Thursday, November 12, 2020
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John F. Vandersloot lived life to its fullest for 91 years, 7 months, and 25 days.

He would appreciate this reference, because while he wasn’t able to graduate from high school, he never quit reading and learning and exploring whatever knowledge a new day had to offer, including the use of the Internet.

He was born on March 6, 1929, in Hardin, Mont., to Tony and Barbara (Feller) Vandersloot, the third of seven brothers with a beloved sister completing his siblings.

He was born on a Wednesday, before the stock-market crash of that year and the Great Depression that followed, which didn’t affect his family that much, as any “bonds” they had were with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and their “stock” was in familial loyalty and the willingness to do for themselves.

He learned to farm and garden and hunt and fish; to carpenter and plumb and electrify; to reinvent thrown-away objects to make a new whole. He and his brothers rounded up and broke wild horses in Big Horn County to sell and occasionally keep. He could recall the names of every one of the horses he and his siblings rode; their markings and strengths and idiosyncrasies, and the best way to get this man who didn’t like to talk about himself to expand upon a story was to ask the name of the horse he was on.

As a young man he worked night shifts in the sugar-beet factory so he could help at home in the day.

When he learned his “number” was going to be called during the Korean War, he enlisted rather than waiting to be drafted. He was sent to Alabama, where the weather was so different from his home state and so miserable that he volunteered for ‘FARCOM’ and unbeknownst to John, meant going straight to Korea.

He later said that you should never volunteer for anything in the Army because they might take you seriously and let you do it. He detested any rule that made no sense to him, which is why his common sense and agility found him exiting a window and bunking in new quarters when told to varnish a floor.

He was a cook in the mess hall for a time, and one of his stories was of a general asking to see the man who made the ‘best damn biscuits he’d ever eaten’ and John was sent forward. The same general asked to see the person responsible for the worst damn coffee he’d ever drank, which was also John.

When he came home from Korea, leaving behind most of his hearing, he worked for a number of ranches. He met his first wife while working on the McKay ranch near Roscoe, and later worked for JB Mastin on large ranches in Montana and Texas, where he was foreman.

He managed the Cenex station in Columbus for many years where he made long and lasting friendships. After retirement, he worked with a close friend building homes in the Columbus area. Upon his ‘next’ retirement, he and his wife Elaine (Thompson-Gibson) continued planting trees and flowers and creating outdoor living spaces at their home on Shane Creek. He hand-dug a large cellar, where he and Elaine stored their home-canned fruits and vegetables, and any harvest they hadn’t shared with others from their garden.

John loved to fish, and when his children were young, he would create willow-fishing poles when a good ‘hole’ was found. He would later enjoy Canadian fishing trips, but he was a ‘catch and release’ man, because he never cared to eat fish.

He was a ‘good shot’, but he didn’t like to hunt, because in his estimation if there was beef and you could afford to eat it, you should let the wild game be. He was an early believer in ‘recycling’, encouraging everyone to save aluminum cans to finance pigroasts.

John built log swing-sets and Flintstone chairs (crafted from discarded automobile seats), bird-feeders and miniature wishing-wells and windmills; toy airplanes and trucks with hitches to pull trailers; doll-houses and every sort of ‘thing-a-majiggy’ that children love to play with. He could name every type of bird that ate at his feeders, and if a new winged creature arrived, he consulted his Birds of the World Encyclopedia until it could be identified.

He was bereft when Elaine passed before he did, but he channeled his energy outside of his grief. It was a source of amusement when he would say that he was giving a ride to an ‘old guy’ to a doctor appointment, or going to town to shovel a walk or making a visit at the nursing home, because these “old guys” were often his own age or younger than he was.

He never considered himself to be one of those ‘old guys’. His actions spoke far louder than his words, and he was at heart a kind and giving person. He was quick with a quip and a hand of encouragement on a shoulder.

John passed after a short illness. He left this world for the better one he knew would come, taking care of last minute business, and making sure that his rescuecat would be rescued again. He told his children that he would see them on the other side, expressing that he had enjoyed a good life, and that he loved his family.

He was a member of the VFW and American Legion, and enjoyed his involvement at the Columbus Senior Citizens.

John was preceded in death by the love of his life his wife Elaine, his parents, brothers Ed, Lawrence, Charles, Tony, Tommy, and his sister Catherine. He is survived by his children Wade (Heidi), Cindy (Ed) Turner, and Nena, step-children Rob Gibson, Bev (Chris) Heaps, Rod (Connie) Gibson, grandchildren Mariah (Joe) Vincent, Caitlin (Sarah) Vandersloot, Dani, Aspen, and Taylor Heaps, Amanda (Marshall) Westfall and Brandon Gibson; great-grand-children Aedan, Avilyn, Aleah, John, and Katherine, brother James, former wife Nannette Oltrogge, and nieces and neph ews and cousins too numerous to mention but all remembered by John by name.

The family would like to thank everyone for the words of encouragement and remembrance, but in particular a heartfelt thanks to his neighbor Jeannie Harsha, for her friendship and the home-cooked meals that meant so very much to John.

Services will be held in the spring when an announcement will be posted.