Cut Bank and Roberts – Donald Edward Jarvenpaa, 77, retired high-voltage lineman, farmer, and rancher made his transition peacefully at 10:17 a.m., May 17, 2013 in the Billings Clinic ICU with several family members and Rev Richard Stone at his side. Don lived an extremely fulfilling life, including his last 17 courageous days in ICU following emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm. Born to Frank Edward and Jean Marie Jarvenpaa on Oct. 28, 1935 in Detroit, Mich., Don defined Finnish “Sisu”, which translates to ‘perseverance’. He also defined the ‘patient’ patient. Don was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 20, which led to 15 orthopedic surgeries over the past 40 years. He rarely acknowledged any pain, if asked.
Don graduated from Cass Tech High School in Detroit in 1954, and began following his father’s footsteps with a career at General Motors, yet had aspirations of being a professional dancer. With the realization of being drafted, Don joined the Air Force. To his surprise, he tested highly in electricity and electronics. This is what brought him to Montana. The Air Force stationed him as a radar technician at the Cut Bank Radar Base near the Canadian border in 1958.
One night at the café in Cut Bank, he experienced love at first sight, Christe Violet Hanson. Christe loved to dance also. They were often likened to Fred and Ginger and were a joy to watch. Christe and Don adored each other and treated each other likewise. They married in 1960 and had a son Frank Edward in 1961. Don completed his Air Force duty in 1962. They briefly returned to Detroit long enough to confirm that Cut Bank was the place for them. Don loved western movies and decided he needed to be a farmer/rancher. Christe, who came from a farm family, was not so sure he had the skills. In 1963, he began his career as a high-voltage lineman with Glacier Electric Coop, when most work required climbing poles with hooks and belt. However he still had the ‘bug’ to be a farmer/rancher. In 1964, he and Christe bought the ‘Crooked Nail’ just north of Cut Bank on the Cut Bank Creek. With no down payment to speak of, Don and Christe found an oil tycoon to finance the venture. Before long they expanded and owned 1200 acres, which they paid in full in 20 years. Through those years, they had a second son James Christopher in 1971. In addition to maintaining Don’s day job and Christe’s bookkeeping position the family became weekend and evening farmers and ranchers.
By the mid-1970’s Don’s arthritis was taking its toll. There were orthopedic surgeries every couple years, but each time he was soon back to work with one cast or another. He was promoted to Operating Superintendent for the last 10 yrs of his career, which ended in 1992. By this time, the farm/ranch production had been leased out and later placed in the Conservation Reserve Program.
Don was known as a compassionate and well-liked man. Always the charmer and gentleman, he was surrounded by women his entire life, beginning with his four sisters Jean, Helen, Ella and Carol. Following the end of his career at Glacier Electric, his purpose in life was caregiver to Christe, who died of cancer in 2000. He then dedicated himself to assisting in the care of his former supervisor and life-long friend, Warren Evers, Warren’s wife Anne, and finally Don’s sister-in-law, Sharon Hanson Ghidelli. This occupied his time through 2008. He continued to live independently with the assistance of his sons Frank and Jim and Frank’s wife Holli. In recent years, Don wintered in Roberts, near Frank and Holli in their vacation rental. He continued to summer at the farm/ranch.
Don is survived by his sons Frank of Roberts, and James of San Francisco, Calif. Survivors also include his sisters, Ella (Charles) Gibson of Port Huron, Mich., Helen (Don) Glenby of Long Island, N.Y. and Carol Hayes of Kalamazoo, Mich., sister-in-law Vicki (Mike) Olson of Cut Bank, brother-in-law Albert R. Hanson of Pensacola, Fla., and step-grandchildren Jeremy Krizek of Washington D.C., Kira Krizek of Denver, Colo., and Cameron Krizek of Roberts.
Cremation has taken place. Family condolences may be sent to P.O. Box 2, Roberts, MT 59070. Memorials may be sent to the Roberts Café, P.O. Box 58, Roberts, MT 59070. These memorials help support the Café’s long standing record of providing “home cooked” meals to the elderly and those in need. Don had a very special bond with the Roberts Café. Everyone who worked there loved him. Not surprisingly, they’re all women.
Memorial services for Don will be held May 25, 4 p.m. at the Roberts Methodist Church for those that grew close to him in the Roberts and Billings area. A dual service for both Don and Christe will be held late June at the St Paul Lutheran Church in Cut Bank for those in their home community that knew them best.