Del fought a two-month battle with GBM — a brain cancer — just as he lived his life, with dignity and determination. Despite his best efforts, he died on Thursday, April 4, 2013, surrounded by his loving family.
Del was born Nov. 18, 1937, in Williams Maternity Home, Forsyth, Mont., to Willard and Martha Draper. He was raised in the Forsyth area, going to the Carterville School and working on the family farm with his parents and grandparents, RH and Myrtle, who he admired and respected. He developed his work ethic at this time, and was always active and involved in sports, school activities, girls and cars.
In 1954, he moved to Anaconda with his family and attended Anaconda High School. His dedication to his grandparents led him back to Forsyth to help his grandfather on the farm. He then graduated from Rosebud High School in 1956. He always stayed in touch with many of his childhood friends and attended many of the Rosebud High School reunions. After graduation he moved back to Anaconda hoping to get hired at the smelter. This is when he met and married Linda Wensley in 1958. Together they had three children, Debbie, Dawn and Delbert “Butch.” They divorced after 16 years, but always remained friends. Del married Wendella Abrahamsen in 1979 and adopted her two daughters, Lisa Faye and Dawnalee. They later divorced.
Del worked on the smelter in the convertors, but the strikes and his need to support his family, led him to changing his profession, first as a mechanic, and in 1967, received his Ironworker’s book. As an ironworker he worked in various locations throughout Montana, Washington, Arizona, Idaho, and California.
Most notably Dad was one of the brave crew members to assemble the support rings around the Anaconda smokestack, being hoisted to the top by standing on a five-gallon bucket of concrete using a pulley system. He also worked on building the Arbiter plant, retrofitted the missile sites in the Great Falls area, and built the first and main gondola ski lift at Big Sky, which still stands today. Del also owned and operated Draper Cycle in the early 1970s. In 1991, he obtained his teaching certificate and became a welding instructor at the Anaconda Job Corps, and enjoyed the challenge of mentoring his students until his retirement in 2004. He then continued as a substitute instructor through January 2013.
Dad was instrumental in the construction of the drag strip east of Anaconda in the early 1960s and was a key person in the revival of the drag strip in the mid 1980s, which he continued to participate in until 2012. Dad introduced several Job Corps students to the sport of drag racing. Without intention, Dad would instill his work ethic on the kids by taking them to the drag strip to work, and after they had been there, they eagerly volunteered to work the next time.
Dad was a “motorhead” and any sport that involved an engine, you would find Del there. He drag-raced throughout the state in the 1960s, raced moto-cross in the 1970s, went back to drag racing in the 1980s and 1990s. When he was 42 years young, he won the state moto-cross championship in the “Old-Timers” bracket. In his spare time you could find him snowmobiling, searching for difficult-to-find parts, doing a project for one of his many friends (which was just an opportunity to socialize), turning a wrench and rebuilding a car or two as long as it was a Mustang or Falcon.
But the most important thing in Del’s life was his family. He was very proud of his children and grandchildren. He supported them in everything that they did. He loved getting together with all of his family for any event.
During his life he also cherished the many friendships that developed. We would like to give a special thank you to Dad’s friends who supported him and his family during his illness: Luke, Gary, Pat, Rich, Jackie, Harry, Kermit, Geno, Luther, Mack, Elmer, any that we may have missed, and the phone calls from the friends that could not be here. Also a special thank you to the wonderful support we received from Pintler Hospice: Frances, Annette, Nancy, Sheila, Susan, Colleen, Steve and Meghan.
Del is survived by his daughter, Debbie Jurcich, and her husband, Dan; his daughter, Dawn Pickett and her husband, Bill; grandchildren, Joelyn and Gus Trost, Jamie and Daniel Thompson, Justin Pickett, and Chelsea Pickett; great-grandchildren, Leandra and Landyn Thompson; his brother, Dan Draper; sister, Doris Sharkey; adopted daughter, Lisa Faye Garcia and her husband James, their children Bryan, Karli, Megan, Jamie, Carolyn and Addy; adopted daughter, Dawnalee Draper, and her children, Courtney and Dalton.
Del was preceded in death by his parents Willard and Martha, sister, Delsie, first wife, Linda, and his son, Butch.
The family asks if you have any stories to share, there will be opportunity to do so at the service. Or you can mail them to the family at 119 Mountain View Dr. S, Anaconda.
Celebration of Life Services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at the Longfellow-Finnegan-Riddle Funeral Home Chapel. There will be a private family inurnment with Military Honors at a later time. There will be a gathering following the services at Smitty’s Barn.
Visitation hours will be on Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and one hour prior to the services on Wednesday at the funeral home.
Memorials may be made to Pintler Hospice, 118 East 7th St., Anaconda, MT 59711; Camp Mak-A-Dream, Box 1450, Missoula, MT 59806-1450; Lost Creek Raceway, Box 655, Anaconda, MT 59711; or charity of your choice.
Dad – Papa Del, we will miss you to the moon and back. Although gone, you will never be forgotten. You will live on in the many lives that you have touched. We love you.
Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers is. Thanks for everything Dad and Papa.
Longfellow-Finnegan-Riddle Funeral and Cremation Services are entrusted with Del’s funeral arrangements.
Express condolences at www.mtstandard.com/obits