Walter Russell "Joe" Stalnaker, 80, passed away peacefully on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, at Touchmark Assisted Living on Saddle Drive in Helena, after a battle with dementia and liver cancer.
He was born on April 19, 1934, to Walter A. and Clara E. (White) Stalnaker in Gardiner, Mont., the younger of two sons. He attended school in Gardiner until the family moved to Helena in 1948. He played basketball for the Bryant Mustangs and later attended Helena High School, graduating at the end of the first semester in 1952.
He enlisted in the US Air Force immediately after graduation, and was stationed in Amarillo, Texas, where, as a staff sargent, he instructed enlisted men in aircraft maintenance. He often later remarked that he "could hardly wait to get back to Montana!" He was honorably discharged with a National Defense Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal in March of 1956. He then spent four years in the Air Force Reserve.
In 1956, he started a 34-year career with the telephone company. He spent several years on the construction line crew, traveling around the state digging telephone pole holes by hand, climbing poles, stringing cable and making great friendships with his fellow linemen. He held various positions in the telephone company and was highly regarded by his co-workers and supervisors.
On Sept. 12, 1959, he married Alice "Peggy" Horne in Helena. They were blessed with four daughters - Karen, Linda, Nancy Jo and Gail.
Survivors include Peggy, his wife of (almost) 55 years; one brother, Larry Stalnaker and his wife, Thea, of Mesa, Ariz.; four daughters, Karen Breigenzer and her husband, Marc, of Glasgow, Linda Athas and her husband, Dave, of Glendive, Nancy Jo Daniel and her husband, George, of Blanchard, Idaho., and Gail Coon and her husband, Ron, of Rock Springs, Wyo.; grandchildren, Blake Fohl and his wife, Sara, Keela Brilz and her husband, Wade, Carson Fohl, Bobbi Jo Ostby, Hailee Jo Daniel, Misty Jordan, Tanner (Krista Welborn) Coon, and Anna and Peter Breigenzer; great-grandchildren, Trae Fohl, Keaton, Kambryn and Ayden Brilz, Karter and Kyle Jordan, Lyndan Schumacher and Sawyer Coon; an aunt, Dorothy Evans of Lincoln, Mont.; a brother-in-law, Bill Horne Jr., of Deer Lodge; a special nephew, Lance Stalnaker of Helena; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by a nephew, Lane Stalnaker; two brothers-in-law, Bob Horne and Jerry Horne; one sister-in-law, Jeannie Horne; and a grandson-in-law, Kirk Jordan.
Joe's family expresses deep gratitude and appreciation to the nurses and staff of Touchmark and Hospice of St. Peter's for the exceptional love, respect and dignity shown to Joe in his final months.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial service celebrating Joe's life was held at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 13, at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home, 3750 North Montana Ave. in Helena. A graveside service with full military honors took place immediately following the memorial service at Forestvale cemetery. A reception followed the graveside service in the social hall at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to Hospice of St. Peter's or a charity of your choice. Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer the family a condolence or to share a memory Joe.