Louis Wenzel Pavek, 87, passed away at his home in Ashland, MT, on November 19, 2017. He was born in Waubun, MN, on November 16, 1930, to Edward Pavek and Elsie Pazdernik Pavek. When he was two years old, they moved to Ashland where his three sisters – Mary Ann, Harriet, and Janice – were born.
Dad had very high standards and a strong work ethic. which he passed on to his children and grandchildren. One of his favorite sayings was “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” This work ethic began early in his life. While in high school, he also worked as a janitor and did maintenance at the school, and worked as a ranch hand during the summer. In the 1940s, his family owned a coal mine in the East Fork Otter Creek area and all family members worked there. This is when he discovered he had a knack for fixing all kinds of machines and their problems.
Dad attended elementary school at Ashland Public and he started high school at Sacred Heart School in Miles City. He had to stay in the dormitory during the week, as the only high school in Ashland had been closed down. When it reopened a few years later, he returned to Ashland, and finished high school at St. Labre Indian School, graduating in May of 1950. Since 2008, he has held the dubious honor of being the oldest living graduate of St. Labre High School.
On February 1, 1951, Dad joined the United States Navy, where he proudly served his country until his honorable discharge on January 20,1955. Because of his interest in machines of all types and his knack for repairing and/or improving them, he was assigned to the aviation group as a tradevman. The job description in his Navy training manual for a tradevman says “installs, operates, maintains, and repairs training aids and devices that are used in connection with instruction in gunnery, aviation, and electronics; trains instructors in operation and use of these devices, many of which are extremely complicated mechanisms.“ This was the perfect job for him as this is one of the things he loved doing the most, and the more complicated the better. In 1953, he was sent to Norman, OK, to learn how to maintain and operate the many different machines the Navy uses for training their personnel. When he returned to the San Diego base, he taught new recruits how to fly airplanes using one of the newest technologies of the time: computerized flight simulators. This job required that he obtain his pilot’s license and he had the great privilege of flying various Navy aircraft on a regular basis.
After his discharge in 1955, using the GI Bill, Dad attended Oakland Technical School in Oakland, CA, and Contra Costa College in San Pablo, CA, where he received certification in Machine Shop Practices and studied engineering. At the same time, he also took a correspondence course, receiving certification in the building and maintenance of radios and devices using radio waves.
On August 9, 1958, he married Lois Kochel, whom he had been dating since 1953. The couple was married in Butte, MT, and took up residence in Berkely, CA, near where Dad had been stationed while in the Navy. Their oldest child, Anna, was born while they were living there. After a few years, they returned to Montana where the rest of their eight children were born. During their married life, they lived in various towns around southeastern Montana and in 1972 they moved back to Ashland. They were divorced in 1981 and Dad stayed in Ashland, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Dad was a brilliant man. His genius with machines of all types was well known around the area and he always had someone consulting him about how to improve on this or fix that. His main occupation during his life was as a mechanic. He worked for the Ford garage in Broadus for several years and that is where he acquired the green 1969 Bronco that he is known for in our community. He bought it for his mother because she was the mail carrier for the Birney mail route. When she retired a few years later, she sold it back to him and he still has it and it is still running very well. It is a testament to his genius. He also worked on heavy equipment and has some fine stories about working on the dragline at the mine in Colstrip.
Dad also knew several languages. His grandparents were both from Czechoslovakia and he and his parents spoke only Czech. When they moved to Ashland, Dad’s playmates spoke only Cheyenne so they taught each other how to speak their languages. When they all started school a few years later, they had to learn English. They all felt very smart as they could now speak three languages! Throughout the rest of their lives, when they would encounter each other on the street or one stopped by to visit the other, they would all converse in a mixture of the three. It was truly unique. Even though it was not his first language, he became very proficient in English. He loved to read and do crossword puzzles.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his sisters, his wife, his daughter, Lisa Jorgensen, and his grandson, Ozzy Wilson.
He is survived by his daughter, Teresa Wilson; son-in-law, Troy Wilson, daughters: Anna Pavek (Jeff Walters), Elaine Pavek, Lynette (Tony) Leone, and Diane (Leonard) Brien; sons, Mike (Melanie) Pavek, John (Denielle) Pavek; his grandchildren: Danny (Lacy) Pavek, Desiree Kroll, Herb Carson, Luci (Adam) Overhauls, Nick (Jaci) Pavek, Jesse Wilson, Jennifer (Ezra) Theiss, Snidly Wilson, Cavalier Johnston, Knight Johnston, Will Pavek, James Pavek, Jake Pavek, Joe Pavek, Miakoda Brien, Kinndrah Pavek and Leo Brien; his great-grandchildren: Blaine Hirst, Meri Hirst, Issiah Kroll, Jayce Kroll, and Max Nightwalker. He is also survived by his brother-in-law, Russ Schroader, son-in-law, Ken Jorgensen, and all his nieces and nephews.
The family would like to say a special thank you to the personnel at the Heritage Living Center in Ashland and the Big Horn Valley Clinic in Ashland for helping us to make Dad more comfortable during his last few days.