Donald Simensen, 82, of Wolf Point, died upon arrival at the Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana on December 22 after many years battling complications of diabetes.
Born August 11, 1936 at the family farm south of Wolf Point to Torbjorn “Tom” and Andrea (Jakobson) Simensen, Donald was the youngest of four children. He eventually bought the family farm in the Sand Creek area and was a successful, long-term farmer and cattle rancher there until his death. He was a beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, friend, and neighbor.
In 1937, in the midst of the drought of the “dirty thirties”, farming conditions were terrible, food was scarce, and a destructive hail storm was the “final straw” for his mother Andrea. She took one-year-old Donald, older brothers Gerald and Kastor, and older sister Susie back to her native country of Norway. Although Norway was green and beautiful, times were very hard there as well. She and the older children worked many odd jobs, including sewing, cooking, fishing, sardine packing, and gardening. Tom’s original plan was to join them later but that did not happen due to World War II. When the Germans were occupying Norway it also became very hard for Andrea and the children to travel home. When the war was over and they returned to Montana in 1946, Donald was 10 years old and spoke only Norwegian. He had the enormous challenge of learning English, along with his school lessons and making friends but he was smart, hard-working, well-liked, and did well.
Donald graduated from Wolf Point High School in 1955. He was a lineman on their football team and had two perfect 7-0 seasons. Friends nicknamed him “Swede” because of his Norwegian accent. Apparently, he didn’t mind because he later ordered a personalized license plate that read “Swede 55.”
He joined the U.S. Army in 1958, and served in Munich, Germany. After leaving the army, he attended Northern Montana College in Havre. He married Donna Bishop, and in 1962 their daughter and only child Fawn Deanna was born. They divorced when Fawn was very young, and Donald found himself a single parent raising a young daughter-with a lot of help from his mother Andrea.
In his younger adult years, Donald worked as a carpenter for his brother Gerald, and also for Randolph Construction. Around that time, he bought the family farm, which had been in the Soil Bank Program, and eventually started farming full time. He later added cattle ranching which he did up until his death.
In 1990, he married Dorothy (Papka) Roll and gained three step-daughters: Karen, Mary Kay, and Sheila. Dorothy, his beloved wife and companion of 23 years, shared his love for cattle and ranching. Each had their own herd and shared the work. Dorothy’s death in 2013 left a big hole in his heart.
Donald was an avid hunter, fisherman, and football fan. When Fawn was quite young, they took many fishing and camping trips to Rock Creek around Fort Peck Dam. Andrea “Grandma Annie” would often go along and they would stay in a homemade camper fashioned out of an old bus. He enjoyed hunting with his brothers and nephews for both birds and big game.
He is survived by his daughter Fawn Simensen and her husband Chris Gotschalk of Bigfork, MT, his brother Kastor (Lona) Simensen of Fort Peck, MT, and step-daughters Karen (Dennis) Dahl of Belt, MT, Mary Kay (Eric) Hoch of Williston, ND, and Sheila (Wayne) Doornek of Livingston, MT, numerous nieces and nephews who called him “Uncle Donnie”, and a special little copper-colored Dachshund he named “Shadow.”
Donnie loved his family and had numerous friends and some great neighbors.
A memorial service for Donald Simensen will be held on Friday, January 11 at 2PM at First Lutheran Church in Wolf Point. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to:
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary at https://bestfriends.org/donate
The Carter Center at https://www.cartercenter.org, or
First Lutheran Church in Wolf Point
Everyone is invited to stay for a lunch and fellowship at the church directly after the service.