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Former Lake County Commissioner David Stanley Stipe of Charlo died March 18, 2023, at St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson. He was 66 when he finally succumbed to a very rare and incurable form of skin cancer.
Dave was born July 16, 1956, in Ronan to Agnes and Dick Stipe and grew up on the family ranch near Charlo. He lived in just three houses in his life, all within a three-mile radius, including the one he built himself on 80 acres northwest of Charlo.
He graduated from Charlo High and went to college but came back to ranch with his father. “It’s what I always wanted,” he said. “If it’s in your blood it’s a satisfying life.”
He began his first stint as county commissioner in 1993 and served two six-year terms, ending in 2005. He was elected again in 2016, and served from 2017-2021, stepped down 17 months before the end of his third term due to his declining health.
In a statement, the Lake County Commissioners praised him as a staunch advocate for agriculture and said, “Mr. Stipe's positive impact on county employees and residents will long be remembered and appreciated.”
During his years in office, Dave served on the Lake County Council on Aging, Community Action Partnership Northwest, Flathead Basin Commission, Area Six Agency on Aging, and the Lake County Weed Board.
In a 2021 interview, he said he particularly enjoyed working on senior programs with the Lake County Council on Aging. He helped establish a transportation program for area seniors in the 1990s that offered free rides to and from medical appointments, shopping, and social engagements. The program has continued to flourish, and now has a transportation hub and meeting room in Ronan.
He also enjoyed holding an elected office that allowed him to directly impact people’s lives. “You do a hundred little things for people.”
“As a whole,” he added, “we just make decisions for the good of the people we serve. We can actually provide services to individuals, so it’s real rewarding.”
In the summer of 2021, as word spread that he was stepping down from the commission, he was inundated with cards and letters, numbering close to 1,000. Friends far and near called or dropped by to visit.
“Most people don’t get a farewell tour,” he said at the time.
Another gift was the return in 2021 of his daughter Taylor, who moved back home with his grandson, Brandt, and took over ranching duties. The pair of them brightened the last two years of his life immeasurably and gave him the opportunity to pass on his considerable ranching know-how, from calving, to irrigating to haying. As was his nature, he made the best of the time left to him.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Agnes and Dick Stipe. Survivors include his daughter, Taylor Stipe, and grandson Brandt David Stipe; sisters Deb (Jack) May, Dana (Bill) Darlington, and Laurie (Don Jr.) Hege; nieces and nephews Kevin (Nicki) May, Jeanna (Brian) Carey, Macey Darlington, Rock (Elizabeth) Darlington, Kelsey Darlington, Asia Hege, Ali (Phill) Minder, and Abbey (Zach) Wainwright; his aunt, Betty Ann Kibbee; and many cousins, great nephews, and great nieces. He loved them all dearly.
A celebration of Dave’s life will be held this summer at the family ranch. Dave wanted memorials to be made to Lake County 4H.
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