Colonel (retired) Donald L. Stevlingson of Bigfork passed away from natural causes on Friday, Nov. 23 at North Valley Hospital in Whitefish at the age of 77.
Don was born in Great Falls on March 31, 1941 to Donald M. and Irene Brown Stevlingson. He grew up in Great Falls and graduated from Great Falls High School in 1959. He attended the University of Montana in Missoula and the University of Providence in Great Falls, graduating in business administration. Don married his high school sweetheart, Joy Tovson, on July 15, 1962. They were best friends and partners in life for 56 years.
Don joined the Montana Air National Guard in 1963, served three years with the Air Police, was commissioned in 1966 and entered flight training. He served as a squadron pilot and rose to deputy commander of operations for the 120th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in 1984. He served as Wing Commander from 1989 until 1991. During his 28-year career he flew the F-102, F-106 and the F-16 accumulating nearly 5000 hours of flight time. He graduated from Air Command and Staff College and Air War College.
In 1992, Don and Joy fulfilled a life long dream and moved to the Flathead Valley where they built a log home near Bigfork. Don was a partner in a home building business, Parkwood Construction. When Don retired in 2001, he and Joy traveled to Russia, Spain, Germany and throughout the United States, but he preferred being at home with a task at hand. He built cedar strip canoes, completed numerous home and yard projects and took great satisfaction in a job well done. His numerous projects were completed with verve and purpose. Missing his flying career, he took lessons and began flying a Cessna 175. He joined the Flathead Flyers and served as their president in 2008. Don served for five years as a volunteer delivering Meals on Wheels for the Bigfork Senior Center.
Don had played for the Montana Grizzlies football team and was a loyal Griz fan. He and Joy held season tickets for 20 years. He was a member of the Sons of Norway and Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
Don was a great husband and father, giving his family his love, full support and wise counsel, especially in looking at the big picture. When he became a grandfather he said it made his life complete. He loved his grandchildren, Max and Anna, wholeheartedly.
The family is deeply grateful to Hidden Meadow Memory Care Home for the patient, kind and loving care he received there for the past two years. The staff and other residents were like a second family to us.
Don is survived by his wife, Joy; his daughter and son-in-law Julie and Jon Sims of Lakeside; his son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Katya Stevlingson and grandchildren Max Stevlingson and Anna Stevlingson, all of Moscow, Russia. He is also survived by his sisters- and brothers-in-law, Jackie Berger of Helena, Hugh Van Swearingen and Nancy Marx of Townsend, Steve and Jean Johnson of Des Moines, Washington, Jon and Gloria Tovson of Great Falls and Jeri Anne O’Neil and Nick Terhaar of Polson. In addition he is survived by a loving extended family of cousins, nieces and nephews, all of whom are very dear to him.
Don was preceded in death by his parents, brothers-in-law James Canfield, Dick Berger and Gary Clapshaw and a sister-in-law, Janet van Swearingen.
A memorial service for Don will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, at Johnson-Gloschat Funeral Home in Kalispell. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Meals on Wheels or the charity of your choice.