On June 15, 2017, Gallatin Valley lost one of a kind. Charles Arthur Papke passed away peacefully in his home at the age of 79. A life-long resident of Bridger Canyon, he was born Jan. 20, 1938, to Charles Fred and Dagmar Papke. He was the older brother to Hazel Smith. He attended school at the Lower Bridger schoolhouse to the eighth grade and then finished his high school career at Gallatin High School in 1956.
He loved being outdoors, and if you were looking for someone to be in the mountains with, Charles was the one you wanted. He could navigate on horseback through places most would not think to. He loved all animals small and large and grew up in the FFA and 4H. Charles was also involved in installing the first ski lift at Bridger Bowl as well as crazy enough to hit the Galande jump on a toboggan. Charles had many friends and family in the valley. His loud voice could be heard at many coffee clubs as well.
On Nov. 28, 1959, Charles married the love of his life, Katherine Marlene Gee. Together they celebrated 48 years of marriage and raising a family. As a family, they spent time ranching in Bridger Canyon, playing cowboy polo, four wheeling, and traveling when they could. Charles spent several years volunteering for the Gallatin Valley County Sheriff's Posse, as well as the Bridger Canyon Volunteer Fire Department.
Most of his life was spent behind the wheel of a semi all over Montana as well as Alaska. He was an explosive expert for the state, spent time on the paint machine, plowing snow, as well as numerous other tasks. Charles retired from the Montana Department of Transportation.
In 2008, Charles lost his wife to cancer. He proceeded to live out his final days at his home surrounded by family. Charles is survived by his three sons, Kevin Papke (Sheila), Ronald Papke (Kalani), Michael Papke (Rhea); and grandchildren, Bridger Papke (Rebbeca), Sara Papke, Makayla Papke, Meg Papke.
A Celebration of Life will be held at First Lutheran Church on Saturday, July 15 at noon.
In lieu of flowers, please make a memorial donation in Charles Papke's name to the charity of your choice or one of the following: Bridger Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, 8081 Bridger Canyon Rd., Bozeman, MT 59715, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, 5705 Grant Creek Rd., Missoula, MT 59808, or to Cancer Support Community, 102 S. 11th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59715.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com