Lifelong Anaconda resident, Leonard Ernest Gagnon, passed away early Tuesday morning in St. Patrick's Hospital in Missoula, Mont. Leonard was born in Anaconda, Mont., on Feb. 11, 1920, the son of Ferdinand and Vera (Leonard) Gagnon.
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Leonard was educated in local schools and attended Anaconda High School. At the age of 14, he went to work for the ACM (Anaconda Copper Mining Company) as a bellhop at the Marcus Daly Hotel, a property that was owned by the Company, after convincing the Hotel's general manager that he was 15; the required age to become employed by the Company. He began serving his apprenticeship as an electrician for the Anaconda Smelter at the beginning of World War II. Always one to do the right thing, Leonard proudly served as a soldier in the United States Army in the Pacific Theater. Upon returning from the war, Leonard returned to Anaconda, where he was employed at the Smelter until retiring as the Electric Shop Foreman. When the Smelter was closed by ARCO, Leonard was one of the last employees to leave the hill.
On Jan. 21, 1940, he married the greatest love of his life, Vivian Doris Smith, in St. Paul's Catholic Church at Anaconda. They remained constant companions for more than 72 years.
Retirement may have been ready for Leonard, but Leonard was far from ready for retirement. At the urging of his friend, A.A. "Tiny" Longfellow, he worked evening visitations, and as a chauffeur, for Longfellow's Finnegan Funeral Home. After the sale of the business, Leonard became a welcome party of the family at the firm of Duggan Dolan Mortuary. He was active as a chauffeur to within weeks of his passing. His warmth, charm, wit, and sincerity brought comfort to countless families.
Leonard loved his horses and dogs and spent many enjoyable times riding and hunting with them. He was a charter member of the Anaconda Saddle Club where he enjoyed helping with rodeos, trail rides and pack trips. Leonard was a hard worker, many times having several simultaneous jobs but would always find time to help others without being asked.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Vivian; his son and daughter-in-law, Sandy and Harriet Gagnon of Bozeman; his daughter and son-in-law, Connie and Jacque Best of Rapid City, S.D.; his grandchildren, Marty (Heidi) Gagnon, Shawn Gagnon, Marc (Suzanne) Best, Jodi Best; and his great-grandchildren, Kylie and Matt Gagnon, Mallory and Kelsey Best, and Brooke and Logan Anderson.. He is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews, and cherished friends. In addition to his parents, Leonard was preceded in death by his brother, Tom Gagnon; and his sister, Fern Register.
Friends are asked to join the family on Monday after 5 p.m. at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Anaconda. Parish Vigil will be recited at 7 p.m. Liturgy of the Resurrection will be celebrated on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in Holy Family Catholic Church with interment to follow in New Hill Cemetery. Duggan Dolan Mortuary has been entrusted with arrangements.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Mar. 4, 2012