Donald Michael Koenig finished his earthly chores and went home on Oct. 16. A farmer southwest of Conrad, he raised wheat, barley and five children.
A Funeral Mass was held at St. Michael’s Catholic Church on Oct. 21. He will be buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Pondera Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. Condolences may be left at www.misermortuaries.com .
He was born on April 10, 1924 on a farm north of Conrad to Marie and Michael Koenig. He was the second oldest child and first son. When Don was a toddler, his family moved to a new homestead on the other side of town, the farm that remains in the family today.
When the United States joined World War II, Don was given a medical dispensation, so rather than joining the service, he moved to Helena to work on the fighter planes in what was to later become the Helena College of Technology Aviation Mechanic School. He had many colorful stories about working on the planes and living in Helena and while there he developed an interest in flying.
When he returned to Conrad he took flying lessons and worked as a mechanic at Newmans, a well-known Chrysler dealership at that time. It was there that he met Evelyn O’Keefe, who moved from the Collins area to work as the bookkeeper. After pursuing Evelyn for more than two years and multiple proposals of marriage, she finally said yes.
They married on March 19, 1953 and moved to the farm where Don took over the day-to-day operations and worked as a mechanic on the side. Within a year their first child, Jacalyn, was born followed through the years by Patricia, Christine, Michael and Margaret.
Don was devoted to his farm and his family. He gave up flying before ever becoming licensed and channeled his energies into growing things. He was passionate about his garden and his flowers. Family, friends and people driving by the farm marveled at his work. Meanwhile his children groaned as he would spend lunchtimes during the summer telling them where to weed that day in the half-acre garden. When asked once why he didn’t travel more he responded, “Why would I leave when I have everything I’ve ever wanted right here.”
He was an avid fisherman and a multitude of memories were made at Montana lakes with his family. He had many fishing friends through the years but his favorite was his brother, Fr. Bernard Koenig, who passed away in 2008. Together they spent many hours huddled in ice houses staring through the ice watching for fish and calling it fun.
Don farmed full-time until 2007 when he contracted the West Nile virus after being bitten by a mosquito while working in his garden. His health started going downhill that same year.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years Evelyn; daughters Jackie Williams of Helena, Patty (Len) VandenBos of Valier, Chris (Jim) Bjelland of Conrad and Margaret (Christopher) Herriges of Helena; son Michael (Cindy) of Conrad; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren whom he adored; and sisters Bernice Muir of Conrad and Joan (Mike) Keegan of Spokane, Wash.