Dr. Neil C. Livingstone Jr. passed away quietly in his sleep on August 6, 2017, after a protracted illness. The long-time Helena dentist was just four months shy of his 95th birthday.
The son of Neil C. Livingstone Sr. and Helen M. (Neace) Livingstone, he was born on December 3, 1922, in Wallace, Idaho. He spent his early years in Puyallup, Washington, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where his father owned and managed shoe stores. In 1930, the family moved to Helena, where Neil Sr. went into the shoe business, eventually opening Livingstone’s Shoe Store at 6th and Main (Last Chance Gulch), which at one time boasted one of the largest inventories of shoes between St. Louis and San Francisco.
His grandfather was a stockman and banker who operated an extensive wheat and cattle ranch near Endicott, Washington, and was one of the 75 members of the Constitutional Convention who drafted the state’s constitution. The ranch boasted the second oldest brand in the state and young Neil often drove his grandfather around the property’s gravel roads in a Pierce-Arrow when he wasn’t working on the combine, attending dances in Wynola, or riding his horse Tarzan. He also incurred his grandfather’s wrath from time-to-time for pranks like lighting the methane in one of the outhouses used by the cowboys, burning the structure down.
He attended Helena High School, where he was junior class president as well as a member of the ski, tennis, art, and pep clubs, and on the junior prom committee, the vigilante parade committee, and the student council. In 1938, the Marlow movie theater organized an election of high school students to publicize the motion picture, “Boys Town,” starring Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracey. Students were elected to city and statewide offices, and Neil was elected Secretary of State. Each of the “state officers” was recognized by Helena mayor Albert Roberts and received a “personal congratulatory telegram from Mickey Rooney, and later autographed photos from Rooney and Tracey.
He was active in the DeMolay, where he was elected “senior deacon” and “senior steward,” as well as the Boy Scouts. In the summer of 1937 he attended the National Scout Jamboree in Washington, D.C., which was attended by President Franklin Roosevelt.
But the same mischievous streak that he exhibited at the ranch resurfaced in high school when he and his pals fully dissembled a Model-T Ford and reassembled on top of the Power Block, much to the chagrin of the owner.
After graduating from high school, he entered Carroll College as part of a special U.S. Navy program during World War Two. Although he had considered being a rancher he concluded that he wanted to be a physician. The Navy, however, had a shortage of dentists and he was transferred to a pre-dentistry program. After two years at Carroll, as part of an accelerated program, he transferred to St. Louis University, where he graduated with a degree in dentistry.
He met his wife, Jeanne Jose Colbourn, in St. Louis, where she was attending art school. They were married in Oklahoma City and subsequently relocated to San Diego, home port for the USS Mount McKinley, an amphibious force command ship. He served for two years as a dental officer aboard the Mount McKinley, which was the command ship for the atomic bomb tests at Enewetak Atoll in the South Pacific as part of Operation Sandstone. On August 10, 1946, he witnessed the second post-war nuclear bomb test, his eyes shielded by heavy goggles so dense that it is possible to stare directly at the sun through them. During his time in the Navy, he was awarded the World War II Victory medal and the American Areas Campaign medal, and was part of the effort which spun off the dental corps into a separate command.
After completing his internship in oral surgery and a residency at the Robert B. Green Memorial Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, he left the Navy and returned to Helena, where he opened a dental practice in the Power Block. He and his wife had three children—Neil, Erika, and Bill—all of whom graduated from Helena Senior High.
When he retired he contributed his dental equipment as part of an effort to establish the first dental operatory in the Yasawa Island area of Fiji. He played golf and enjoyed hunting and fishing, and was a member of the Helena Wilderness Riders, spending ten days on horseback in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area every summer for 34 straight years. He also was a member of the Navy League and an active Shriner. In 2009, he was recognized for having been a Shriner for fifty years.
A Family receiving friends will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Friday, August 11, 2017 at Retz Funeral Home, 315 E 6th Ave. A Graveside Service will be held at 3:00 p.m., Friday, August 11, 2017 at Forestvale Cemetery. Please visit www.retzfuneralhome.com to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Neil.