On April 23, 2023, our world lost an icon and a hero to many. At 87 years young, with his children by his bedside, Skip took his final breath on this earth at home after enduring 18 months of heartbreak from losing his wife, “Kel”, and a recent cancer diagnosis.
Where to begin to summarize the life of an incredible husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, son, brother, uncle and friend. Skip was born in Billings to Monroe and Helen Dunfee on Nov. 25, 1935, and raised in Butte. He attended St. Patrick’s School, grades K-8, then graduated from Boys’ Central High School. During his high school years, he was very active and involved in most sports and served as class president. He met the love of his life, Jeanne Kelly, who became his wife of 65 years.
Skip and Jeanne raised four girls and three boys, and were second parents to numerous nieces, nephews and neighborhood kids. He coached his sons’ baseball teams, and like most parents, was the number one fan in the bleachers whether it be for academic endeavors, or cheering them on in baseball, basketball or boxing. He continued this support with his 10 grandchildren, making many trips to their scheduled events, often times out of state, cheering them on with whistles and encouragement.
Although Skip spent plenty of time cheering from the stands, he continued his own active lifestyle well into adulthood. He played on adult softball teams, travelled to many handball tournaments, and rivaled Jack Nicholson in number of golf rounds played. He shared that two of his proudest moments were receiving an MVP award for “best defensive player” at shortstop, and the “Sportsmanship Award” in a handball tournament, which we’ve been told was a very big honor at the time. Attending The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia with his family was a highlight of his lifetime.
After moving to Kalispell almost 20 years ago to be closer to family, Buffalo Hill Golf Course became a second home to he and Jeanne where countless memories were made. From Jeanne’s hole in one, patio barbecues with cocktails to clam chowder Fridays, Chef Carl was always happy to see and accommodate his favorite couple.
An enjoyable retirement was well deserved after working for the Butte Water Co. for 48 years. Skip had an undeniably strong work ethic, making sure his wife and children were well provided for holding down a full-time job, and in addition, working nights during tax season at Prigge’s Accounting Firm and H&R Block. He walked to and from work every day in the harsh Montana winters so that “Mom” would have a car to do whatever she needed to do. It was said he used his walk as a part of his campaign to become Butte’s mayor.
He never failed to wave, smile, or greet anyone and everyone within a city block, or even 10. He had friendships that lasted a lifetime. He looked forward to phone calls from Sister Margaret Hogan and Pat McCarthy, to reminisce about the “good old days,” always bringing great joy and a smile to his face.
It was Skip’s nature to be kind and generous to those in need, and he was so proud of his “stealth like” skills to always be the winner in receiving the bill when out dining with family and friends.
He couldn’t be more proud of his Butte Irish roots, which naturally made him a most loyal Notre Dame fan, for whom he cheered on to the end. He demonstrated this same type loyalty toward his beloved New York Yankees.
He was “Butte Tough,” showing unmatched resilience through a lifetime of challenges. Despite unimaginable hardships over the years, Skip never complained or allowed painful times in life to rob his family of joy. He celebrated at every opportunity, whether it be a wedding via “zoom” of his granddaughter during the pandemic, or his son-in-law’s retirement and granddaughters’ birthday parties, which he attended one week before his “final good-bye.” He participated with great joy, love and enthusiasm. A testament to all of his strength, perseverance and overall love and devotion for his family. Storytelling time was a favorite of Skip’s, and his humor and wit only sharpened with time.
As a fellow Butte native turned Kalispell resident said, “Skip was a class act, one of a kind, and his impact will live on forever.”
Skip was preceded in death by his wife, Jeanne; son, Ed; daughter, Kristen; brother, Terry; and parents, Monroe and Helen Dunfee.
Survived by children Karen (John) Lowney; Vince Dunfee; Kelly (Paul) Dennehy; Steve (Karen) Dunfee; & Kathy (Paul) Kusler.
Grandchildren Laci Dunfee-Meyers (Brent); Daniel Lowney (Micaela); Keeley Tighe (David); Makenna Lowney; Derek Dennehy; Devan Johnson (Bryant); Kyle Dunfee; Jason Dunfee (Alex); Karli Kusler-Peyton (Nick); and Shelbi Kusler.
Great-grandchildren Sienna and Kai LaChance; Vivienne and Eliza Meyers; Finnegan Tighe; Jett Johnson and baby boy Johnson to be; and Elliett Dunfee.
Sisters Lynn (Dennis) Doherty; Gino Dunfee; cousins; Gary Dunfee and Dinah Trudel; nephews; Dr. Mykol Larvie (Kazue), Mike Hackett (Rosalie) and niece; Colleen Hackett and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
Skip was never short on friends. He enjoyed special and extraordinary friendships with Bernie Krystowiak and Keith and Sandy Evenson. The family extends their deepest gratitude for the invaluable gift of friendship you’ve shown Skip, especially during his most recent years. Additional “thanks” to Rod Leese at TrailWest Bank, and Dr. Kaitlyn Lucas, for miraculously matching Skip’s level of friendliness, and always giving him a good, uplifting visit with professionalism, attentiveness, well-being advice and humor.
A private family celebration of life will take place this summer. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Kristen Dunfee Memorial Scholarship Foundation at Western Montana College, an organization you desire, or to an Animal Humane Society of your choice. As many know, Skip was the Patriarch of a “furry loving family,” himself being No. 1 fan of many.
There is definitely a physical void, but the wonderful memories you have created with us, Dad, will keep you alive in our hearts forever, along with the famous “Dunfee Good-Bye”…
Heavenly courses await you, Dad - keep on swingin!
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