July 26, 1924-May 18, 2019
On Saturday, May 18, John T. Shea passed away. John T. was born in Butte on July 26, 1924 to Timothy and Catherine Shea. John lived most of his life in the family home located on Pacific Street in Centerville. He graduated from St. Lawrence Catholic School in 1938 and worked as a telegraph delivery boy delivering telegraphs for the Western Union on his bicycle during Prohibition. He attended Butte High School and was drafted into the United States Army in 1943. John had the good fortune to return home to Butte from World War II on St. Patrick’s Day, 1946. Once home, he first worked as a truck driver at Hennessy’s where he met his bride, Evelyn Ozanich, as she worked as a “soda jerk” at the Hennessy’s ice cream counter. Little did Eve know at that time how much John loved ice cream but over the course of the next 65 years together, she would come to realize that it was one of John’s favorite treats! He then got hired by the Anaconda Copper Company in 1948 and he remained employed on the hill until ARCO shut down the mining operations in 1983. During those 35 years on the hill, he worked as a construction laborer, a rope man on the Rope Gang, and as a structural ironworker.
For hobbies, John enjoyed pitching horseshoes and bowling. But by far his favorite thing to do was to go duck hunting with his hunting partner, Don David. They hadn’t missed an opening day in over 35 years. He was a member of the Centerville Volunteer Fire Department and served on the St. Lawrence Parish Council. He was a 60-year member, the head drum major and the chairman of the Hoop Shoot at the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks #240. He enjoyed leading the guys in “Swinging on Parade” as he strutted down the parade route every 4th of July and John always liked to point out that the “B.P.O.E. actually stood for Best People on Earth”. John was recognized by all the Special Olympians from Butte and as an honorary coach marched with the athletes in the opening ceremony in 1998.
John T. was a proud Irishman with deep faith and blessed with a bit of the blarney who spent his retirement volunteering. If there was a project, John T. was on the crew. He claimed these were the best jobs he ever had with the best pay, soup and a sandwich! The biggest project he helped tackle after leaving the “Hill” was helping construct the Lady of the Rockies. He was never so proud as the day she was placed on top of the East Ridge. He also spent countless hours teaching others about his Irish heritage and making sure that the mining heritage handed down to him by his immigrant father from County Cork, Ireland was maintained and preserved. He provided helpful historical and anecdotal perspective to films featuring Butte, Montana that included The Long Journey Home, Irish in America, The Copper Opera, as well as Butte, America. He was a featured speaker at the National Folk Festival in 2010, but perhaps his most crowning achievement was when he had the privilege of giving the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, a personal tour at The World Museum of Mining during her visit to Butte in May of 2006.
John is survived by his children, Dan (Rose), John (Jan) and Becky (Robb); grandchildren, Tammy (T.R.) Williams, Cindy (John) Winston, Jenny (Travis) Brown, John Shea, Caitlin and Quinn Soltesz; great-grandchildren, Tucker and Grady Winston and NeVaeh Williams; sister-in-law, Erma Polich and numerous beloved nieces, nephews and great- nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Eve and daughter, Gerianne, as well as his parents, and sisters, Elaine (Andy) Kujawa and ElDeane (Jimmy) Jacobson.
Visitation will be Friday, May 24, 2019, from 10-11 a.m. at St. Ann’s Catholic Church. Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. Interment will be at the Holy Cross Cemetery. Memorials can be made to Our Lady of the Rockies or charity of the donor’s choice.