Dan Fillinger was a man who lived his entire life understanding that he was only getting one shot at it. Dan Fillinger ran at life and lived the heck out of every minute of it.
Dan Fillinger was born on March 30, 1950 in Winona, Minnesota, but soon moved to Helena Montana, where he lived most of his life. Dan graduated from Helena High in 1968. In 1971, he married his first wife, Nancy Madsen, and began raising a family. After a brief stint as a local news anchor and a Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy he moved his family to Pocatello, Idaho to begin a career in law enforcement.
Never content with just one stick in the fire, Dan was always developing multiple projects at any given time. Still in his 20’s and working as a police officer, Dan opened his first business, the Jeanery, in the Pocatello Mall, which primarily sold Levi brand clothing. Profitably selling that business, he moved back to Montana and launched two new businesses at the new Gallatin Valley Mall in Bozeman. On the opening day of the Gallatin Mall, Dan’s Orange Julius restaurant was the only place selling food. Shortly thereafter Dan also opened a candy store in the mall and got a real estate license.
Despite the success of his businesses in Bozeman, Dan missed law enforcement. Thus, he became a Montana Highway Patrolman all the while developing and selling real estate. Dan served with the Highway Patrol, rising to the rank of Lieutenant before leaving the MHP in 1990. Dan’s first marriage also ended during this time period. Dan become a stock broker, but again missed law enforcement, and went on to work for the Montana Department of Justice as a Liquor and Gambling Investigator.
Dan put his whole heart into developing his businesses and consulting in liquor and gaming business matters. Over the course of the next 28 years, Dan completed hundreds of business transactions. He developed a specialty in Montana liquor licenses, and started many bars, taverns, and developed and sold real estate throughout Montana. Dan was able to navigate the complex regulatory requirements of liquor and gaming. He was so adept at understanding Montana’s complex requirements for liquor licenses, twice Montana amended its liquor license lottery rules in light of Dan’s tenacious efforts to “win” as many liquor licenses as possible. Dan often described his success as being the result of him never ever giving up – no matter how many people said “no” to him. Within a few hours of his death, Dan was still working on completing business deals.
Dan had unwavering and complete love for those who were in his heart. In 1992, Dan met the love of his life, Linda Briese Fillinger. Together they traveled the world, managed their various businesses, and loved their family. Linda was Dan’s anchor and the place where he was truly home.
Dan loved his wife, his kids, his grandkids, politics, Costco, Lexus SUV’s, hamburgers, a great steak, good beer or a Scotch, traveling, and collecting guns. Although not supported by medical evidence, the family believes failure of the Vikings to get into this year’s Super Bowl may have expedited his passing: his grief was deep. Dan had an infectious sense of humor and filled every room he entered. Just as he loved others intensely, he was loved completely.
Dan was preceded in death by his mother (Shirley) and father (Gordon). He is survived by his wife, Linda and his children, Bryan, Natalee (Carie Lynn), Katie, Brian Kilburn and Brent Kilburn (Jillian). He is also survived by his brother Mike (Annell), and his grandchildren, Bailey, Jacey, Addison, Abigail Kilburn, and Callum Kilburn.
Dan’s memorial will be on Friday, March 9, 2018 at the Fort Harrison, Helena Chapel at 1:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation in his name to the Salvation Army.