Darwin Dean Hunt

CONRAD Darwin Dean Hunt, 81, died from complications of pneumonia Dec. 7 at the Pondera Medical Center.

A memorial service is 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Pondera Extended Care Unit, 805 Sunset Boulevard in Conrad. All are invited to come and share their memories of Darwin. Pondera Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

Darwin Hunt was born Jan. 30, 1931 in Sibley, Iowa. At a young age, Darwin excelled at outdoor endeavors, including athletics and hunting. He also pursued music studies, becoming an accomplished drummer by the age of four. He met his beloved wife, Charlene Windrath, when they were students in Sibley and they married in 1950.

He graduated from Morningside College in 1952 with a degree in sociology and psychology. He later earned a master's degree in education at the University of Idaho in 1955. Darwin served in the United States Marine Corps from 1952 to 1953 where he trained as a marksmen – a skill he used often throughout his life, much to the chagrin of many a chukar partridge or hapless gopher. He had the honor to tour and perform with the Marine Corps Band throughout the Far East as well as at numerous U.S. events including the Miss America Pageant.

After the service, Darwin and Charlene eventually settled in Elko, Nev., where both had long and fulfilling careers as educators, and dedicated themselves to raising their sons Dean and Drew. While in Elko, Darwin and his family spent many weekends discovering the best trout fishing and chukar hunting spots in Northern Nevada, and they almost always got their limit. Darwin and his family spent almost every summer at the cabin Darwin hand built in the Sawtooth Valley near Stanley, Idaho, which also served as a convenient starting point for many summer travels. Over the years, he and his family crisscrossed the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska and Canada, on fishing and camping trips. They developed a love for the outdoors in all seasons and many family stories arose from exciting (and only rarely unfortunate) winter and summer sporting activities. Darwin developed the highly practical, if not fashionable, habit of wearing eye-popping neon colored ski clothes on the slopes so that his family could easily pick him out of the crowd. He also braved stormy Alaskan and Canadian seas, sometimes inadvertently, while on salmon fishing trips, but always found a safe harbor. He passed this love of adventure on to his sons and grandchildren.

After retiring from the Elko County school system, Darwin revived his interest in golf, winning many locals titles.

More importantly to him, he continued his lifelong study of America's ultimate camping trip - the journeys and discoveries of 19th century U.S. explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Throughout his life he never lost his own sense of wanderlust. Darwin and Charlene ultimately settled in Conrad, Mont. - the heart of Lewis and Clark Country - where he and Charlene spent many days retracing and studying the explorers' adventures.

Darwin was known throughout life for the twinkle in his eye, his characteristic chuckle, random acts of kindness and his willingness to lend a helping hand to friends and strangers alike. He and Charlene appreciate the many kind acts of their friends and neighbors in Conrad and around the country. Many have asked: "How can I honor him, thank him and pay him back for his many kind acts now that he is gone?" To which Darwin would have said "You can't pay it back, but you can pass it on somehow to someone else. Keep the chain moving. Look around, find someone else and pass it on. Pay it forward. That is the only way."

Darwin is survived by his wife of 62 years, Charlene of Conrad; his son Dean (Leslie) of Bellaire, Texas; daughter, Tarleton; grandson Evan (Natasha) of Conroe, Texas; granddaughter Bryn (Richard) of Fayetteville, Ark.; and great-grand-daughter Adelaide.

He lost his son Drew in 2004.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, friends and family honor Darwin's memory by contributing their time or money as frequently as possible to random acts of kindness - buy a meal, stop to change a tire, lend a shoulder or an ear - always asking the recipients of their kindnesses to "pay it forward" by extending similar kindnesses to others

Published in Great Falls Tribune on Dec. 10, 2012