Leonard Ray Wildey

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Leonard Ray Wildey

Also Known As: "Len and Smoky"
Birthplace: Sturgis, Meade Co., South Dakota, Sturgis, Meade, South Dakota, United States
Death: January 01, 2009 (75)
Stevensville, Ravalli Co., Montana, Stevensville, Ravalli, Montana, United States (Sudden Heart Attack)
Place of Burial: Hamilton, Ravalli, Montana, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Issac Sumner Wildey and Nora Loretta Wildey (Young)
Husband of Private User
Father of Private; Private; Private and Private
Brother of Morris Riley Wildey; Willmer James Wildey; Private; Milford John Wildey; Susan Kathrine Wildey and 7 others

Occupation: Sawmill Sawyer, General Laborer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Leonard Ray Wildey

By Royce C. Lewis, his brother in- law.

Leonard R. Wildey

Leonard was born December 28, 1933 in Sturgis, South Dakota, youngest of 13 children.

Died January 1, 2009 at home in Stevensville, Montana

It is said that every person has a story. You can’t live 75 years and not have one. Leonard is no exception. Obviously I can’t cover all those stories but I can share a few. Leonard actually wrote a personal history which I hope Dianne puts together and shares with all of you what would like a copy. It is quite entertaining.

Leonard's youth was spent in Sturgis, South Dakota, New Castle, Wyoming, Sevensville, Montana and points in between. The family was nomadic however that was common for the time. They finally found a home in Montana’s Bitteroot Valley.

He led a normal childhood for a boy, full of mischief and great memories of events and friends. Like most of us he felt lucky to have survived his childhood. He played high-school sports but says he liked football the most. In 1952, at the age of 18 he joined the Navy and was assigned to 3 different aircraft carriers, the Valley Forge, the Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Kearsarge.

Len was a horned shellback having crossed the equator 4 times. This gave him the right to spit in the wind and to harass pollywogs severely during crossing ceremonies. He made multiple tours to the war zone off Korea and had many stories to tell of liberty (shore leave) in Japan as well as other ports of call on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as North and South America and across the Orient. He also traversed the Panama Canal on an aircraft carrier, a rare event.

Following his Navy service Leonard roamed for a while, eventually moving back to Montana settling in the Bitteroot Valley. After working for his brothers in logging, he was hired as a life guard at Medicine Hot Springs in the summer of 1956. It just happened that he was there when the Lewis family took one of their many summer vacations there he met Dianne his wife of 52 years. On the last day of the Lewis’ vacation he worked up the gumption to ask Dianne out. She accepted. The rest is history, as they say. It was 75 miles from Medicine Hot Springs to Missoula and it was rumored that Len could make the trip to see Dianne in less than an hour in his powerful Dodge coup.

On one of those trips, Len came to be introduced to Dianne’s family at dinner. While trying to cut his steak it slipped off his plate, went flying across the table and landed on her mother’s plate. He must have thought, “so much for first impressions.” Incidentally, she was more embarrassed at the steak.s apparent toughness than he was at the slip.

Dianne’s uncles didn’t like anyone that dated her and Len was no exception. No one was good enough for her. In spite of this, the courtship raced along and Len and Dianne married November 24, 1956 in Missoula, Montana at the old LDS Church on Bancroft St.

They rented a small house for a short while and then they moved to take a job as care takers for Barton Smith at Medicine Hot Springs. There was so much snow that they closed the place for the winter. I remember the snow would be 5 feet deep but the lawn around their little cabin was green all winter due to the hot springs running underneath. The deer and moose would come and graze on the green grass all winter.

My “Moose Story” from that time has always been one of my favorites. There was no running water in the cabin so we had to get water for drinking and washing out of the creek (crick). Leonard sent me out to fetch water. I trudged out the door straight to the creek, dipped the buckets and when I turned to return, there by the door stood a bull, cow and calf moose chewing their cuds. I was scared to death. I eased the buckets down and carefully followed a big arching path until I finally had the house between me and the moose. When I entered the house I excitedly shouted that there were 3 moose standing right by the cabin, Leonard, in his disbelieving voice said “There are no moose out there.” I told him to hurry and look before they moved. He refused to look out the window. I was frustrated and he knew it but he was enjoying it too much to ease up on me. That was Len.

