Renowned artist Larry V. Zabel lost his valiant battle with C. M. Leukemia and has gone home to be with his Lord. Larry passed away Sept. 11, 2012 at his home up North Meadow Creek near McAllister, Mont. Larry was born on Jan. 19, 1930 at Deer Creek, Minn., to Esther (Peterson) and X. Y. Zabel. His early years were spent happily on a farm near Deer Creek where he and his sister Beverly attended a one room country school. Larry & Bev's Mother was an accomplished artist and encouraged the obviously gifted Larry to draw and paint from the age of 3 years.
In 1938, the family moved to California where Larry attended schools, graduating from Anaheim Union High School in 1947. (He was inducted into that high school's Hall of Fame for distinguished graduates in 2010.) Larry joined the United States Navy and served for over three years. He then furthered his education at U.C. Santa Barbara, the University of the Americas in Mexico City and graduated from Long Beach State.
Larry went to work for Douglas Aircraft Corp in Oklahoma and California as an illustrator and writer, and later for the Genge Corp., eventually moving to a Civil Service position at the China Lake Naval Weapons Test Facility as Director of Technical Information. During those years he continued to paint. He was sent to Vietnam several times to film the use of Naval weapons and to gain reference material to produce a series of combat art paintings for the Navy, which can be seen at the Naval Archives Center in Washington D.C. After completing his 20 years of government service, he decided to retire and pursue another career as a western "cowboy" artist.
Larry and his wife, Sharon moved to Montana where they purchased property on North Meadow Creek about 25 years ago. Eventually some of their family and a number of friends followed them here, including his life-long friends, Bob and Dixie Gates.
Before long, Larry was making a name for himself producing paintings of Montana scenery, its ranchers, their ranches, the native peoples, and the wildlife. His paintings now hang in many public and private collections all the way from government offices in Washington, to the West Coast. Larry was extremely generous with his acknowledged God-given talent and contributed to countless worthy causes and fund-raising efforts including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Madison Valley Ranchlands Group, The Madison River Foundation and The Madison Valley Medical Center.
Larry was preceded in death by his ex-wife, Marie Nichols Zabel Hanning; his dear wife, Sharon J. Zabel and his beloved daughter, Christi Rivers Fisher. He leaves daughter, Becca Zabel of Bozeman and her four sons – Neal Preston (Amiee) children Bradlee, Kaeden, and Quincie; Cody Preston (Jenna) children Ethan and Quinton; all of Lake Isabella, Calif., Lane Graham of M.S.U. Bozeman and Logan Graham (Alex) of Alpine Calif., son, Steve Zabel (Maria) and their son Jack of Bozeman; son, Jon Zabel of Las Vegas and son-in-law, Todd Fisher, children Vanessa, James, and Brandon Rivers of Creston, Calif. He is also survived by his sister, Beverly Z. Claassen, her daughters Karen Claassen and Kathy Carpenter of Ennis and Kathy's sons Ken and Josh of Norman, Okla., and his companion, Maureen van Emmerik of Georgetown, Washington D.C. as well as scores of very dear friends.
In recent years Larry and Maureen have enjoyed a life split between Montana, Wash. D.C. and Morro Bay, Calif. They enjoyed a couple of marvelous trips to Kenya, Tanzania, and recently South Africa.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the Madison Valley Medical Center Foundation. The family is very grateful for the support and care provided by the staffs of Deaconess Hospital in Bozeman, The Madison Valley Medical Center, Hospice lovingly provided by Mary Carlson, and especially the amazing personal care by Dr. Robert Marks.
As Larry would proclaim to everyone: It has been a Truly Great Ride!!
Cremation has taken place with K & L Mortuaries in charge. There will be a memorial service at Journey Church in Bozeman on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 at 1 p.m.
Published by Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Sep. 16, 2012.