Whitefish has lost one of its most colorful characters.
“Cowboy” Gerald Daymude died Dec. 16 after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 75.
Daymude was well-recognized for his big-brimmed hats, sharp Western attire and colorful collection of custom-made boots. He often was seen strolling Central Avenue, visiting with shop owners or posing for photos with tourists.
“He was a Whitefish icon — an ambassador,” said Donna McGough, who met Daymude the first day he arrived in town in 2003. “People loved seeing him. He made tourists feel like they were in a Montana town. He sure depicted the West.”
Born Gerald Gilbert Daymude in 1938 and raised on an estate in Kensington, Md., Daymude said in a 2007 interview that dressing with style was important to his mother. She advised all three of her children to always look their best whenever they went out in public.
Daymude had a fascination with the West since childhood. In 1988 he moved to a Navajo reservation in Flagstaff, Ariz., after watching a television evangelist plea for a maintenance man to work with missionaries.
“When I arrived, they said I was the sharpest-dressed maintenance man they’d ever seen,” he recalled.
Daymude also worked as a pipefitter and plumber.
Backdoor General Store owner Trini Carreon met Daymude the day he arrived in Whitefish on the train.
“I was putting the store together and noticed how he dressed,” Carreon said. “I asked if he had more boots — he had about 52 pair — and if he would like to feature them in the store.”
“That’s how our friendship started — with the boots.”
Since Daymude didn’t drive, Carreon, a Realtor, often would take him on property showings or to the boot store in Kalispell. Daymude eventually came to call Carreon his best friend.
Daymude’s sense of humor always struck Carreon.
“He was a really funny guy,” Carreon said. “He always told people, ‘I’m Cowboy Gerald and I’m a full-time Christian.”
“He was the color of the town and smiled at everyone. He will be missed.”
Carreon will continue to feature Daymude’s boots at the Backdoor General Store. Proceeds from boots sold will go to hospice care as Daymude had requested.
Anyone wishing to make a donation in honor of Daymude should contact the Backdoor General Store or McGough and Co.
A service for Daymude is planned for Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. at Austin Funeral Home.
Baldwin is the editor of the Whitefish Pilot.