Cover photo for Donald Gene Kieckbusch, Sr.'s Obituary
Donald Gene Kieckbusch, Sr. Profile Photo
1931 Donald 2023

Donald Gene Kieckbusch, Sr.

May 17, 1931 — June 5, 2023

Air Force veteran, dedicated educator, successful coach, lifelong outdoorsman, diligent livestock brand inspector and devoted family man, Donald G. Kieckbusch of Manhattan, passed away June 5, after a lengthy battle against the ravages of Parkinson’s Disease. With the exception of four years spent in the U.S. military, Don spent his entire life in the three adjoining Montana counties of Broadwater, Jefferson and Gallatin.


In 1948, before graduating from high school, he joined the Air Force, serving his entire tour of duty as a tail-gunner in Alaska at the height of the Korean War when China and North Korea threatened North America. He made the best of his assignment, hunting big game animals when spare time permitted and applied his ball-handling skills and remarkable shooting touch as a key member of the Elmendorf Base basketball team.


Born on May 17, 1931, as the oldest of three sons to Ted and Esther, he grew up on the family sheep farm, on upper Deep Creek near Townsend. Later, the family moved into town, where the three boys - Don, John, and Larry excelled in sports, and all three eventually made their way into the educational field.


After his discharge, Don married hometown girl Willie Frey, a union that thrived over a remarkable span of seven decades. It was then that he decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill to enroll at Montana State College. While he worked on his degree, the young couple became parents of Nanette and Donald “Gob”.


After graduation, he accepted a position as an English, History and P.E. teacher while coaching basketball and track at Jefferson County High School in Boulder from 1956 until 1968. It was in Boulder that Lori became the final member of the family. During summer breaks, Don worked for the US Forest Service.


His basketball teams responded well to his disciplined style, which combined a tough matchup zone defense with team-first fundamentals. Competing in the difficult Class C District of Southwestern Montana, his Panthers more than held their own against such powerhouses as Twin Bridges and Whitehall.


In the late 1960s, Kieckbusch made a career change, electing to obtain a Master’s Degree in Administration from MSC and moved seamlessly from the classroom to Principal at JCHS. Two years later he accepted a position as Superintendent of Schools at Manhattan, a post that lasted until he retired in 1982. During that time, he worked on significant boards and organizations, including the 4-Rivers Association, and represented the Class B schools on the Montana High School Association (MHSA).


Retirement led him to yet another career change: with the State Department of Livestock as a brand inspector. He spent 30-plus years inspecting brands on cattle and horses throughout the area, a job that led the Gallatin Beef Producers to honor him with its “Outstanding Agriculturist Award” in 2013.


Don had a lifetime attraction to horses and dogs, leading him to quarter-horse colts and an endless string of canine companions. He always had a dog as a family pet, primarily animals acquired at various animal shelters. He also added a new phase of recreation - that of team roping with Gob.


He was a true Montana outdoorsman, and was always eager to get into the mountains for elk, moose, deer, bobcats and game birds like grouse, pheasants. As a teacher, he would frequently leave home at 5:00 am, for a pre-school hunt on Bull Mountain at Boulder and often recalled his successful teenage outings on Grassy Mountain at Townsend.


Don was preceded in death by his parents, Ted and Esther, and his two younger brothers: John “Doc”, and Larry.


He is survived by Willie, his loving wife of 70 years; three children: Nanette (Dave) Powers, Grand Rapids, Minnesota; Donald (Dawn), Manhattan; and Lori Williams, Bozeman; three granddaughters: Bree Williams, Britney Newville (Nick) and Brailey Williams; three grandsons: Kade Kieckbusch; Grady Kieckbusch; and Randy Sweet, plus three great grandchildren: Klay Kieckbusch; Preston and Drew Sweet.


At his request, no funeral services are planned. 

 



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