Local Fairfield Rancher, Keith Ginther, passed away on July 27th 2014 at the Teton Medical Center in Choteau MT after a short illness. A celebration of his life will be held at the Choteau United Methodist Church on August 2nd at 11:00 AM with a gathering following in the Church fellowship hall. Burial will be at the Augusta Cemetery that afternoon at 3:30 PM with military honors.
Keith was born August 26, 1921 to Ernest and Lola (Burton) Ginther in Bartley, Nebraska. At age 8, he moved with his family to their new farm on Redwater near Richey, Montana. After graduating from high school, he joined the US Army in July 1942. Following two months of basic training he served as an MP and then went into Engineer training in the ASTP program. In October 1944, he shipped out to Europe with Co. G 422 Infantry, 106th Division and was taken prisoner on December 21st during the Battle of the Bulge. He was released from German Prison Camp as WW II was ending in May 1945.
After leaving the military, Keith rejoined his family who had moved to their farm near Fairfield, Montana. He bought 3 of the neighboring farms and, following the death of his father, managed the home place for his m other as well, in addition to his work, he also managed to serve in various positions with the Fairfield Cattleman's Association, and as scorekeeper for the Augusta High Basketball team for many years. He even managed to slip away on the occasional trip to the mountains to hunt or fish, two things he enjoyed. In his later years, he became very active in the Teton Steam and Gas Association and served as Commander of the Big Sky Chapter of the Ex-Prisoners of War.
Keith was preceded in death by his parents, Ernest and Lola Ginther, his sister, Beth Ginther and his brother, Rae Ginther. He is survived by his bother, Burton Ginther of Fairfield, MT and his sister, Norma (Ginther) Sangray of East Glacier, MT, as well as 10 nieces and nephews and their many off spring.
Keith was a quiet and serious-minded man. He generally stayed in the background and yet, in many ways, he was the rock of the family and could always be counted on. He was a very intelligent man; one who never seemed to forget a detail and who worked incredibly hard throughout his life. Keith often portrayed a rather hard and crusty image, but just under the surface was a very deep, thoughtful and caring person. His home grown honey and gladiolas were legendary. The church and family were always a major part of his life and he was dedicated to them. He will be deeply missed by friends and family, especially nephew Fred, who has stepped into a pair of boots that will be hard to fill.
The family suggests that memorials be sent to Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, Shodair Children's Hospital or Intermountain Children's Hospital. Online condolences may be left at www.gorderjensenfuneralhome.com
Below is the Eulogy presented at Keith's services:
Keith Ginther was a rock for his family, quietly looking after the needs of those around him (including the animals). He was the guy who rode the long circle and folded in the corners.
On the Sunday he died, there were the last conversations, with loved ones, that went something like this:
Fred: The medical provider suggests that without a blood transfusion (and possibly even WITH one) this may be the end.
Keith, after some contemplation: Well, it's been a good run . . .. I'm ready to go.
Fred: OK then, when you hear the call . . ..
Norma: Keith, can you still fight! Do you think you have some fight left in you?
Keith, quietly: No.
Keith seemed to appreciate those who quietly held his hand near the end--Norma, Leon, and, at the last, Uncle Burton. Keith seemed to relax with the understanding: They're gonna be OK. I don't have to take care of them anymore.
Keith Ginther was NOT a center-stage, in-the-spotlight kind of man. Everybody knows about those folks, all their stories. Keith worked behind the scenes, so those of us who knew him and loved him intersected with him in many different ways. People have their own special memories of Keith that maybe no one else knows, and we hope you will be willing to share some of those memories, because that helps all of us.
For many extended families, there is often an aunt or uncle that the younger ones are attracted to. For us kids, Uncle Keith was that special person.
When my sisters and I were little, Uncle Keith would give us "whisker rubs." We would pretend to be afraid, and giggle, and run away, but loved the attention.
In those days, it never occurred to us how he may have shuddered when a car full of kids pulled into the yard to spend a week or maybe a "summer" with Grandma and Keith. Again, in those days, when Uncle Keith would get up from the table after the noon meal and head for the back door, inevitably, one, two, or three voices would pipe up: "Where are you going, Uncle Keith?"
