Michael Donald Richardson passed unexpectedly in the early morning hours of July 24, 2014, in Dillon, Montana.
He was born to Donald and Norita Richardson in Deer Lodge, amid a wild Montana evening thunderstorm, on July 13, 1957. Mike was a modern renaissance man with a boundless curiosity and enthusiasm for life. He utilized every minute he had available to him as fully as he could.
In his youth, Mike loved to work the family’s Rock Creek Lake mine with his Grandpa Pitman. By the age of 8, he was driving vehicles, operating heavy equipment and mastering the use of handguns and rifles. Those early skills formed the foundation for Mike’s entire work and recreational lives. Mike loved the outdoors. He got away every chance he could to ride his dirt bike up in the mountains, whether alone or with one of his several lifelong friends. He also enjoyed his road bike, his inventions and his many vehicular projects. He was an avid reader and lifelong autodidact.
Mike joined the Army in 1976 as a military police officer. He served in Heidelberg, Germany, and was honorably discharged in 1979. He then served a stint in the Montana National Guard, simply because he wanted to play at driving tanks. He returned to Deer Lodge and spent some time as a correctional officer at Montana State Prison. He then spent a little time working for Montana Forestry Division and as a log truck driver. Mike saw the entire continental USA through the windshields of 18 wheelers. He was very proud of his nearly 4 million accident-free miles. Mike owned an ammunition company for several years; he was a first-rate gunsmith and was a certified weapons instructor. He spent many years as a heavy equipment operator across the western United States and as a proud partner in an underground construction company. If you gave him an hour with any piece of equipment, Mike would be running it like a pro. He gave credit to his uncle, Harley Pitman, for his skill with trucks and equipment, and to his father for his vast knowledge of all things gun related and his exceptional abilities as a mechanic. At the time of his death, Mike was happily employed as an outside plant inspector at Heberly and Associates in Havre.
In 1984, Mike met his once-in-a-lifetime love, Eileen Hellie Smith. He married her and her daughter Jill on Sept. 13, 1986. He was overjoyed at the birth of his son Colton in 1993. Michael believed that the true measure of a man is made through the eyes of his family. Consequently, he worked very hard to be a great husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend, to great effect and with tremendous success. He was a giant of a man with a heart and spirit to match his physical size. We’re sure going to miss him.
Mike was preceded in death by his grandparents, Harley and Nora Pitman and Philip and Katherine Richardson; his uncles, Gene, Robert and Charles Richardson, aunt Louise Waldorf, as well as his mother-in-law, Stella Hellie, and his brother-in-law Vernon Hellie.
Mike is survived by his wife Eileen in Havre; daughter, Jill Smith (Denis Girard) of Missoula and son Colton of Havre. Also surviving are his parents, Norita and Don Richardson, Deer Lodge; father-in-law, Arnold “Ike” Hellie of Whitewater; sisters, Dianne (Jim) Slater of Buckeye, Arizona, and Valerie (David) Williams of Deer Lodge; brother, Art of Belgrade; brother-in-law, Michael Hellie of Whitewater, and sisters-in-law Kim Hellie and Lorraine Hellie of Malta; his uncle, Harley (Helen) Pitman of Deer Lodge; his best friends, Jim Gaskell and Dave Scott, both of Deer Lodge, and by cherished childhood friend Judie (Clark) Lucas of New Meadow, Idaho.
He will be fondly remembered by nephews, Ryan Gould (John Martin) of Goodyear, Arizona, Dusty (Angie) Gould of California, Tyler Richardson, of Bozeman, Jason (Courtney) Hellie and Addam (Tayler) Hellie of Whitewater, and Ray (Christine) Field of Spokane, Washington; and by nieces, Tessah Richardson (Cal Evans ) of Williston, North Dakota, and Dr. Mikita Hellie of Spokane; as well as by many cousins and cousins-in-law and his many friends, co-workers, fellow veterans across the nation and his beloved Big Black Dodge.
Cremation has taken place. Mike's ashes will be scattered in some of his favorite places. Placement of a memorial headstone will be held at the Hellie Family Cemetery north of Whitewater at a later date. Family and friends are cordially invited to a memorial barbecue at Pepin Park in Havre at 1 p.m., on Saturday, Aug. 2. Bring blankets, lawn chairs and good memories of Mike and maybe some food if you have time to get it ready. Come when you are ready, leave when you are tired.