Henry "Pete" Peder Kappelman of Missoula died Sunday, June 18, 2017. He was 69. Pete was born in Stillwater County, Montana, and graduated from Absarokee High School in 1966. A football quarterback and fan of drag racing, Pete was student adviser to Future Farmers of America and prom king.
Pete grew up in a time and place that formed his wide-ranging interests, talents, and love of freedom and natural beauty. He did a little bit of everything— haying, branding, sheep shearing, carpentry, shooting gophers with friends, and being a rodeo clown. He learned to tinker with everything and fix many things. Upholding the civic responsibilities of the Cold War era, Pete helped watch the sky for Russian aircraft, just in case.
After a year at Eastern Montana College, Pete enlisted in the U.S. Army in October 1967. He served in Germany and deployed to Vietnam from March 1969 to May 1970. He participated in the Tet Counteroffensive as a member of the 23rd Infantry (Americal) Division. He was promoted to staff sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
After his service, Pete worked in California and Montana in construction, a lifelong profession. He was accomplished as a stonemason. In Hardin in the early 1980s, he wrote and published “The Briefs,” a daily news and advertising paper. Pete loved traveling — from a day trip to a hot springs or a road trip across the country, to a trek in Nepal and anything in between. He was friendly, funny, and had the gift of gab; he made new friends everywhere he went.
In 1984, he married Brenda Desmond in Reed Point. They moved to Helena and then to Missoula, where their sons were born, in 1986 and 1991. They eventually separated but remained united coparents. Pete was very proud of his sons’ athletic, academic, and professional accomplishments and was most proud of what wonderful fathers they became.
Pete thrived when studying art education at the University of Montana, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in art education in 1986. He excelled in studio classes and was creative and unconventional. For a class that required a teaching demonstration of how to make something, Pete rolled in a wheelbarrow filled with bricks and mortar and taught the class how to build a brick wall. He participated enthusiastically in the former Saturday morning free art classes open to all children in Missoula. In 1984, his charcoal drawing was selected for inclusion in an art exhibition at the Zhejiang Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China.
Pete was an artist with wide-ranging talents. He painted, drew, sculpted, and wrote and performed music. He inherited his musical talent from his parents, Clarice and Dutch Kappelman, who often played music at local dances and parties. Along the way, he met Victoria Black, a fellow artist, who was his longtime partner.
Pete and Victoria spent their years together as part of the artistic community in Missoula. They had many friends. Pete played backup guitar and sang as part of the band for an on-going open mic at a local bar. Pete enjoyed his role and took it seriously. Others commented that Pete was fun to play with, because he could be relied on for a consistent, skillful performance. In music and in life, Pete believed that sometimes background or backup roles are most important.
Pete’s health began to decline in the mid-2000s, when he experienced a series of strokes. Common themes emerged from his many trips to Missoula hospitals and nursing homes over the years. Pete was “a great guy” with “quite a grin.” He made friends everywhere.
Pete is survived by his sons Ben (Maggie) Kappelman and Erik (Jessy) Kappelman; their mother, his former wife Brenda Desmond; his longtime partner Victoria Black; his sister Margaret Ann Nelson; his niece Theresa (Mike) Winn; his great nieces Shelby (Cameron) McCrief and Katy Mininger; and four grandchildren, Sophia, Nora, Adelia and Stewart.
A service will be held Friday, July 7, at 2:30 p.m. at the Western Montana State Veterans Cemetery in Missoula. All are welcome. The family requests readers support a veteran, in remembrance of Pete.