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Obituary - Jack Van Koten

Jack Van Koten, 87, joined his daughter Valerie in heaven April 16, 2024.

A memorial service to celebrate Jack's life will be 11 a.m. Friday, May 24, 2024, at the Holland & Bonine Funeral Chapel with Pastor Michael O'Hearn officiating.

Memorial donations may be made in Jack's name to the Shriners Children's Hospital in Spokane, 911 W. 5th Avenue, Spokane, WA 99204. Please visit Jack's online memorial to send a card or leave a message of condolence for his family at

Jack was born in Great Falls, Montana, May 24, 1936, to Margaret (Hanson) and Earl Van Koten. He attended schools there until his dad died and his mother remarried, and they moved to Havre when Jack was in the eighth grade. He attended Havre High School and enjoyed playing basketball and football as a Blue Pony.

Jack married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Seel, in 1955 and they were blessed with three daughters, each born in a leap year. Jack would spend time with them telling stories, pulling sleds, building snowmen and igloos in the winter, teaching them fishing, target shooting, kite flying, handling a canoe on Bear Paw Lake in the summer, and attending father-daughter date nights when they were in Scouts. He and Barbara were blessed with three grandchildren, a girl and two boys, whom he spoiled with endless hours of board and card games, storytelling, fishing, camping in the motorhome, carving clay, target shooting, buying costume jewelry for his "princess" and chess games for his warrior.

Jack and Barb enjoyed traveling around Montana to Dixieland Jazz Fests, hearing great bands from many states and dancing to their music. Jack liked tying flies and fishing, reloading shells for his guns, trap shooting and hunting. He planted a large garden, being especially proud of his tomatoes and sweet corn. He had a collection of hats and always wore one. He was known for passing out candy - especially pecan turtles.

Jack enjoyed working in clay and wax, later in cottonwood bark making Knome Home wall hangings. He sculpted a six-foot Shriner and child that was cast and bronzed, and has them in Spokane, Portland, Boston, St. Louis, Panama and Honolulu. He also sculpted the eight-foot statue of James Hill at the fountain in front of the Havre train depot. He also was commissioned to do an eight-foot statue of Gabriel Lewis, who was the Panama Ambassador to the United States.

Jack was a 50-year Mason and served as Master of his lodge. He was very proud to be a Shriner and help children at Shrine Hospitals. He was honored in Helena with a "Shriner of the Year" award, and also a national Gold Book Award. He served as Imperial Representative in 1983. Jack also enjoyed being in the Havre Oriental Shrine Band, for which he taught himself to play a Musette. He loved performing with them locally and around Montana, and in competition in Spokane, Minneapolis, Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Edmonton, Calgary and New Orleans. Barb enjoyed these trips, too, the competitions, award banquets and dances.

Jack was a very giving, caring person who enjoyed life and a good laugh.

He was preceded in death by his daughter Valerie Van Koten.

Jack is survived by his wife of 68 years, Barbara Van Koten; daughters Melanie (Joseph Eve) and Stephanie (Brent Hinger), and by his grandchildren, Dustin, Miranda and Jacques.


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