William R. Hamilton, surrounded by his family, peacefully went to be with the Lord on Monday, June 13, 2011, at Spring Meadows Care Facility in Bozeman. Bill was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was born on a lower Madison Valley ranch April 13, 1928, to John Robert Sr. "Jack" and Olive Azeltine Hamilton.
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On Dec. 27, 1952, Bill married Mildred Long of Deer Lodge. They were married almost 60 years. Bill expressed a true tribute to their life together when he told his family, "She was the most wonderful person I ever knew."
Bill graduated from high school in Three Forks. He lettered all four years in basketball and football. His team was the football state southern division champions.
Bill graduated from the U.S. Navy advanced photographic school in 1952. He attended business classes at Montana State University in 1955. Bill was the Montana legislative representative for Local Lodge 1091 from 1956 to 1964. He also earned his private pilot's license.
Bill was very proud of his service to our country from 1945-1954. In 1943 and 1944 (at the age of 15 and 16) he worked on the section crew for the Milwaukee Railroad during his summer breaks. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the United States Navy and became part of the U.S. Navy Aerial Photographic Squadron in Pensacola, Fla.
Bill served in the South Pacific, based on the island of Kwajalein from 1950-1952, and in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Navy Photographic Center from 1952-1954. Bill photographed many historical people and events including Admiral Hulsey, Admiral Nimitz, Gen. La May, Admiral Peabody, Admiral Byrd, first hydrogen test at Bikini Atoll South Pacific, Operation Greenhouse, Mamie Eisenhower christening the Nautilus Submarine (first nuclear submarine-1954), and worked on two Navy documentary films, "Victory at Sea" and "Silent Service." In addition, he worked with classified World War II captured photos and films. Bill was also a boxer in the Armed Forces. He was the South Pacific light heavyweight boxing champion with a record of 30-0. He was also undefeated during his entire high school boxing career.
He continued with his railroad career working in the roundhouse at Deer Lodge and worked his way to engineer. During breaks in his Navy service, Bill continued his work with the Milwaukee Railroad becoming a fireman in August 1947 and an engineer in November 1957. He worked for the railroad until Sept. 30, 1970, when he was severely burned in a railroad locomotive accident and officially retired in November 1973.
Bill owned and operated a full-service independent regional insurance agency, Three Valleys Insurance Agency, from 1954 to 1985. In addition, working for the Rerat Law Firm of Minneapolis, Minn., 1977-1990, and Yaeger, Jungbauer, Barczak & Roe (1994-1996) as a field representative gave Bill and Millie the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of injured railroad workers and their families.
Bill and Millie shared their artistic talents and operated the Lark Gallery in Three Forks for several years. The gallery exhibited local artists.
Bill was a very driven man and a very hard worker. He was generous and kind, always helping others and truly practicing God's will. He loved to spend time with his family and was very content in his last days. When asked if he needed anything, his answer was, "I'm fine," and "Just listening to the family." Bill liked to fish and took meticulous care of his yard. He designed and sculpted his landscaping and loved being outdoors mowing lawns.
Bill, Dad, Grandpa, Papa, your loving family will miss you deeply.
Surviving relatives include his wife, Millie Hamilton of Three Forks; sons, Steve (Robin) Hamilton of Three Forks, Doug (Mary) Hamilton of Manhattan, and Brett (Michelle) Hamilton of Wroclaw, Poland; brother-in-law, Bill (Carol) Long of Anaheim, Calif.; sister-in-law, Vernice Hamilton of Portland, Ore.; grandchildren, Brooke (Ryan) Pestel, Eric Hamilton, Hilary (Chris) Stephenson, Brittany (Seth) Bevens, Heather, Brandon and Shannon Hamilton; and great-grandchildren, Addison, Natalie and Marcus Pestel.
Predeceased relatives include Bill's parents, Jack and Olive; brothers, Jack Jr., Robert, and Jimmy; and son, John Kenneth.
The Rosary will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, at K&L Funeral Home in Three Forks. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 16, at Holy Family Parish in Three Forks. Bill will be laid to rest at the cemetery in Three Forks. Burial will be with military honors. A reception will be held in the church basement.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on June 15, 2011