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Everett Rodger McConnellAugust 19, 1944 ~ July 21, 2016 (age 71)
E. (Everett) Rodger McConnell, 71, of Great Falls, passed away of natural causes on 21 July 2016. A Memorial Celebration will be held at the Celtic Cowboy’s Dark Horse Hall, 116 1st Ave. S., Great Falls, on Monday, October 3, 2016 from 6 – 10 p.m. On October 22, his ashes will be scattered on the Madison River where he enjoyed fly-fishing, assisted by the Healing Waters veterans support group and friends.
He was born on 19 August 1944 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Rodger graduated in 1962 from El Monte High School, El Monte, California, and he worked at a local gas company afterwards. Rodger entered the US Army in 1966 and trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and then was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas which then deployed to Vietnam. In Vietnam he served in the 9th and was later transferred to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (11ACR, Blackhorse) and was involved in many combat engagements as a cavalry troop forward observer for mortars and artillery. Rodger was very proud of his 11th ACR service and recently attended a reunion at Fort Irwin, California where the 11th ACR is still on active duty.
He was honorably discharged in 1967, and for many years he traveled through various states and jobs and dealt with PTSD. With help, he overcame his PTSD and used his GI Bill to earn a Liberal Arts Degree at Carroll College in 1989. In 1995, he earned a Masters Degree in K-12 Education from MSU-Northern, and taught special education and the 5th grade in Cascade, Montana, where he also resided.
Rodger retired from teaching and moved to Great Falls in 2003, and became involved in local veterans and civic activities. His kind, humble manner and quiet courage contributed to helping his fellow veterans and citizens with building the Montana Veterans Memorial, establishing the Vets4Vets Stand Down events first started in 2007, and later Veterans Court with Judge Greg Pinski. He also volunteered with the DAV, Optimists Club, and helped community efforts to register voters and expand Medicaid. Rodger helped organize and conduct every ceremony at the Montana Veterans Memorial since the 2006 dedication and the last special 10th Anniversary this last Memorial Day.
Listeners of KGPR, Great Falls local public radio, benefited from Rodger’s wonderful interviewing skills which he displayed on ‘Voices and Views’ and ‘On Point’, a program dedicated to veterans and local military issues.
Among his interests and hobbies were golfing, playing cribbage and driving his MINI Cooper at rallies as well as listening to Delta Blues, Boz Scaggs, and the Guess Who. Rodger was a very skillful Poker player and a daily regular at both Starbucks in Great Falls.
Rodger was preceded in death by his parents, Everett McConnell and Freda Ellen McConnell; and Billie W. Jeager, who was his step-father in Shreveport, Louisiana after his mother remarried.
Having been a homeless veteran himself, Rodger asked for memorial donations to be made in care of the Grace Home Veterans Center, which will provide transitional housing for homeless veterans, at 2211 5th Ave N., Great Falls, MT 59401. Please contact Deb Kottel at 899-7401, firstname.lastname@example.org, St. Vincent De Paul, 426 Central Ave West, Great Falls, MT 59404, www.svdpncmt.org. The donations will help open and operate the Grace Home. Condolences may be left online at www.croxfordfuneralhome.com