Eventually Len took a job at Gray’s saw mill north of Seeley Lake. Len’s innovative side really came out here. There was no running water so he laid a pipe from the creek running through their property and they had running water. The had no money but needed to add on to the house so he carried home free planer ends and stacked them like bricks to build an addition on their cabin.

They had next to nothing but I remember some of the best times I had in my life at Seeley Lake wandering the hills, playing with the Clays, swimming in the Clear Water River and picnics and camping. This brings me to my next story.

Leonard heard about a great place to go camping in the back country. Morrell Lake was a mere 8 miles off the Cottonwood Lakes road. He said we could hike in there and camp in solitude for a week. I was 12, my little brother was 6 Dianne and Leonard made up the party. He neglected to mention that between Len and me we had to carry almost 300 pounds of food and supplies. Canned foods, fresh meat, water, cast iron frying pans (because they are best), tent, sleeping bags, fishing gear and there must have been a lot of stuff I no longer remember. And oh yes, this was grizzly country. For good measure, Leonard carried a 30-06 and I carried a sawed off shot gun. He told me “If a bear charges he would fire first and if he didn’t stop the bear I was to give it both barrels from the 12 gauge when he was about 20 ft away. This scared the crap out of me.

They moved to Missoula where he went to work for Van Evan plywood. In the 1980 recession, after the complete closure of Van Evans lumber and plywood mill the Len and Dianne started on an odessy in search of work that lasted for 13 years. They moved first to Billings, Then Salt Lake, then Tacoma, then Spokane, then home again to Stevensville where he resided until his death. After his return to Stevensville he enjoyed his life "farming his 1.2 acre plot of ground.

Len was always one for some mischief. I felt he especially enjoyed harassing me and my brother. In reality, Len taught me a lot. He served as my big brother and when my dad died, he helped fill in there too. I did look up to him though I am not sure he knew it. Wish I would have told him.

I went hunting several times with Leonard. There his trick was to climb the mountain as fast as he could and of course I would fall behind. He would stop and rest and then just as I caught up he would jump up and take off again. He was pretty tough.

One time we were sitting on a log resting. Len had his riffle butt parked on his upper thigh. All of a sudden “BOOM” his rifle went off. The safety was still on but the gun fired anyway. He had a heck of a bruise on his leg and got rid of the gun.

The great love of his life was to go camping with family and many enjoyable trips were made with his kids and extended family and he enjoyed their association. He was looking forward to next year's camping.

The last holiday season he greatly enjoyed visiting with his son Rod and family. He had great fun picking out a bike for Wyatt, and watching the joy in his face when Wyatt saw the present. He loved his children and grandchildren.

I am going to sign of with one of Leonard’s witticisms, his recipe for Duck as it came from his personal history: “Another time we went duck hunting. We took our trusty rifles and headed for the sloughs north of Stevensville, well we got down on our bellies and crawled up close as we could to the slough. Well sure enough there was some sitting there. We only had one shot with a 22 rifle so we decided to count three and shoot. As luck would have it we shot the same duck. Well it didn’t make much difference. You know what I mean if you ever ate a duck. That brings me to another tale about cooking duck. It’s an old recipe. You get the duck and clean him good, put on a lot of seasoning, get you a good pitchy pine board, lay the bird on the board and put him in the oven at 350 degrees and cook. Check the oven until the pitch in the board is boiling, take the bird and board out of the oven, take the bird off the board, throw the duck away and eat the board. That’s what I think of duck.”

Well Len, we know you are in a better place. It is just us who have to stay here in the cold and shoveling snow and missing you soo much. Good on you and we’ll be seeing you soon. When we get there we’ll take a hike to Morrell Lake.

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Leonard Ray Wildey's Timeline

December 28, 1933
Sturgis, Meade, South Dakota, United States
May 1957
- June 1964
Age 23
Seeley Lake,, Montana, United States
July 1964
- June 1980
Age 30
Missoula, Montana, United States
Age 35
December 1981
- November 1983
Age 47
Billings, Montana, United States