Harold George Knaub passed away peacefully in his sleep at Mountain View Care Center in Bozeman on Feb. 16, 2008.
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Harold was born on the family farm three miles north of Laurel, Mont., on June 16, 1928. He was the youngest child of Phillip and Mary Katherine (Neibauer) Knaub. His parents were homesteaders that migrated from Kautz, Russia, also known as Volga Deutchlanders. He was baptized and confirmed in the First Congregational Church of Laurel.
Raised on the family dairy farm, he grew up with a hard work ethic, raising Holsteins, Herefords and Red Angus. He also dry-land farmed with his father and brothers and irrigated alfalfa and field corn. On the beet farm he would watch Army jeeps on rail cars during World War II. He supervised German POWs and migrants in the field.
Throughout his young life, a typical summer was spent harvesting sugar beets, feeding cattle and milking over 100 cows every day.
He graduated from Laurel High School in 1947. He excelled in football and had an early passion for big game hunting. His favorite haunts were the Snowy Mountains, the Crazies and the Gallatin Canyon.
He was an old school, true Montana country boy to his core. He loved tracking big Mulie bucks on Clappers Flats. He hunted mountain goats in the Spanish Peaks, bull elk in Gardner and Porupine Creek, trophy whitetails in the Little and Big Snowys, and Boone and Crocket antelope on the family ranch. He had great knowledge of old Sharps and Winchesters, LA Huffman photos and Western Americana. Antiques were also a passion.
In Laurel he served as president of the Laurel Rod and Gun Club and the Laurel Jaycees and was an active member of Our Saviors Lutheran Church. As a member of the Laurel Saddle Club he participated in July Fourth parades as a cavalryman riding Chief, his big black horse, with his German Shepherd, Pepper.
In 1953 he married Charlotte Decker and they had three children: Scott, Jonathan (J.C.) and Laurie. The couple divorced in 1972, after which Harold sold the family dairy farm and took a job at the very start of the Big Sky Resort as a heavy equipment operator.
As a construction boss, he participated in the building of the Lone Peak Triple Chair, major ski runs and the resort infrastructure. One of his favorite tasks was transplanting huge pine trees around the Meadow Village.
He lived in the historic Crail Ranch at the time. He was an active volunteer fireman on the Gallatin Canyon Volunteer Fire Department. His love for the Canyon and Lone Mountain kept him active for the next 30 years in the Big Sky area, where he was regarded as one of the best “cat skinners,” or heavy equipment operators, in the area.
He worked for Big Sky of Montana Inc. until 1983, then joined the Operating Engineers Union, where he worked construction until joining his son working for Andesite Construction in 1989. He loved the “yellow iron” and continued to work until he retired at age 75.
He spent the winters with his son, Scott, and his family in Toston, Lodge Grass and Sheridan, Wyo. He also spent time with Bert Woods in Ashland.
He loved watching the Dallas Cowboys play football. Harold loved his children and grandchildren with all of his soul. He was a kind, generous man, who would give you the shirt off his back. He was nicknamed Coach for his relationships with many of the young Big Sky residents that he befriended.
Harold was the last surviving sibling of his family. He had two brothers Bill (Violet) Knaub and Phil (Sarah) Knaub and his three sisters, Katie (Adam) Schreiner, Lydia (Philip) Frank and Rosie (Adam) Reiber.
He is survived by his three children: Scott (Marcella) Knaub of Lodge Grass, J.C. (Marjorie) Knaub of Big Sky and Laurie (Gary) Smith of Fort Mill, S.C. He has eight grandchildren: Jamey (Misty) Knaub and their children Jaden and Kimber, Philip (Alisha) Knaub and their daughter Kailey, Kelly Knaub of Anchorage, Alaska, Wesley Knaub of Lodge Grass, Jeffrey and Kristi Knaub of Big Sky, and Caitlin and Rachael Smith of Fort Mill, S.C. He is also survived by nephews and nieces: Jim (Arlene) Schreiner, Sally (Roy) Laird, and Darlene (Larry) Walks, Judy Frank (Steve) Schlieve, Leonard (Anita) Knaub, Linda Knaub, Clete (Sharon) Knaub, Douglas and Mary Reiber. He also has numerous grand-nephews and -nieces.
Harold, your legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of every single man, woman and child that you touched spiritually with your special insight and deep affection for Montana. You were the end of an era of strong, hardworking pioneers and immigrants that homesteaded the frontier.
His colorful cowboy language lives on. “Savvy,” “understand,” “know what I mean” and “he’s good people” were part of his daily repertoire of verbiage. He was always waiting for the “Big Job.”
One of his greatest pleasures in life was sitting at the top of the road to his cabin and seeing the sun flood the top of Lone Mountain early in the morning.
He was keenly aware of his mortality as many of his close friends and family passed away. He always said, “When the Big Man upstairs turns the page of the Big Book of Life, and your name is on the page, it’s your turn.”
Harold, you had a great life and you did your best. You were so tired and worn out from 79 years of ranching and working in the field. You were so loved and in your own unique way, you loved us back so very much. Your name was on that page on Feb. 16, 2008, and your time in this life is finished. You can go home now, friend.
Thank you so much to all of the caring staff at Mountain View Care Center. Your true compassion and love meant so much to Harold and his family. You are amazing people and helped him to die with dignity.
Visitation will be on Monday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Remington Letcher Funeral Chapel, 420 19th Ave. West in Laurel (south of Golf Course Road). Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at First Congregational Church of Laurel with interment at Laurel Cemetery.
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Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Feb. 18, 2008