Aug. 17, 1952 – March 4, 2012
Michael Edward Durtsche was born on Aug. 17, 1952, in Lovell. He was the third child of Myron Raymond Durtsche Sr. and Ruth Helen Zimmer.
As a child, he loved to play wiffle ball with all the neighborhood boys and spent most of every day doing so. He played Little League Baseball on the Mobil and Babe Ruth teams. He loved basketball and played in junior high and in his freshman and sophomore years in high school.
Due to health issues in the family, Mike moved to Malta, Mont., to live with his brother Myron Jr. and his wife Diane. While in Malta, Mike worked in the bentonite fields with Myron and they did a lot of fishing on the Missouri River. Later, his sister Betty Blakesley and her family moved to Lovell, so Mike moved back to Lovell to live with them.
In the fall of 1970, after encouragement from future wife Aletha and Chester Christiansen, Mike went back to school to take a couple of junior required classes and a correspondence course. He graduated with the class of 1971.
Mike and Aletha were married June 15, 1971, in Lovell and five days later Mike left for basic training in San Antonio for the U.S. Air Force.
After basic training he was stationed at Castle AFB in California for on- the-job training as a clerk. In January of 1972, Mike moved his family, Aletha and infant daughter Michelle, to California to be with him.
In the summer of 1972, Mike received orders for Elmondorf AFB in Alaska. In August he and Aletha loaded their truck and drove to Anchorage to live for the next 21 months. While there, Mike was in billeting and enjoyed his job very much and worked a straight night shift and watched Michelle and later Shane and another little boy while Aletha worked.
In the summer of 1974, Mike again received orders for another move and they moved to Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota. So they loaded up their truck and drove back home to Lovell, then Mike lived in South Dakota until family housing was available and Aletha and the two children joined him.
While at Ellsworth, Mike participated in basketball and softball in the church league. They played against another LDS team and several other teams from other denominations. He also got into playing a lot of tennis with Aletha as his partner against another couple there.
Mike was very conscientious in his AF responsibilities and won awards for NCO (non-commissioned officer) of the month, of the quarter and of the year.
In the summer of 1976 he was sent to Izmir, Turkey, to work at a NATO site. He returned home on leave in April and decided to get out of the Air Force and stay in Lovell with his family.
He worked at Georgia Pacific, in the mill, then in maintenance. After a few years, he was offered a job in the bentonite fields as a driller for NL Baroid, where he worked until Baroid closed down in 1986. Then he cleaned rooms at LHS and took care of the grounds. When it was noticed how nice the school grounds looked by the Park Service maintenance supervisor, he was offered a job at the Park Service, which he accepted. After several years as a seasonal employee, he was placed in a full-time capacity. At the time of his death he was the maintenance supervisor of the South District of Bighorn Canyon NRA.
Mike loved the outdoors, hunting, fishing and catching minnows. He had been a team member and coach of Lovell Second and First Ward basketball teams and of the Dean’s Standard city league teams, both basketball and softball. He played fast pitch and slow pitch softball. He played flag football for a few seasons. He coached his sons and grandson in little league basketball, baseball, football and Babe Ruth. He refereed basketball, football and umpired many Little League Baseball, Babe Ruth and Legion games. He knew the games well and seemed to be a walking rulebook.
Just the day before his death he had been watching his grandson, Kirk, playing in his regional tournament.
Mike is survived by his wife of 40 years, Aletha; his children Michelle Thompson, Shane, Justin, Patrick, Steven and Samatha; 19 grandchildren; his mother, Ruth Durtsche; a sister, Betty Blakesley; a brother, Myron Durtsche Jr. and many nieces, nephews, in-laws and friends.
To send one of our special floral arrangements, please call Valley Flowers & Gifts in Lovell, 307-548-7101