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William Mathias Scott

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William Mathias Scott, 91, of Great Falls, died of natural causes Saturday, July 21, at the family Swan Lake cabin.

A memorial service is 2 p.m. Thursday, August 2, at the Great Falls First Congregational United Church of Christ (2900 9th Avenue South), with a reception following at the Meadow Lark Country Club. Croxford Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

William Mathias Scott, 91, died peacefully on July 21, 2012, at the family Swan Lake cabin, surrounded by family. His chassis finally wore out and was recalled by the Maker. Bill was a third-generation Montanan and Great Falls native, born Aug. 29, 1920, to William Mathias Scott and Gladys Duncan. His father, a dentist, was born in Whitefish, and his mother grew up in Kalispell.

Bill's lifelong passion for the outdoors began early. When he was an eleven-year-old boy, his Boy Scout troop put him in charge of catching fish for dinner at the hike-in Moose Lake camp behind Big Mountain. Later, during his early teens, no road existed between Great Falls and Whitefish, and Bill would hitch a freight train from Great Falls to the family cabin on Whitefish Lake to hike and fish.

Bill attended Great Falls High School, where, among many other honors and achievements, he won first place in the Montana state high school extemporaneous speaking and debate contest. He graduated from high school at age 16, and entered the University of Montana the following fall on a speech and debate scholarship. There, he continued to be a champion debater. He attended the University of Montana's law school, where he served as law review editor before graduating with honors in 1943, finishing both undergraduate and law school in five years.

After law school, Bill joined the Navy to serve his country in World War II. As a lieutenant, he was a skipper in charge of a landing craft (LCT- A-2309). While Bill's group was training for D-Day in England, his colleagues marveled at his ability to enter any noisy London pub and find in the crowd at least one Montanan he knew.

On D-Day, his LCT was slated to land on Normandy's Utah beach in the third wave, but the first two waves sank, leaving him in the first wave. The landing crafts on each side took heavy German artillery hits going in, but his boat and men were spared. True to his promise to the Army tank commander of the three Sherman tanks aboard, he got the tanks and men to shore safely. Bill frequently quoted the poet Robert Service: "A promise made is a debt unpaid."

In 1946, Bill returned to Great Falls and opened a law practice. Once home, he met Shirley Roehm and asked her on a date. She declined, stating she had to finish plucking her father's recently-shot ducks. Fortunately, she eventually finished the task and relented to his insistent requests that she go out with him. They were married on August 23, 1947. Despite Bill's zeal for waterfowl hunting, Shirley never again plucked a duck.

In 1983, Bill founded, with Keith Tokerud (who became his son-in-law), the Great Falls law firm of Scott & Tokerud, later joined by their partner, Jon McCarty. In his 65-year practice of law, Bill mostly did estate planning for farmers and ranchers. He loved his clients, many of whom became lifelong friends (and blessed him with many hunting and fishing opportunities). Bill was a gifted wordsmith, a skill sometimes masked by his nearly-indecipherable handwriting. When he retired in 2008 at the age of 87, he was tied for being Montana's oldest practicing lawyer.

A lifelong active Republican, Bill held nearly every city and county Republican Party office. He was a Montana delegate at the 1964 GOP convention that nominated Barry Goldwater for president. In the 1970s, he led the successful proposition to change the Great Falls city government structure from mayor-alderman to commission-manager. He was then elected to the first commission.

Bill was a champion of private charity. He served for decades in leadership roles with the Rescue Mission and received its Good Samaritan award. He also served on the Dufresne Foundation board for 30 years and the Cobb Foundation board for 40 years, guiding the provision of scholarships and grants to students, teachers and other deserving recipients in the Great Falls area.

Born at the old Montana Deaconess Hospital, Bill dug the first ceremonial dirt years later for the new Deaconess Hospital (now Benefis East) as president of the hospital board. He served as chairman of the City Park Board and as an officer with the American Legion. He was a director of the Chamber of Commerce, served on the Symphony Board, was the recipient of the DeMolay Legion of Honor award and was a 55-year member and once-president of the Lion's Club. He was also a member of the Episcopal Church, serving on the vestry and the Diocesan Board.

The perennial sportsman, Bill continued to hunt and fish until the end. At the age of 90, he bagged a four-point buck at 168 yards without eyeglasses. He had several devoted younger friends who, at great risk to their own backs, took him fishing in the last few years. He caught his last trout just weeks before leaving us.

Bill is survived by Shirley, his wife of 64 years; five children (and their spouses), Becky Scott (Keith Tokerud), Great Falls; Anne Scott-Markle (Robert Markle), Columbia Falls; Laurie Scott Paddock, Denver; Duncan Scott (Suzanne Kinney), Bigfork; and Sarah Scott-Cipos (Mark Cipos), Mankato, Minn.; five grandchildren, Tyler Markle (Lauren Markle), Evan Scott, Hannah Tokerud and Sonja and William Cipos and one great-grandchild, Mikaela Markle.

For those who want to honor Bill, please hug a loved one, pet a Labrador, take a youngster hunting, celebrate America's blessings of liberty and freedom and pull the lever this fall for Republicans.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Rescue Mission (Box 129, Great Falls, MT 59403) or the GreatFalls Symphony (Box 1078, Great Falls, MT 59403).

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Published in Great Falls Tribune from July 25 to July 29, 2012
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