Jack W. Atkinson of Belfry, Mont., passed away Dec. 28, 2011. He was born April 11, 1921 to John and Louise (Locke) Atkinson on a ranch outside Rifle, Colo. Jack grew up around Aspen and Grand Junction walking Aspen's water flumes with his paternal grandfather as a small child. When not attending Grand Junction High School, Mesa Jr. College, and Colorado A&M, he was knee-deep in the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork rivers with an old split cane rod, drinking water directly from his palm, with an assortment of flies in his hat band.
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Jack spent more than three years in Assam and Burma with the U.S. Army as Technical Sgt. in World War II, engineering portions of the Ledo Road. Honorably discharged in 1945, Jack held the American and Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medals with Battle Stars, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Bronze Star, additionally carrying shrapnel the rest of his life. He then worked as an engineer for the Colorado State Hwy. Dept., 'that dam job' building a concrete arch dam above Denver, and many years for Peter Kiewit as a General Superintendent. For 20 years until his retirement in 1989, he managed Pioneer Ready Mix near Belgrade, assisting in the graveling of many a ranch/farm road in the county. He loved potatoes!
Jack married Bernice Wood in 1956 at Moose, Wyo., and both were members of Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Jack was also a member of the Knights of Columbus and the VFW. In addition to fly-fishing the Gallatin in middle age, in his later years it was rumored that he and another old codger (Joe McKay) would be seen slipping their boat into the waters of Hyalite Reservoir with a bucket of worms, or worse yet, salmon eggs. Mornings spent sipping notoriously bad coffee at the edge of a stubble field watching mule deer move in and out of dark forested ravines of the Horseshoe Hills were additional favorites. Others were stories recounting three-fifths of a century back to surveying Colorado's high country with chains and wagon wheel, resetting cairns ever moved by Mexican sheepherders. As Jack's sight dimmed his love for his grandchildren only increased, becoming the benchmark of his daily life – really, what he lived for. They and his good dog, Joe, ministered to him till his very last breaths.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents, by Bernice (Granny), and is survived by Eric (Melonie) Atkinson and their three daughters (Katie, Callie, and Aislee) of Belfry, Mont.; Laurie (Adam) Christopher and their son (Michael) of Frisco, Texas; and by a previous marriage, Robert Atkinson of Twin Falls, Idaho.
Funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 2, at the Bozeman Catholic Community Center, (Holy Rosary Catholic Church), with interment at Sunset Hills Cemetery on Tuesday, Jan. 3 at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Pioneer Museum, 317 West Main Street, Bozeman, MT 59715, 406-522-8122.
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com.
Dahl Funeral Chapel
300 Highland Boulevard
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Jan. 1, 2012