John V. Fechter, 90, has left on another voyage of discovery. Before he left, he gave his wife and six children the gift of infectious curiosity and personal confidence in themselves. The only idea he could not accept was that someone could give up and stop trying.
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The first words his new bride and each of his six children learned: "I wonder where this road goes," be it a place, an idea, or a new thing to learn.
Age progressively slowed his walk, though he worked hard daily to maintain it. Now that he's free, expect high winds and clouds of dust because he's on his way and moving fast. And be prepared for delays from the Creator in answering your prayers, because John will be greeting his departed friends and family with tales of the people, places and things he discovered. He'll tell it with a special sparkle that will distract even his Lord, who will stop what He's doing to sit down and listen.
Born in Bozeman on July 9, 1919, John lived in Montana (Butte, Helena, Billings, Swayze Camp near Sunburst and Rimini), Utah, Wyoming (Cody and Rock Springs), and Sequim, Wash., on the Olympic Peninsula.
Because he needed a job during the Great Depression, he lied about his age and started working at ACM at age 15; after attending Montana State School of Mines, he later became a mining engineer with ACM in Butte. As a project lead with Bardahl Oil exploring Rocky Mountain locations for oil during World War II - when steel was a rationed item - he "lost" hundreds of feet of steel that was recovered through some ingenious techniques, and the failed oil well turned out to be an unexpected natural gas discovery. He was known by hundreds of people across Montana as an insurance adjuster with State Farm and Fireman's Fund - his territory covered all of Montana. He had tales of using sluice-box techniques to go through debris and recover jewels after a fire, having his car window shot out as he drove through a small Montana town where a shootout was happening and helping farmers whose crops were beaten flat by a hailstorm. He retired three times. His last career was as a consultant to the Montana Insurance Commissioner's office, where he helped establish important precedents for insurance - home, business and workman's compensation.
John attended Montana State School of Mines, Billings Polytechnic and Carroll College. He was a geology rock hound and a lifelong student. At the age of 90, evidence of his curiosity included: a new issue of Discover magazine by his bedside, the Wall Street Journal in his mailbox, a book about physical therapy and a guide to Microsoft Windows on his desk and 79 unread e-mails on his computer.
John married Ruth Elizabeth Lehwalder from Butte, on Oct. 4, 1941. Their six children are: Leona Fechter Long of Pocatello, Idaho; Margaret Felice Fechter of Helena; John Vadnais Fechter Jr., of Blaine, Minn.; Arthur Stefan Fechter of Spokane, Wash.; Charity Ann Fechter Shirley of Ennis; and Lisbeth Marie Fechter Stump of Bozeman. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, John George Fechter and Leona Rose Vadnais Fechter; and his half-sister, Helen Fechter.
No services will be held, but a celebration of his life will occur and ashes will be scattered at one of his favorite outdoor places this summer.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service; www.dokkennelson.com.
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Feb. 21, 2010