On Sunday evening, Aug. 15, 2021, after having the opportunity to see all seven of his grandchildren throughout the weekend, and with his wife of 53 years, Kathy, daughter Shelly, son-in-law Gabe, son Shawn, and daughter-in-law Lisa by his side, John Patrick Bleile took his final breath on this earth.
John was born June 9, 1943, to Mary Margaret Keenan and John Joseph Bleile of Opportunity, Mont. He was the second of three children, falling behind big brother Jim Bleile and always standing tall over little sister Mary Kaye Bleile.
John attended Beaverdam elementary school and often told many stories of all his dear childhood friends, Porky Preskar, Doc and Ron Smith and Don DeTonancour. He attended Anaconda Senior High School and was a well-versed musician, playing many instruments which included the saxophone, clarinet, accordion, bass and electric guitars, banjo, piano, and later in life the violin; was in the marching band and a member of the Bleile Polka Band.
John graduated from Anaconda Senior High School in 1961 and joined the United States Navy, where he was stationed in San Diego on the USS Forrestal from 1961-1966. He was a member of the Navy Band and attended the U.S. Naval Station School of Music in Washington, D.C., in 1963. John was honored to be part of the marching band of both John F. Kennedy’s and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s funeral processions. In 1966, he was honorably discharged and decorated with a National Defense Service medal. John returned to Anaconda, where he started his career as a pipefitter/ smelterman with the Anaconda Co.
John met his future bride Kathleen Marie Kriskovich Bleile in Anaconda, and after a short courtship, at Frank and Cookie Bizjaks’ wedding reception in 1967, the proposal was made and the engagement was started. After older sister Rosalie smoothed things over with Mama Irene, the wedding took place on July 13, 1968, at St. Peters Catholic Church.
In May 1969, John and Kathy welcomed their first-born Michele Kathleen (Shelly), with Shawn Patrick to follow in November 1970. Kathy always tells the story of coming from a large Catholic family and Mama Irene telling her, “You have one of each, now be done.”
Shelly and Shawn were always John’s No. 1 priority and his pride and joy. When it came to fatherhood, he took pride in teaching his kids how to fish and bowl. When he wasn’t working or bowling on Monday nights, as a family they were camping, taking weekend trips to state parks, Frontier town, and Lagoon. Family trips with Uncle Jimmy, Auntie Penny, and the cousins were always a treat. Jam sessions with the family polka band were always so much fun.
In 1980, the smelter shut its doors and Anacondans’ lives changed forever. John began traveling to work, including out of state to the Tri Cities, Wash., and Colstrip, wherever he could find work as a welder/pipefitter. He would be gone for weeks at a time, coming home on weekends to see his family.
Kathy was single-parenting; it was difficult at best. One summer, John rolled the station wagon while traveling back from Colstrip; the traveling was getting to him.
In 1985, John took a typing test and applied to be a dispatcher at Anaconda-Deer Lodge County. Knowing this would be a big pay cut and adjustment, he also knew this would keep him home with his family. John became a 911 dispatcher and returned to the ranks of the Army National Guard to supplement his income until 1992. John moved up the ranks with the county and became the civil officer before retiring from the county in 2004.
College education was a priority for John and Kathy; unfortunately, monies put away were gone as a result of the smelter closure. By the grace of God and hard work, scholarships and “monthly payments,” both Shelly and Shawn were able to graduate from Carroll College. No other university system at the time would accept monthly payments, and Carroll worked with John on a payment plan to allow both kids to attend and graduate collectively in 1991 and 1993.
John enjoyed spontaneous trips to Fort Hall, Cactus Pete’s, Evaro, Mesquite, Quest or wherever he and the three musketeers (Kathy, Jim and Penny) could find a nickel machine. He enjoyed being a campground host, bowling, and more importantly listening to the scanner after he retired. Watching CNN and HLN and sharing his take on the day’s top stories with Shelly and Shawn on their daily telephone calls on the way home will be a missed treasure. John’s lifelong friendships were all dear to him – too many to list, but one that can’t go unnoted: Bob and Peggy Hamel, always just a phone call away. John’s love for all his nieces and nephews, again, too many to list, were so overwhelmingly dear to him. He would want you all to know how much he cared for each of you.
The Carroll story has always been a prideful one John would share, but if there is one thing more important to John it is his seven grandchildren: Keenan Colvin, Papa’s namesake, named after John’s mom; first grandson, deputy sheriff in Ravalli County and graduate of the University of Montana, Jayson Colvin; Papa’s Jay Jay, who followed in Papa’s footsteps and earned a welding certificate/graduate of Montana State University; Hayden Bleile, Papa’s first-born granddaughter, who will attend Montana State University and attain a nursing degree; Addison Bleile, Papa’s Posy – his softball pitcher and now freshman golfer on the Raptor Varsity team; Griffen Vaughn, Papa’s Giraffe – the one who kept growing and followed in Papa’s footsteps with the Army National Guard; Owen Vaughn, Papa’s concrete/finisher and dirt bike guy; Rynna Vaughn, Papa’s Ice Cream Girl. Such a special relationship these two had; the smile he had for her when talking about ice cream will live in our memories.
John is survived by his wife Kathy (Kriskovich) Bleile; daughter Shelly and (Papa’s My Gabe) son-in law Gabe Vaughn; son Shawn and (Papa’s My Lisa) daughter-in-law Lisa (Letang) Bleile; sister-in law Rosalie Kriskovich; and numerous nieces and nephews and cousins on both Bleile and Kriskovich sides of the family.
We will celebrate John’s life at Holy Family Catholic Church in Anaconda, Mont., with a wake and mass. Visitation will begin on Friday, Aug. 27, starting at 5:30 p.m.; the Rosary will begin at 6:30 and Vigil at 7 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Holy Family Catholic Church in Anaconda, Mont., on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, at 12 p.m. There will be one hour of visitation prior to the service.
John will be laid to rest at Mount Olivet Cemetery immediately following the Mass, with a luncheon and celebration at the Club Modern to follow thereafter.
In lieu of flowers or greenery, memorials are suggested to Stillwater Hospice, 5 W. Mendenhall St., Suite 202, Bozeman, MT 59715.
Longfellow Finnegan Riddle Funeral & Cremation Service is entrusted with John’s funeral arrangements. You may pay your condolences at www.longfellowfinneganriddle.com.