BIG SANDY/FORT BENTON - Rae C. Steven, 86, of Big Sandy and Fort Benton, died Thursday, July 22, 2004, at a Great Falls hospital.
Rae was born on Nov. 28, 1917, on the family homestead south of the Sweetgrass Hills near Shelby to Lavinia "Minnie" Cockell and William Steven. Rae
grew up in the Shelby community and graduated from high school there in 1935. He continued his education at Montana State University in Bozeman, where he earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1941.
Rae met a local school teacher, Martha Yurman, at the Shelby roller skating rink in 1940. They were married Oct. 24, 1941, at Kalispell. Soon after the onset of World War II, the Stevens moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Rae worked as an engineer for Curtis Wright Aeronautics. As the war wound down, they moved back to Montana. Rae took employment at National Supply Company in Cut Bank, where he worked in the oil business.
In 1946, the Stevens moved to the family farm 25 miles south of the Sweetgrass Hills. They lived, worked and raised their family of four in the Chester community for 15 years. In 1961 they purchased a farm-and-ranch operation on the Missouri River not far from the Virgelle Ferry south of Big Sandy. The ranch was their home and enjoyment for the past 40 years. In addition, they purchased a home in Fort Benton and had commuted between the two places.
Rae developed diabetes and related ailments, so he moved to the Big Sandy Nursing Home in 2002. He recently suffered additional complications and was transferred to the Benefis East Hospital for treatment.
Rae was confirmed as an adult at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Chester. He was a member of the Shelby Elks Club and had served on the Chester and Geraldine school boards for many years. After moving to the Virgelle ranch, Rae frequently worked with local search-and-rescue crews, who appreciated his expertise and help in assisting with river mishaps and accidents. Rae was later recruited to participate in an area film for the "Backroads of Montana" series. In the film's featured role, Rae rescued the Virgelle Ferry from the Missouri mud.
Rae was a good neighbor. He enjoyed sharing his work and skills with his friends. In the wintertime, he loved to snowplow the local roads. Over the years, many hunters were welcomed to the Steven's ranch. Among Rae's favorite hunting companions were Uncle Carl Yurman and Uncle Nick Laas.
One of Rae's favorite childhood memories was when he "sneaked under the tent flap" to watch the Dempsey-Gibbons fight in Shelby. From that time on boxing became one of his favorite sports. He also enjoyed the NFL, especially the Denver Broncos, and he was a lifelong basketball and football fan of the Montana State University Bobcats.
In his younger years Rae enjoyed hunting, bowling, ice skating and dancing. He loved good music. He played clarinet in the MSU band during his college days. In his quiet time at home, he liked to read. Rae always looked forward to a good poker game with his friends, and he enjoyed playing pinochle and board games with his family. He was an excellent mechanic who could fix most anything. He built many of the cabinets and furniture in his home.
Rae and Martha made many memorable trips to Estonia, Central America, South America, Alaska and other places.
Rae was preceded in death by his parents and a daughter, Martha Rae in 1967.
Survivors include his wife, Martha of Fort Benton; sons, Dr. William Steven (Pat) of Shreveport, La., and Jim Steven (Carol) of Chester; daughter, Ida Steven (Ray Gonzalez) of Lakeville, Minn.; five grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; sister, Maude Echols of Fort Benton; and cousin, Susan Yurman of Chester.
Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Chester. Burial will follow at the family plot at the Chester Cemetery.
Arrangements by Rockman Funeral Chapel, Chester.