The answer was always, "Goin' crazy, want to come along?" Well, what kid would turn down an invitation like that? So, often, people would see Keith going through the fields with a kid or two trailing behind in irrigating boots six sizes too big.
As we got older, it was Keith who filled in as a second father--whether it was teaching us to drive a tractor or how to pet a bee without getting stung. Mary remembers Keith showing her how to tell each cow from the others by its markings. He could recognize each individual Hereford in a large herd and know its ancestry.
Stan remembers Keith letting him drive his pickup for the very first time--when Stan was so little he could barely see over the dashboard and couldn't reach the peddles. He didn't need to, because flying down the road in FIRST gear and a full IDLE was enough to keep up with Keith who was pushing a herd of cows up in front. Little Stanley exclaimed afterwards, "I was going like the wind, and could barely stay on the road!"
Keith and Grandma seemed always to be a pair. Grandma dedicated herself to looking after Keith when he returned from the war, having spent time in a German prison camp. Gradually, however, as Grandma aged, Keith turned into the caregiver, caring for her garden, helping her finish quilts, and doling out pills. After Grandma entered the nursing home, and Keith stopped by often to visit, if the staff had a challenge, Keith would share something from his "bag of tricks." For example, when she was too stubborn to take her pills, he'd advise, "Just step on her toe, and when she opens her mouth--just pop it in?"
Keith and Dad (Rae) were always a pair too, like two halves of a whole. When the little boys started attending their little country school, they rode together on Victor, their obstinate little pony, one boy taking the reins, and the other in charge of slapping the rump. Throughout their lives, each seemed to know what the other was thinking, whether working cattle, fixing machinery, or thrashing grain.
Occasionally, their influence on each other got them into trouble. One winter in Richey, when they were eighteen or nineteen, old enough to know better, as they stood on the banks of Red Water, Dad, the more impulsive one, suggested they push out one of the enormous ice blocks and pole it down the river. Keith, the more practical, skeptical, YOUNGER brother thought they should at least do a little research first, and push out one of the smaller ice floes to see if it would make it past some little islands he knew were under the surface downstream. They tried that, and the ice block smoothly swept downriver. So, they jumped on a large block, pushed it out to midstream where it quickly picked up speed. Then, suddenly, weighted down by two guys, the big ice block ran aground in midstream. Dad managed to leap onto another passing chunk of ice, and Keith just about did. He had to swim for it with heavy galoshes and overcoat. He said it was just "too cold too drown!"
Norma, twelve years younger than her teenage brother, had a real affinity for Keith and, fast on her little legs, was always trying to keep up with her much admired older brother. One time, on his way to mow a field of hay with a team of horses, Keith had just forded the the Red Water with the team when he looked back and saw little Norma, a long way from the house, trying to catch up, and just about to the river. So he forded back, picked up his little sister, sat her on his lap on the mower, and proceeded back to the field and started mowing. It's difficult enough and somewhat dangerous mowing hay with horses, even without your little sister on your lap!
Keith was always effective in a crisis, which is probably one reason why, as a private soldier, he was put in charge of platoons entering enemy territory. Other lives, some of higher rank, depended on his keen observation skills and good judgment.
Keith was able to find amusement in the many ironies of life, in the small things that others might not notice or find amusing. That dry sense of humor served him well even into old age, for example at the Skyline where he was Mr. Popular, and even at the nursing home where he was still, as always, the most eligible bachelor. There, Lin Wright, like a daughter, was a constant friend and caregiver.
Keith liked to keep things simple, a goal not easily mastered by most of us. It helped that he was totally honest, had an unfailing memory, and an incisive mind that could cut through spin, see the truth behind confusing or complex nonsense. He was a deep thinker, but also just plain smart--able to calculate intuitively, even to figure out cube roots in his head. He was always spot-on in everything.
He worked, not just hard, but intelligently. He also had unique dexterity, shelling peas or milking cows faster than Superman. But with all the situations he had to deal with in his life, he maintained a quiet dignity, integrity, and a presence that people liked to be around.
We loved him, and he loved us. We miss him very, very much.
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