holy Family. George and Kathryn will rest in peace together following family graveside services at Fairview Cemetery.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Aug. 30, 2010