American Patriotic 11

John Haffner

January 10, 1947 ~ April 14, 2022 (age 75)


John Edward Haffner was born January 10, 1947 to Bob and Dolores (Nelson) Haffner in Great Falls, Montana. He grew up there and graduated from Great Falls High School in 1966. John’s favorite memories of his youth were spending summers at the family cabin in Lincoln. His first job began while in junior high. He would deliver papers for the Great Falls Tribune. In his senior year he had a route delivering bundles of the Tribune throughout the Browning and Glacier area.

After graduation, John joined the Marines. He was only a Marine for a short time and was Honorably Discharged. He then went to work at the smelter, where he was injured on the job.  After he healed he went to work for Montana Steel and Supply.

In 1975, John met and married Shelley Stevens. They were best friends and soul mates from the beginning. He had an instant family when he adopted her two children, Paul and Nichole (Nikki). They would have been married 47 years in July.

John joined the Montana Air National Guard as a reservist, and also got a full time civil service job, starting in security and later moved to a position as a logistics specialist. In ’79 he was deployed with the guard to the prison in Deer Lodge, when the prison guards went on strike. He also worked several forest fire seasons with the guard, supplying firefighters with food. He was most proud of the work they did at the VA cemetery in Helena, where he helped clean it up and build a memorial wall. John traveled to many places for his job, and always shared the stories and pictures from those trips with Shelley. He was in the guard for 33 years and retired in 2004 as a MSGT. John was a mentor to many guardsmen, and encouraged them with their careers. He was very proud of his time in the military.

From 1985-1995, John and Shelley hosted players for the Great Falls Dodgers during the summer. They called them their “summer sons.” Several of them made it into the majors, and many still keep in touch. It extended their family. They got to attend many professional baseball games. They even traveled to Boston for the 2004 World Series.

John and Shelley spent many weekends at Holter Lake, where they rented a spot next to Shelley’s parents, Helen and Alva Stevens. They enjoyed many hours of fishing, cooking, and playing cards. After John and Shelley both retired, they would spend their winters in Quartzsite, AZ, where they had a place in the mobile home park. There they widened their circle of friends. They both loved going to garage sales and getting good bargains. This allowed him to have many things that he probably wouldn’t have normally bought. His tool shed was his pride, and he was the “go to” person if you needed to borrow something.

John was very close with his only remaining sibling, Russ and his wife Patty. He and Shelley tried to go to Portland each year to visit Russ and Patty, as well as Nikki, and Shelley’s relatives. John and Russ spoke on the phone frequently. For several years, on Father’s Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, Russ and his friends would come from Portland and Washington to go prairie dog hunting. John really looked forward to those times, until the sources for prairie dogs were no longer available.

Later in life, John suffered with RA. He lived with pain most of the time, so he wasn’t physically able to do as many things as he used to. He was fortunate that Paul lives close and was always willing to help him. Over the years John formed many friendships throughout the United States and Canada. He wasn’t one to mince words and you pretty much knew where you stood with him. It was always said that if you were his friend, you were lucky because if he could, he would be there to help you when you needed it.

Because he smoked, by his choice, he spent a lot of time in the garage (MT) or cool cover (AZ). He had his table and tv, and comfortable computer chairs. In between projects, that is where his friends would find him when they stopped by to visit. He was blessed with one granddaughter who he loved unconditionally. Through her marriage, the family grew by 8 great grandchildren. He loved them all very much.

He is survived by his wife Shelley; children, Paul and Nikki; brother, Russ (Patty); father-in-law, Alva Stevens; sisters-in-law, Vicki Stevens, and Pamela (Lloyd) Letterman; granddaughter, Zary (Ben) Goddard; great grandchildren, James, Cardale, Hannah, Ja’Vaiya, Kandyn, Keyarra, Izaileya, and Liliana; as well as his many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Delores; brother Bob (Janet); and sister Sharen Holzheimer.

Per his wishes we are not having a service, but are hoping family and friends will join us in a celebration of his life this summer. John always said, “No flowers!” He generously donated to many charities, so if you want to donate in his honor, he would have liked that. His favorites: The local VFW, St. Judes, and Benefis Peace Hospice.

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