Thomas Heggen, Jr.April 17, 1923 ~ June 7, 2017 (age 94)
Thomas Heggen, Jr.
After a full 94 years of life, Tom Heggen died peacefully in his sleep June 7, 2017. He was a Montana cowboy who adored his wife, loved his kids and grandkids, and enjoyed dancing, visiting, and a little Canadian whiskey.
Thomas Heggen, Jr. was born to Josephine and Thomas Heggen, Sr. in Santa Barbara, California on April 17, 1923. His grandparents homesteaded near Ekalaka, Montana in 1880 and the family returned there to ranch. Tom and his parents stayed on the ranch for most of his life except for a time when he was 12 when his dad worked on a ranch near Philipsburg, MT. He regarded it as one of the best times of his life, exploring the countryside with his friend, Buzz Peth, on their horses.
The family returned to Ekalaka, where Tom attended school, graduating from high school in 1941. While attending school, he recounted following Gloria Gundlach home from school on their horses. He marveled at her determination to go to school, riding several miles to and from school, even in the severe Montana winters. Following graduation from high school, Tom enlisted in the army to fight during WWII. He spent most of his active duty in Europe, mainly in Germany and Czechoslovakia. In later years, he recounted many fascinating stories about his tour of duty, including the Battle of the Bulge and attending the Nuremburg trials. The war and his time in the European campaign had a tremendous impact on his life.
Upon returning to Ekalaka and the ranch, Tom once again became smitten with the schoolgirl he followed back and forth to school. In January of 1949, he married Gloria, who was the love of his life for the next 63 years. He continued ranching for over five decades, with a stint assisting the State Veterinarian testing brucellosis in cattle. He and Gloria raised three kids on the ranch, Neal, Mikal and Mauri. Tom was a proud father who supported his children in their many activities and pursuits.
He and Gloria sold the ranch and moved to Shepherd, MT in 1995 with plans to retire. They built a wonderful home on acreage, where Tom continued to have a few cows, as he was happiest when he had cattle to watch. Tom continued to be a hard worker well into his later years, working at the Billings Livestock Yard until he was 83.
In 2008, Tom and Gloria moved to Meridian, ID to be close to family. He spent the next few years taking care of Gloria, who became ill with Alzheimer’s. He assisted in her care, visiting her and feeding her lunch daily until her death in 2012. He enjoyed visiting with the rodeo cowboys who came through town going to and from the rodeos and attended the National Finals Rodeo as often as he could. In 2015, at the age of 92, Tom was selected for an Honor Flight to Washington DC recognizing his military service. He greatly missed Montana and his friends in his last years.
Tom was preceded in death by his wife, Gloria, and grandson, Blaise. He leaves behind his three children, Neal Heggen, Mikal (David) Smith and Mauri (Kyle) Williams, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Services for Tom will be in Ekalaka, MT with rosary at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 19, 2017 and Mass at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be sent to the Emsweiler Swimming Pool fund in Ekalaka, MT or the Blaise Black Scholarship Foundation, 1818 W. Spanish Bay Dr., Eagle ID.