Galen “Mike” Maas, 92, died Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, at the Billings Clinic Hospital to join his wife of 71 years, Doris, who preceded him in death by just 10 weeks.
At Mike’s request, there will be no funeral. Family will gather for a graveside memorial at Highland Cemetery on Oct. 12, followed by a public reception at the Glasgow Elks Club at 2:30 p.m.
He was born to Phillip and Mary (Werner) Maas at Baylor, Mont., on May 27, 1921. His given name was Galen Abraham Maas, though his brothers quickly renamed him Mike. Delivered by a “country doctor” who was actually a veterinarian, he was the youngest of nine, joining Fred, Martha (Harmon), Bill, Harry, Ralph, Elroy, Ruth (Sand) and Louis. Originally from German Russia, his parents came to Glasgow in 1916 from McCluskey, N.D., to homestead.
As a youngster, he was watching his brother chop wood when he lost an eye to a flying splinter. He attended school at Sandpoint and Baylor until the homestead was lost during the Depression and the family moved to town.
His earliest job was carrying sandwich board signs around town advertising the shows at the Orpheum and Roxy theaters, for which he was paid with movie tickets. In high school, he excelled at auto mechanics and received credit for working part-time at Magruder Motors. During summers, he worked construction at Fort Peck Dam, and following graduation in 1939, went to work full time at Magruders.
In 1942, he married Doris Kathryn Daley of Nashua. During WWII, the Army initially declined his enlistment due to his limited eyesight. However, as the war escalated, Uncle Sam changed his mind and called Mike to St. Petersburg, Fla., where Doris joined him. He graduated from airplane mechanic school and became a crew chief on C47s for the 810th Army Air Force. He had the rare privilege of earning flight status despite having sight in only one eye. He flew back and forth from Michigan to ferry gliders manufactured by Ford Motor Co., as his unit was a combat crew training school for troop transport gliders. He was also stationed at Laurinberg-Maxton Army Air Field in North Carolina, where glider pilots were trained to silently land troops in the European theater.
Doris returned to Glasgow for the birth of their daughter, Karen Rae, in 1944. At the end of the war, Mike was discharged as a staff sergeant and returned home to join them. He resumed mechanic work at Hansen Merson Motors, and enjoyed learning to fly an Aeronca.
Daughter Brenda Kay was born in 1950. In 1951, he was severely injured when a hoisted car fell on him. He was flown to Rochester with head injuries, including the loss of vision in his remaining eye. Remarkably, on the morning he was scheduled for facial reconstruction surgery, he awoke with restored vision in that eye. He did, however, permanently lose hearing in one ear and his sense of taste and smell.
During this time when “industrial accident” compensation was minimal, he returned to work as quickly as possible. On the day he resumed, a carburetor blew up in his face and he was badly burned. After recovering from his burns, he decided to switch to car sales, and started saving money to buy a farm. In 1953, he bought a 1927 International tractor and began leasing the Skilbred and Jondahl farms. Neighbors helped out by contributing old equipment from their junk piles, and the family’s Ford coupe served as the farm vehicle. For many years, he worked full-time as a mechanic while working his fields in evenings and on weekends.
He and Doris eventually purchased and leased more farmland in the Baylor and Glasgow areas. Brenda Schye and her husband, Ted, joined the farming operation in 1975, which by that time had grown to many times its original size. Mike’s skills as a mechanic proved invaluable as he farmed for more than 40 years, including coming out of retirement repeatedly to seed crops so that Ted could serve in the Legislature.
He was devoted to his daughters and their families and was supportive of all their endeavors. His grandchildren all had the privilege of riding on tractors, trucks, and combines with him, and witnessed him cobble together broken equipment with well-honed mechanical skills and improvised parts. The only one of his siblings to complete high school, he placed a high value on education and made certain his daughters attended college.
Never satisfied to sit around following retirement, he rescued many old cars and restored them to their original glory. His “second home” was the Glasgow Elks, where he logged many hours playing cards. He was a charter member of “the Club” in 1954, and when it began to decline after 50 years, he was instrumental in helping revive it with remodeling projects and a successful drive for new members.
He and Doris moved to Highgate Manor in Billings in January of 2013, where they enjoyed not having to worry about home maintenance, shoveling snow and cooking meals, and they also had more opportunities to visit great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by one daughter, Karen Hueth, in 1979.
Survivors include one daughter, Brenda Schye, and her husband, Ted, of Fort Peck; three grandchildren, Brent Hueth and his wife, Paqui, and Brad Hueth of Madison, Wis., and Justin Schye and his wife, Christina, of Billings; seven great-grandchildren, Camila, Ben, and Daniel Hueth, and Morgan, Shelby, Tobin and Kellan Schye; local nieces and nephews include Bob Maas, Herb Sand, Debi Fuhrman and MaryJo Guttenberg, as well as many of Doris’s relatives from the Daley family, including Flossie, Cecil and Floyd Daley. Craig and Pam Lee and their children were also adopted family.
Bell Mortuary of Glasgow is in charge of arrangements.