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Charles O. “Chuck” Whitson (88) peacefully passed away at his home in St. Ignatius, on December 29, 2021, surrounded by family. Chuck was born on April 9, 1933, to his parents Lewis and Willien Whitson. Chuck was the oldest of five children, spending his childhood in Seminole, Oklahoma with his beloved grandparents Tom and Mimi King.
Chuck attended high school in Seminole, Oklahoma, an athletic standout in football, track and field and basketball. His yearbook motto read “he’s tall, but he’s not in the clouds.” Chuck was inducted in the basketball Hall of Fame for Seminole High School in 2006. After graduation, Chuck attended the University of Oklahoma on a basketball scholarship. During this time, many young men were being drafted into the armed forces. Despite being protected from the draft due to his university status, Chuck believed that joining the military was the right thing to do, so on Jan. 15, 1953, Chuck enlisted in the Army. He served for three years in active combat in Korea as a gun master, where he earned three separate medals of commendation. After he was honorably discharged, he followed his mother to Montana. He enrolled at the University of Montana and walked on the University of Montana men's basketball team and played one season.
Chuck soon discovered that law enforcement was his calling in life, so he attended academies in both Montana and Minnesota, graduating in 1961. He was a Montana Highway Patrolman for 27 years, retiring with the rank of sergeant. Under Chuck’s leadership, his detachment of patrolmen won the prestigious “Colonel’s Trophy,” an award given to the highest performing MHP unit in Montana.
Not willing to leave a life of public service, Chuck was elected as the Lake County Justice of the Peace and served three consecutive terms. He was highly regarded as a tough but fair judge, and, in his tenure, married over 200 couples. For years after he stepped down from the bench, people would seek Chuck out to thank him and tell him that their interactions with his court had forced them to straighten out their lives. After retiring from the court, Chuck found he was not quite ready for retired life and ran for Lake County Commissioner, where he served another six years.
A devoted public servant, Chuck was a member of the Polson Order of Elks, the Masonic Lodge, and the Shriners. Chuck was instrumental in the organization and fundraising for the East-West Shrine Football Game each year. He was quite proud of reaching fifty years of service with the Masons. He was always the first to offer assistance to anyone needing help, with fundraising, organization or good old fashioned hard labor.
Chuck was an avid golfer, and enjoyed hunting, fly fishing and had a brief stint raising llamas. In his down time, he loved watching his old Westerns. Chuck was a diehard supporter of the Montana Grizzly Football team. He was always ready with a smile and a bit of “walking around money” for the grandkids or for anyone who needed a hand.
Chuck married his first wife Diane in 1953 and their marriage produced two daughters, Wendy and Brenda. He married the love of his life, Maxine Brander, in 1995. He introduced Maxine to the game of golf, and they enjoyed many golfing vacations and adventures together.
Chuck is survived by his loving wife Maxine; his daughters Wendy Whitson-Holzinger and Brenda Carroll; sisters Patricia Hansen and Barbara (John) Daniels; grandchildren Jamie (Norman) Newell and their children Libby, Tori and Aiden; Austin Holzinger, Zannie (Daniel) Williams and their children Catelyn and Zachary; Nick Carroll (Ashley), and Haley Carroll (Wyatt); stepchildren Shelly Brander (Dan), her children Lukas and Elizabeth Lorentz, Stacey Brander (Kurt) and their sons Flint and Ross McPherson, and Jeff (Jennifer) Brander and their daughters Afton and Sydney Brander; nephew Don Whitson and several other nieces and nephews; and his special dog Sally.
The family is eternally grateful for the help given by Partners in Home Health Hospice Services, with special thanks to Kathy Fink.
Chuck was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers Don and Ray Whitson.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in his name to the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Spokane.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, May 21, 2022 at 2:00 pm at the Elks Lodge in Polson, MT.
Saturday, May 21, 2022
Starts at 2:00pm (Mountain time)
Elks Lodge #1695
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