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Hero to many leaves Mission Valley

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RONAN- Long time community member and friend to many, Jim BlackWolf, is going home.

After nearly 25 years with Ronan-based Mission Mountain Enterprises, BlackWolf says he is leaving to be closer to his family in Lame Deer. 

“I’m moving back to see my family, but I’ll sure miss my family here. And they’re going to miss me,” BlackWolf said. 

MME’s director of staff development, Walt Woyden, said BlackWolf is one of 60 MME clients with a developmental disability. MME runs four group homes with 24-seven staff supervision in Ronan and Polson. BlackWolf has been with MME since Woyden started. 

“I’ve known him for 20 years; he calls me dad,” Woyden said. 

A fully enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, BlackWolf will often perform Native American ceremonial drumming and prayers at staff funerals and business functions. Three years ago, he was elected king at the client dance, an event that wraps up MME’s version of the Special Olympics and might be compared to a high school prom. 

Woyden said BlackWolf enjoys helping the police department. In his youth, he would patrol Main Street in Ronan and check locks to ensure that all the businesses were closed at night.

MME’s accounts payable administrator Mary Nickell has known BlackWolf for 21 years. She says she will miss his jokes — he likes to jump out of corners and scare people — as even on a bad day, they lift her spirits. Nickell said when BlackWolf was younger, he loved to play basketball and helped coach her son’s Little Dribbler team. 

“He loves to teach children things,” Nickell said. 

“It’s really hard to see Jim go," she continued. "We’re all very protective of our clients, but when you’re talking about someone like Jim, you’re a little more protective. He can come back whenever he likes."

A profound storyteller, BlackWolf loves to spin yarn, in more ways than one: he also makes and sells custom rugs. 

In one of his stories, BlackWolf said he saved a child from drowning in the creek behind Ronan Park. 

“I did a good job right there, saved the kid’s life and the family was real happy,” he said. 

BlackWolf seems to have touched everyone in town in one way or another, and will be missed by the many friends he has made over the years.

“My grandkids were getting really cranky at a Relay for Life event up in Polson a few years ago,” Woyden remembered. 

“He sat there and sang them Native American songs, and it calmed them down. He’s a very good guy.”

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