George Roy Niewoehner died of leukemia Saturday, Dec. 15, in Kalispell.
He was born in Helena on July 11, 1939, to Priscilla Niewoehner and the late George Niewoehner, and grew up in White Sulphur. He graduated from high school in 1958; spent a semester at Mexico City College; and graduated from UM Western in Dillon in ’62. After college, he joined the Army and served in Vietnam.
Upon leaving the military, he taught high school in Havre for a year and tried his hand at selling insurance, but his true gifts and passion lay in a different direction. He loved to work with his hands. As a young man, he was always building things. From model airplanes and trailers for hauling wood, to canoes that he used to float the Smith River. He apprenticed as a carpenter throughout his high school years, and it remained his passion for a lifetime. Throughout his life, he could and did build anything and everything.
In 1970, he married Elizabeth Hewitt and several years later they moved to and lived in Homer, Alaska. In the late ’70s, they moved back to Montana and he began a 20-year employment with Montana Power in Colstrip. Upon retirement, he and Elizabeth moved to a home they had built on the banks of Swan Lake near Bigfork.
Roy was a wonderful man. Loyal, honest and hard-working. Truly, a man of his word, with a beautiful smile, easy-going nature and blessed with that rarest of qualities: he was a great listener. While quiet by nature, and shy, he held deep convictions and lived by them. If actions speak louder than words, then he was in fact quite outspoken. He and his wife’s home on Swan Lake is a tribute to his gifts as a carpenter, for he never stopped building, and his estate is a reflection of his wonderful talent to create any and all things out of wood. He loved boats — a paradox for a lad that grew up landlocked in the heart of Montana, but so it was — and he built many of them throughout his lifetime. And, of course, a beautiful boat house in which to keep them. His life is a profound example of how hard work and integrity leads to success in all aspects of one’s existence.
Anyone who has been there knows that the most demanding and difficult job in this lifetime is being a parent, and it is no small thing that Roy and his wife, Elizabeth “Lib,” raised two children, Tyson and Heather, who are truly a gift to the world and the best testament to the kind of person their father was.
On the surface a simple man, he was in truth a person who pondered all of life’s enigmas, quietly. His life was not without sorrow and tragedy, but he never complained or used them as an excuse for not rising to the occasion and being the best that he could be. He spread joy in the face of sorrow.
Roy loved the outdoors and there isn’t a mountain top, a valley, river, stream, nook or cranny in the Smith River Valley that he didn’t reconnoiter during his youth. He hunted and fished his entire life and his home is festooned with the mounted results: elk, bear, moose, caribou, deer, mountain goat, sheep. It could very well be that the wildlife of Montana will rest a little easier with his passing.
Roy is survived by his devoted wife of over 40 years, Elizabeth (Lib) Niewoehner; children, Tyson Niewoehner and Heather Hedges; grandchildren, Savannah and Olivia Hedges; mother, Priscilla Niewoehner; sister, Ramona Niewoehner; and brother, Dirk Niewoehner.
They, and countless friends, will dearly miss his easy laughter and loyal friendship.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills I love.
And above the hills, the high, blue, windless sky.
Now I will be part of them forever.