– Eugene J. Matelich died suddenly of natural causes at his home Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016. He was born April 24, 1926, in Anaconda to Louis and Mary Matelich. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday with his beloved family. Known as "Pops" by family and friends, his sincere love, kindness and humor will be missed. He espoused to his family the ideals of "clean living," hard work and to avoid the pitfalls of smoking and gambling. He was always on the move, loved to travel and was "king of the road." Each day he expressed gratitude and optimism, thankful that the good Lord had given him another day to live.
As a young 14-year-old, growing up in the grips of the Great Depression, he learned a strong work ethic by "swamping" his father's bar every morning before going to school. He had a lifelong love of music and played the piano in bands with the sounds of Tom Dorsey. Because he was near-sighted, sports were a challenge. Instead he led his high school marching band. Upon his graduation from Anaconda High in 1944, he enrolled in the Navy and served in the shore patrol in Long Beach, California. As the war concluded, he attended the General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan, in 1946 and then the University of Miami in 1947-48, studying business. His first business venture in 1949 was a partnership with his father in the mushroom business, which proved to be a bust and a learning experience. He returned to Anaconda and in 1952 started the Auto Mart, a used-car business.
In the same year, he also danced with "the best looking blonde" he had ever seen. On Aug. 15, 1952, he married Helen Kohn. They raised a family of seven children and for the next 30 years the family experienced a pattern of Montana adventures: summers of fly fishing in the Big Hole and water skiing at Flathead Lake; falls of hunting elk in the East Pioneer Mountains; and winters of skiing at Wraith Hill and Snow Bowl. For 55 years he was an avid fan and supporter of Griz football and basketball.
His greatest business success was the ownership and operation of Matelich Trailer Sales. Beginning in 1956, he opened his first mobile home business in Anaconda, selling Marlette, New Moon and Aristocrat trailers. In addition, he owned trailer lots in Butte, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula and Libby. The family moved in 1962 to Missoula, where he focused on the opening of his Missoula business. He also owned and started the Greater Montana Insurance Agency in the late 1950s and was the first agency in Montana to offer Safeco Insurance. In his later years, he owned a tool business under the name of H&M Enterprises and continued to sell luxury cars out of his home during his retirement. Pops was the epitome of a salesman and was always thrilled to close the deal.
In 1988 Helen Matelich died, just shy of their 36th wedding anniversary. Five years later, Pops remarried Cecelia Burham. Together they enjoyed 12 years of marriage and companionship, playing golf, dancing and traveling to Hawaii each winter. Pops was a member of the Elks Club, sponsored Little Grizzly football and was a volunteer at ski races.
He is survived by his sons, Eugene (Octavio), Craig (Mary), Ronald (Swithin), Donald and Lewis (Melanie). He was preceded in death by his wives, Helen and Cecelia; his daughter, Judy; and son, Jim. He leaves behind nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held to celebrate his life at 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, at Christ the King Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Christ the King Church or the Missoula Senior Citizens Center. Sunset Memorial Funeral Home is assisting with arrangements. Condolences for Gene’s family may be sent to sunsetfuneralhomecemetery.com.
Eugene J. Matelich Grea