Havre Daily News
Longtime businessman, pharmacist and community supporter Don Vaupel died Monday of natural causes at Northern Montana Hospital. He was 88.
He was known throughout Havre and the surrounding areas as a kind man, a mentor and a friend.
"He was the most remarkable man I've ever known," said Mary Lou Haugen, who worked for Vaupel from 1965 to 2000 at Don's Medical Pharmacy and at Western Drug. "It's so difficult to put into words. I loved him dearly. He was a fine man, generous almost to a fault."
Vaupel arrived in Havre in 1948 and began working for Owl Drug. A decade later, he started Don's Medical Pharmacy in Havre, and later opened Western Drug here as well. He expanded his business ventures to include 14 stores in Havre, Harlem, Great Falls, Helena, Bozeman, Shelby, Livingston and Billings.
Vaupel loved his home and tried to do everything he could to support Havre, said Wells Lamey, who worked under him as a pharmacist for 43 years.
"He was one of the biggest boosters that Havre ever had," Lamey said. "He loved Havre."
Vaupel worked behind the scenes on projects that benefitted the city, Lamey said. He was involved with securing a site for American Legion baseball fields after Havre Public Schools decided to build Sunnyside Intermediate School at the old ball fields' location. Vaupel and Dr. Clark Grimm donated the land that is now home to Northern Montana Hospital.
Several businesses in Havre owe their start to Vaupel, who gave the owners seed money to get their ventures off the ground, Lamey said. There are at least a half dozenpharmacies in Montana owned by former employees of Vaupel, he added.
And then there was the Atrium Mall.
Vaupel, James Sleeter and others purchased the former Buttrey department store in 1976. Vaupel later bought out the other investors.
"I never thought of making any money in the Atrium," Vaupel told the Havre Daily News in a 2002 interview. "I knew I had a store in downtown Havre and we couldn't stand to have that building stand there empty."
"He could have bailed out on the Atrium really early, but he stayed and took his lumps," Lamey said. "He felt he owed it to the people of Havre to not just dump it."
Last year, Vaupel sold the building to David Shaw, who had leased business space from him for several years.
"He was a very nice guy," Shaw said today. "I really liked the guy."
Lamey remembers Vaupel as more than just an employer.
"He was a great man," he said. "He was a mentor to me. He was like a father to me."
Haugen said Vaupel was an excellent employer.
"He never would ask you to do anything he wouldn't do himself," she said. "I worked for him for 35 years, and there was never a harsh word between us."
Former state Rep. Toni Hagener called Vaupel a "community supporter."
"Don was certainly an upstanding member of our community," she said. "He tried to keep the downtown area going."
Vaupel was born in Malta and graduated from Saco High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Montana School of Pharmacy in 1938, and moved to Glasgow and eventually to Bozeman to work in pharmacies.
At Vaupel's and his family's request, there will be no funeral service. Cremation has taken place. Friends and acquaintances are invited to a gathering from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Mediterranean Room at the Duck Inn.