Winfred Halter Jr.
POLSON — Winfred (Jerry) P. Halter Jr., (Dad, Grandpa and Ol’Papa) was born June 9, 1923, to Winfred and Lillian Joyce Halter in Havre, Montana, at Sacred Heart Hospital. He passed peacefully at home outside of Polson on Sunday, June 3, 2018, just six days shy of his 95th birthday.
He graduated from Havre High School in 1942. During the summers, of those high school years, Jerry worked for Steve Boyce on his ranch, which sparked his interest in ranching. After he graduated, he went to work for the Great Northern as a telegraph operator.
He moved to Butte working for the railroad during a time when there were 21,000 miners in that city; every day a full train of ore would head for the refinery in Great Falls. After six months in Butte, he was sent to Snowden, Montana, on the North Dakota border. There he had one of his most interesting jobs. The railroad bridge there that crossed the Missouri river was also a passenger and truck bridge along with holding Great Northern Tracks. Jerry became the toll taker. The railroad charged $1 to anyone using the bridge. He was working his way up to transfer to engine service on the Great Northern in the hopes to become an engineer like his dad. But, that was not to be; he soon went back home to Havre, where he was hired by John Lawler, a rancher in the Henry’s Basin region of the Bear Paw Mountains.
After a while, Jerry left the Lawler ranch and asked to be put in the next draft with Jack Wyeth and Doc Reece. Private Winfred P Halter Jr. entered the Army in February of 1945. He served in the Infantry for two years spending much of this time training at Camp Wolters in Texas, where he was awarded the ‘Expert Infantryman badge’, before being sent to Camp Adair in Oregon. From there, he was sent for a short time to the Pacific (Philippines) until he returned home on a disability discharge.
After that, he and his brother, Douglas, having both returned from serving in the armed forces, went to work, once again, for the Lawler ranch until late 1946 when his mother and dad bought the old Morris Café on First Street and Fourth Avenue in Havre. It was a partnership between the two brothers and mother and father.
In 1946, he met Inez Lucille Huestis, while she was calling crews by bicycle for the railroad. Jerry loved to tell people he married a ‘Call Girl,’ as that is what the job was called in that day. They married in 1947 and Inez joined the family business of running the Morris Café. They ran the café until 1951.
From the Morris Café, Jerry made enough money to buy a ranch at Judith Landing on the Missouri River, some 40 miles south east of Big Sandy. They moved out there in March of 1951.
The first winter was so bad they lost 180 feeder calves out of 200. He always said, “Life was very hard on the ranch, but we were all happy.” Jerry was known as “the guy on the river with all them kids.” They had six kids: Donna, Butch, Carol, Joey, Jack and Gay.
Over the years of ranching, raising kids, and grandkids, he also hosted hunting groups during the fall. One bunch that was his and everyone’s favorite were the Georgia Boys. A superb group of men who Jerry always guaranteed a good hunt and a good party. They dubbed Jerry, “The Old Trail Boss” and he even had business cards made with that title. Those were some good times, and yes, good stories.
He ran the ranch until 2000, when he moved to Dixon with daughter, Joey, and son-in-law, Harley Hettick. While starting anew in Dixon, he learned a new line of business, melon farming with Dixon Melons.
A new love was in the works during this time as well. He met Karen Cote of Polson in 2004 and they married in 2006. Together they enjoyed having rummage sales and spending time with their dogs. He always said one of the best things you can have in life is a “good dog.” They both helped with the Dixon Melons and worked together haying Karen’s hayfields. How blessed they were to have found each other to share these past 14 years together.
Jerry was also fortunate to spend the last 18 years of his life surrounded by family, getting to know his adult grandkids, and seeing new life in each new great-grandchild, the most recent are cousins, Zeek and Zaeda Rose, and great great-grandchildren, Dominic and Ashton. One very special moment occurred just a week before his passing … he was planting melons. The most precious part is that he was doing it with his great-grandson, Quincy. The duo were the oldest, at age 94, and the youngest, at age 2, planters in the field. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Beyond family, he had more friends than you can count. Everyone who met Jerry would quickly get mesmerized by two things: the size of his hands and his ability to recall some fantastic stories.
Most all of these stories were told with such detail one would be awed by his incredible ability to recall the names of people, places and events that had occurred many, many years before. Of course, he never let the truth get in the way of a good story, either. We would love to be able to include one or two of his favorites, but unfortunately there is no room here for a novel.
We will all miss him very much, yet we are comforted knowing that we will see him again one day. He recommitted his life to Christ not long ago and was very proud of the Bible he had received from granddaughter, Sherri. We know that he is having a reunion in heaven and that he will be watching over us until our day comes.
Jerry is preceded in death by his father, W. P. Halter Sr.; his mother, Lillian Joyce Halter; a brother, Douglas Halter; a sister, Noele (Gracie) Darwin; his first wife, Inez; his son-in-law, Steve Norris; his granddaughter, Tianne Norris and her infant son, Oran Blaine Gage.
He is survived by his wife, Karen of Polson; his brother, Charles M. Halter of Roseville, California; his children, Eldonna (Loren) Jenkins of Big Sandy, Carolyn Norris of Missoula, Butch Halter of Billings, Joey Ann (Harley) Hettick of Dixon, Jack (Bev) Halter of Rudyard and Gay (Ron) Pearson of Big Sandy; 19 grandchildren; 18 great-grandchildren and two great great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorial services will take place on Saturday, June 9, at 2 p.m., at the Dixon Community Church, which is held at the Dixon Senior Center. A celebration of life will follow, as this would have been his 95th birthday. Details will be shared following the services. Memories and condolences may be sent to the family at: www. lakefuneralhomeandcremation.com. Arrangements are under the direction of The Lake Funeral Home and Crematory.