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March 15, 1926-Oct. 12, 2018

Joseph George Bolkovatz passed away, following a short illness, on Oct. 12, 2018, in Tustin, California, at the age of 92. Joe was born on March 15, 1926, in Anaconda, the eighth child in a family of 10 children to George and Catherine (Zunic) Bolkovatz. He was the last remaining member of that generation.

He met his wife Agnes, a volunteer candy striper, on a trip to the hospital. He drove her home in the pouring rain and their relationship grew. He married Agnes Mae Ridge in August 1955 and they spent the next 49 years together until her death. Together, with their children Annette and Rich, they built a home which welcomed friends and family regularly.

He attended St. Peter’s Elementary School and graduated from Anaconda Central High School in 1944. One summer, he traveled with his buddies playing baseball in the Chicago area, where he took in a few games at Wrigley Field and Comisky Park. He worked for 35 years for the Anaconda Company /ARCO on the Smelter, starting as a laborer, applied for a boilermaker apprenticeship and later became a Boiler Maker Foreman. Joe took great pride in the Smelter and the work he did over the years, and his knowledge of the operation could be matched by few. He was a member of the group responsible to complete the demolition of the zinc concentrator when the smelter closed.

This past summer, Joe was able to participate in the 100th Anniversary of the Stack celebration and visited the stack that he has not seen up close since the Smelter closed. Joe was honored in the parade as the oldest living Smelterman in town. On his visit to the stack he proudly showed the level of the ladder that he climbed up a few times and talked with others in the tour group and then rode in the parade with other old-timers.

Following his years on the Smelter, he worked in construction, managed Discovery Basic Ski and worked for Westgate Mining in Winston, Montana until his final retirement. He continued to work on his properties and drove his bobcat around his cabin until age 91.

His greatest enjoyment in life was his family and their events. Joe spent time visiting his twin granddaughters Mariah and Mikala in Cheyenne and his grandsons Brian Helsper and Kevin and Allison Helsper in Southern California. In his last years his great-grandsons brought much joy to him. It didn't matter what the event was, he was always there, always extremely proud.

Growing up during the Great Depression in a large family made early life a challenge but like all of life he looked out for his family and a way to make life better for all. Early in his life he took on the role of the breadwinner when his father became disabled at the Smelter. He passed along strong family values and he wished for the family to maintain close ties. As the family expanded in size, he continued to host family reunions at Georgetown, helping to bring relatives from Slovenia to Anaconda as well.

His lifetime love of the outdoors, started as a child when he would hike the hills around Anaconda, the Pintler Wilderness Area and into Red Lion, even panning for gold. He enjoyed hunting and fishing with Rich and other family members. He developed a passion to snow skiing as a young man. He skied in the winters at Wraith Hill, Discovery Basin and many other ski areas in the Northwest US and across Europe. He was instrumental in starting the Wraith Ski Club and the Discovery Basin Ski Area. As a ski school instructor, he taught many family members and area children and adults to ski and helped start racing programs at both ski areas. He started his children out skiing as soon as they could walk.

In the summer he spent as much time as possible at his “cabin” at Georgetown Lake. This became the focal point for family gatherings. In his later years he could be found on his porch taking in what he always called the best view on the whole lake. Joe, Agnes and Wally purchased their place in 1956 and together they built an addition to the original cabin. There was no project that Joe could not accomplish as he was skilled in many trades. His handiwork was seen throughout the property. He was an avid water skier and taught his children and other family to ski anytime they came to visit. He carried his children and grandsons on water skies before they could walk.

Joe passed on his Slovenia family traditions of wine and grappa making to Rich, and the family povitica recipe and dough rolling techniques. On one of his skiing trips to Europe he visited the Bolkovatz and Zunic family in Slovenia and met his mother’s sister. At later family reunions he welcomed members of those families to his Georgetown Lake cabin.

He is survived by his son, Richard and daughter-in-law Michele (Frankovich) Bolkovatz, and granddaughters, Mariah and Mikala Bolkovatz of Cheyenne, Wyoming, daughter, Annette and son-in-law Mike Helsper of Tustin, California; grandsons Brian and Kevin (Allison) Helsper and great-grandsons, Blake, Luke and Zack in California.

Bolkovatz nephews and nieces: Rev. James Hogan, Tom (Darlene) Kieser, Larry (Bonnie) Smith, Bill (Meagan) Montgomery, Todd (Brenda) Thomas; Maureen (Tom) Hampton, Patti Schmidt, Marilyn (Pat) Ryan, Roberta Nicholas, Connie Capps, LaVerne Ivie, Betty Randles, Peggy Dolce, Virginia Loran, Jean (Alan) Fangsrud, Linda Montgomery and 28 great-nieces and nephews and 42 great-great-nephews and great-nieces.

Along with brother-in-law, Joseph Ridge, sisters-in-law, MaryJo (Don) Kohler, and Rose Nyman, niece Susan (Martin) Mavrinac. He had special relationships with the 54 nieces and nephews in the Ridge family.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Agnes Ridge Bolkovatz; his parents, George and Catherine Bolkovatz; brother, Walter Bolkovatz; his eight sisters, Ann Hogan, Catherine Brady, Mary McCabe, Angela Kieser, Agnes Bailey, Barbara Ashton, Teresa Tocher, and Dorothy Montgomery; brothers-in-law, John Hogan, Francis Brady, Frank McCabe, Clarence Kieser, Sid Bailey, Fred Ashton, and William Montgomery Sr.; nephew, Jack Hogan; nieces, Signe Marie Bailey, Carol Kieser Parker, Dorothy Montgomery Fangsrud and Sandra Ashton Green; nephews in-law Rex Ivie, Casey Randles and John Capps and Charles Parker; mother and father-in-law, Josephine and Patrick Ridge; sisters-in-law, Dolores Ridge, Ann Paull and nephew, William Shafford.

A Vigil, Mass of Christian Burial with the celebrant Rev. James Hogan and luncheon will be held at a future date. Inurnment will be completed at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations to one of the following would honor Joe’s memory: Anaconda Catholic Community, 217 W. Pennsylvania, Anaconda, Montana 59711 or the Georgetown Lake Volunteer Fire Department, 100 Fire Lane, Anaconda, Montana 59711.

Longfellow Finnegan Riddle Funeral & Cremation Service is entrusted with Joe’s funeral arrangements. You may pay your condolences at www.longfellowfinneganriddle.com.

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