John Flynn knew well the challenge of being the lead criminal prosecutor in a small Montana county, a job that required great flexibility.
“I’ve literally argued a homicide case in the morning and a dog-at-large case in the afternoon,” Flynn told an Independent Record interviewer a few years ago.
Along with holding the full-time job of county attorney for Broadwater County, Flynn was also a fifth-generation Montanan, a part-time rancher, author of three murder mysteries, hunter and angler, according to family members.
Flynn, 59, died over the weekend while in San Francisco for a family celebration.
“We had a great time,” said his wife, Debbie Flynn. “John had a wonderful three days there.”
While medical officials have yet to officially determine a cause of death, Flynn had suffered from a congestive heart condition for several years, his wife said.
“They are just thinking his heart stopped,” she said. “He died peacefully in his sleep.”
Funeral services have tentatively been set for Sunday, June 3, although family members said many details were still uncertain as of Tuesday afternoon.
Flynn was a fifth-generation member of a Broadwater County ranching family that arrived in Montana during the gold-rush days of the early 1860s, which was a source of pride for the prosecutor, said his older brother, Ted Flynn.
While county attorney was a demanding occupation, Flynn enjoyed working on the family ranch on holidays and during vacation times, his brother said.
A graduate of the University of Montana Law School, Flynn was appointed to the county attorney post in 1978 while just 25.
“He has been there ever since,” his brother noted. While the sole county prosecutor found plenty of professional challenges in a variety of cases, he admitted growing weary because of an increasing caseload and more serious crimes, he said in an interview four years ago.
While Flynn clearly enjoyed his career, he battled the challenges it brought with a sense of good fortune of being able to live and work in Montana, his brother said.
“It allowed him to stay here and fish and hunt and do the things he really wanted to do,” Ted Flynn said.
Flynn managed to write three murder mysteries, each set in a rural Montana county similar to Broadwater. His real-life experiences no doubt supplied fodder for his fiction, which featured a local prosecutor and county sheriff as key characters.
Lynne Arensmeyer, a longtime secretary for Flynn, spoke glowingly of her boss several years ago.
“He’s been an outstanding county attorney,” she said in 2008. “He stood up for what’s right. He’s one of the most honest men I’ve known and has a great sense of humor.
Gail Vennes, chairman of the Broadwater County Commission, said the state Attorney General’s office has been contacted in order to provide services for criminal cases in Broadwater County. For civil matters, Vennes said a private attorney may be hired or a county attorney from a neighboring county could be used.
Flynn’s position was an elected one. Vennes said an interim county attorney will likely be named until an election can be held.
“He was quite a cog in our machine here,” Vennes added.
Along with his wife and brother, Flynn is survived by two daughters, Meagan and Molly. Family members said Tuesday they were still gathering information for a full obituary.
Ted Flynn said that he and his brother were founding members of the Montana High Country Cattle Drive, an annual endeavor that allowed wannabe cowboys and cowgirls from around the world to take part in a cattle drive in the mountains not far from Townsend. While others dropped out, John Flynn and one other man stuck with the enterprise.
This year’s cattle drive is scheduled for next week.
“They are going to have to do it without him,” Ted Flynn said.