His goal in the Simms High School yearbook was simply “to live to a ripe old age.” That was in the 1950’s. When dad left us at the age of 85 on March 9, 2019, he had accomplished that goal and so much more.
Evan Heisel was born on March 27th, 1933 in Great Falls and grew up in the Sun River Valley. His father died shortly after Evan’s birth and his mother had a difficult time raising him on her own, so he grew up with loving foster families around the valley. The families included Pete and Molly Petersen, who served as Grandpa and Grandma Petersen to his children, and the Kersch family, who to this day are still family.
He had a childhood like most people’s exaggerated stories, only his weren’t exaggerated! He did have to walk a mile uphill each day just to get to the bus stop. That was after he got up before the sun and milked the cows and gathered the eggs. He steered clear of the horses though. One time he patted a horse named Mike on the back and Mike kicked him square in the chest. He learned his lesson then.
After Evan graduated from high school, he moved to Great Falls and decided to get a little crazy. Not only did he steal the transmission out of a car parked on the street, but when a police officer asked him what he was doing, he convinced the officer to hold the flashlight for him. Yes, he did attempt to drive up the front steps of the Civic Center one night – think about that the next time you see that building again. Yes, he and his friend did steal the hubcaps off a brand-new car at Bennet Pontiac and they did get caught because each of them had just two hubcaps on their cars that were the only hubcaps of their kind. There are many more stories, but you’ll have to ask the family because they really shouldn’t be in writing.
Then there was the pretty girl in Simms who won Evan’s heart. He was ready to propose but she was adamant that she wouldn’t marry him unless he cut his hair and went to college. So off they moved to Bozeman after getting married in 1957.
They had some good times living at #1 Jefferson Court and met some great people along the way. After “5 years and 5 car-loads of beer,” Evan graduated from Montana State College with an engineering degree and he and his bride, Alice, took off into the real world of employment. Evan’s legacy is all around us - he helped design and construct the air control tower at the Great Falls International Airport, the fieldhouse at CMR Highschool, the spiral staircases at the Heritage Inn and the Great Falls Public Library, the North Tower at Benefis Hospital, and several other structures including the Alaska Pipeline.
Besides his lovely bride, music was Evan’s passion. From playing in the bars in Bozeman in the 50’s and 60’s to playing around campfires all over the northwest, Evan always had a guitar, banjo, piano or bass at the ready. He passed that legacy on to his kids and grandchildren.
Evan and Alice wanted a family, so they started one in 1964. Amanda was born in 1964 and Julia arrived in 1967. Then in 1972 Christian was born. The sisters wanted to throw Christian in the river since he wasn’t a girl, but thankfully cooler heads prevailed.
Evan and Alice wanted to take care of the family as best as they could, so Evan worked hard, providing financially for the family while Alice took care of everyone, making sure they all had a happy, comfortable life in a loving environment, no matter where in the Northwest Evan’s jobs took them. He worked on dams, bridges, highways and a nuclear power plant.
They finished off their years close to where they started, in Great Falls. Except this time they weren’t in a small apartment on 1st Ave North, they were in a nice house in Riverview where they could sit on the deck with their children and grandchildren and see across the whole valley.
Evan’s soulmate left us in February of 2017 and he missed her terribly every day. On the evening of March 9th after a small party with a couple guitars, a few singers and dear friends, Evan’s spirit was reunited with Alice as his three children and a granddaughter were holding his hands.
Evan was preceded in death by his father, Evan Hans Heisel; mother, Agnes Josephine Sand; sisters, Betty (Jim) Horan, and Darlene. Also by his sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Thomas (Ardyth) Malmgren, Ruby (Roy) Johnson, Marie Malmgren, and Ruth Champion.
He’s survived by his daughters, Amanda Anderson, Juli (Alois) Kostelnik, Chris (Leanne) Heisel; grandchildren Bryce, Alex, Katie, Ryan and Aaron; brother-in-law Robert Champion; and nieces and nephews, Laura Beth (Rex) Jewett, Cathy (Dan) Predmore, Jacque (Neal) Whitney, Thomas Champion; numerous other cousins and great nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Evan’s life will be held on Saturday, March 23rd at 1:00 at the First United Methodist Church, 610 2nd Ave North in Great Falls. Burial will be at a later date.
In Evan’s memory, sing a tune, soak up the sun, have a beer, and smile.
To send flowers to Evan's family, please visit our floral section.