Merle Steve Kovatch, 85, of Bozeman passed away Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009, at his home after a brief illness. Steve was born on Sept. 21, 1923, in Conrad to Steve and Mary (Stokes) Kovatch. He grew up in Montana, served in World War II and graduated from Montana State College (MSU) in 1952 with a degree in agricultural engineering. On June 26, 1949, Steve married Meryl Evans in Deer Lodge. The couple had two sons, Thomas and James.
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Steve served with Company B of the 7th Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division during its 1944-1945 march through France and penetration of Germany. He served as an infantryman and infantry combat leader. During his combat service he was awarded four Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat. He was awarded two Silver Star medals for valor in combat, as well as other medals for service. He served in the National Guard and the Army Reserve, rejoining the U.S. Army in 1980 at the age of 57 as a chief warrant officer. He retired in 1983 and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. Attending the annual reunion of the Third Infantry Division and spending time with fellow soldiers was a special time for Steve.
Steve worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service, retiring in 1981 after 28 years of service. His career took the family to Harlowton, Glasgow, Lewistown and Bozeman, in addition to several cities out of state. He stayed in touch with his friends by attending the monthly breakfast with fellow retired SCS employees.
Steve was an active member of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of the Bagdad Temple, participating in the Scottish Rite, Acacia White Shrine #7 and the Scooter Patrol. His commitment to service was demonstrated by his dedication to fund-raising for the Spokane Shriners' Childrens Hospital.
Time with family was a priority for Steve and he traveled to as many family events as he could, always eager to share pictures and family stories. Steve's hobbies included woodworking, coin collecting and traveling.
Steve was preceded in death by his wife, Meryl Kovatch; one son, Thomas Kovatch; brothers, Joe Kovatch, Harry Kovatch and Bob Kovatch Sr.; and sister Marge Kovatch.
Survivors include his son, James Kovatch of Bozeman; brother, Jerry (Virginia) Kovatch of Conrad; and sister, Patsy (Gus) Habets, of Great Falls.
Memorials may be made in his name to Eagle Mount, 6901 Goldenstein Lane, Bozeman, MT 59715; or the Shriner's Children's Hospital, 911 W. 5th Ave, Spokane, Wash., 99204.
Visitation will be held Monday at Dahl Funeral Chapel from 5 to 8 p.m.; the family will be present to greet friends from 6 to 7 p.m. The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, at St. James Episcopal Church, followed by interment at Sunset Hills Cemetery with Masonic and Military Rites.
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming --- WOW---- What a Ride !"
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 Feb. 8, 2009