MERGENTHALER, Buddy Gene, age 91 of Helena passed away on September 14, 2023. Born in Helena September 11, 1932 to George and Jene Mergenthaler. Lived his young years in Montana City then he and his family moved to the 6th Ward, in Helena. He had an older sister Stella and two younger sisters Barbara and Lois.
While attending Bryant school he held the pull up record at both Bryant and later Helena High, following high school he joined the Navy- in 1951- sailing to Japan on a sea-going tugboat with top speed of 12 knots, which took 60 days to reach Japan. After serving 4 years as a sailor, he returned to Helena to marry Patricia Traynor, in 1955. They had 2 boys together both are now deceased- they divorced and soon met Betty Pocha and had 2 girls. In 1965 while working construction on the now I-15 Highway through Wolf Creek Canyon- a heavy stack of concrete pilings tipped over, knocking him unconscious into the river- Buddy’s nearly severed arm was reattached and he received 28 pints of blood, before spending the next 8 months in the hospital in a body cast and in traction. You can’t keep a good man down- In 1968 he opened Buddy’s Billiards on Main Street. In 1968 he also met Judy Torno, they were soon married and one son Travis was born in 1971. Buddy loved playing pool- competed in 5 tournaments in Las Vegas- he had a great time playing defense shots- “leaving them tougher than Chinese arithmetic’s”. Buddy was an avid elk hunter, setting hunting camps with good friend Bill Bahney- going to hunting camp for a month at a time was not unusual. Many years in the Tizer, many years hunting Beaver Creek. The highlight of his hunting was the bagging of a 7X8 bull elk in 1997. Fish wildlife and parks defined the rack ranked in the top 1% of bull elk harvested that season.
Buddy and wife Judy became renowned for their St. Patrick’s Day garb- Buddy in white tuxedo, top hat and green beard. Buddy loved dressing as Santa Clause and visiting many children. If anyone needed a Santa, he just loved going anywhere no matter how much snow or conditions we went.
In the mid-90’s Buddy started building log cabins, he was very proud of his saw mill that he could take on site- cut and place the logs without a blue print. He was always sketching out ideas. He built 5 log cabin homes including one for Bill Bahney, his very wonderful friend. In 2002 he had a life long dream answered when he and Judy went to Alaska the first time in a motor home for three months. Not long enough time for Buddy- he made friends everywhere he went. Meeting Gene Parsons and family was a highlight. From that time on, he and Gene were great friends. He never missed seeing Gene and family for the next 20 years. Out on many charters, catching many red salmon, halibut, and cod.
Buddy brought home many salmon that he would smoke and can up his catch. Taking a jar with him occasionally to let friends have a taste.
Buddy did many-many things in his 91 years but he said “I still have about 3000 more things I’d like to do”.
Buddy leaves behind his wife of 54 years Judy, son Travis- his 4 children Kascey, Joey, Sawyer and Timber. Daughter Stacey Bodin (Bryan) his children Ryan Walker, Dillion Bodin, Maddison Bodin, great grandchildren, Addison Walker, Khloe Walker, and Alonna Walker. Daughter Jeani Pocha (William) son Skyler. Granddaughter Sunni Taylor (Mike), daughter Belle and Blakley. Grandsons Buddy Mergenthaler Jr., daughter Jessica.
He was preceded in death by his Mother and Father, 2 sons, Buddy Jr. and Robert, and sister Barbara Duffy. A ceremony with military honors will be held at 4:00 p.m., Friday, September 29, 2023 in the Pavilion at the Montana State Veteran Cemetery at Ft. Harrison, 3550 Heroes Road.