Lester Lee Rate Jr. passed away and was set free from an unknown inflammatory brain disease on Feb. 6, 2011, at his home in Three Forks with his wife, Bonnie, at his side.
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Les was born on Oct. 19, 1955, at St. Peters Hospital in Helena. He moved to Santa Cruz, Calif., as a little boy and returned to Helena in 1977. He worked at the East Helena Smelter from 1978 to 1981 as a machinist and sustained a crush injury to his left arm and was disabled. That didn't stop him from accomplishing many things. He could work circles around two-handed people, and we admired him for his abilities. Les could do so many things from carpentry to mechanics and was creative and inventive.
Les and Bonnie came to Bozeman in 1989 to attend Montana State University. He decided that college wasn't for him after one and a half years, so he purchased a pawn shop on North Seventh Avenue. He had a soft spot for elderly women especially when they were so desperate that they had to come into his pawn shop to hock something. He would give them top dollar for broken fishing poles and offer gas money if needed. He didn't want anyone to know he was a big softie.
After that he worked for the Montana Highway Department as a surveyor for two years. He then moved on to Gaston Engineering as a surveyor for another couple of years. When his son, Chris, started his excavation business, Les joined in as his dump truck driver. His last job was with Rocky Mountain Rustic, driving a semi with a trailer moving heavy equipment and log kits to job sites.
In 2000, Les and Bonnie moved to Three Forks after the children grew up. Les really enjoyed the Three Forks community and the small-town atmosphere. When Les became ill in December 2009, the Three Forks community was very supportive and he appreciated the Three Forks Ambulance Service volunteers for their compassionate care during the many trips to the hospital.
Les had many hobbies including collecting antique cars, modifying vehicles, hiking, biking, camping and gun bluing. When Les tackled a project he was dedicated to the task.
He was involved in his children's activities and sports.
He is loved because of his compassionate nature, generosity, sense of humor, exceptional work ethic, bravery and loyalty to his family and friends. Les will always be in our hearts.
He is survived by his wife, Bonnie of Three Forks; son, Chris and wife, Alesha Rate and grandchildren, Bradyn and Gage of Bozeman; Michael DiMaria and wife, Jody and grandchildren, Judson and Paislee of Ohio; his daughter, Candice Robertson of Great Falls; ex-son-in-law, Matt Robertson and Jenni Moore, grandchildren, Rylen, Rhianna, Brayden and Brenna of Great Falls; his mother, Janet Rate and sister, Cindy Large and her husband, Ronnie, and his brother, Carl Rate and wife, Cindi of Bonners Ferry, Idaho; Aunt Gerry and Uncle Mike Myrhow of Winnemucca, Nev., and Uncle Gerald and Ethel Scheet of East Helena; and many cousins in Montana and Nevada.
He was preceded in death by his father, Lester L. Rate Sr.
Les' memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at K&L Mortuaries in Three Forks. Following the ceremony, a celebration of his life will be at his home at 507 Third Ave. East in Three Forks.
Memorial gifts may be sent to The International Brain Research Foundation, 100 Menlo Park, Suite 412, Edison, NJ 08837; or to Hospice of Southwest Montana, 1600 Ellis St., Suite 3A, Bozeman, MT 59715.
"God saw he was getting tired and a cure was not to be, so he put his arms around him and whispered, 'Come with me.' With tearful eyes, we watched him fade away. Although we loved him dearly, we could not make him stay. His beautiful heart stopped beating, putting him at rest. God broke our hearts to prove to us he only takes the very best."
K & L Mortuaries
103 1st Ave E
Three Forks, MT 59752
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Feb. 13, 2011