My name was Jess Leon Allred and I passed away peacefully at my Mansfield home on Monday, April 15, 2019 at the age of 78. In an effort to make my passing as easy as possible for my family, I decided to write my own obituary.
I was born in the small north central town of Shelby, on a cold winter day, Feb. 20, 1941. There were two of us born that day, but my brother did not survive, which was a sad day I’m sure. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to grow old with a sibling.
My mother and father separated before I was born and my mother moved away to a larger city to earn a living. I was reared by my grandparents, who were raising three of their own children. I’m sure it was a trying experience for them, because there wasn’t an abundance of money to take on another child, but it worked out and I lived with them throughout much of my childhood.
Summers, from the time I was four years old until mid-high school, were spent living the ranch life with my uncle, Joe Findlay, near the Canadian border in northern Montana. The mining town of Gold Butte was the nearest, about four miles from the ranch. I was six years old when Uncle Joe bought me a brown and white pinto Shetland pony complete with all the necessary rigging. I would ride my pony to Gold Butte to pick up minor supplies for our house. I remember visiting with the merchant who would always give me stick candy, “Blacky” the blacksmith, and a few other old timers. I’d peek into the saloon, but the cowboys weren’t too keen on a kid being there, so they’d run me off. The land was mostly open range and I rode my pony everywhere.
Early on we had no electricity or running water, so kerosene lanterns lit the house and barn, and water came from hand pumping a well. An outhouse served as a lavatory of sorts, but I always wondered why there were two holes in the bench. It didn’t seem reasonable to me that two people would use the facility at the same time. Oh well, some things just have no explanation. Baths were once a week with water heated on a wood stove and placed in a large copper tub. Our news and entertainment came from a battery-powered radio. We received signals from one station in Great Falls and one from Canada. Big fun for my Uncle Joe and me was listening to and keeping score, on rudimentary score sheets we drew, of minor league baseball games played by the Great Falls Electrics.
I liked school and enjoyed being in “town” playing with friends, but I loved the ranch and the independence it provided me. I learned early on how to gather eggs, milk cows, grow a garden, hunt wild game for a food source, feed livestock, ride a horse, drive cattle, handle a branding iron, bale and stack hay, castrate cattle, sheep and horses, harness and hitch a team of horses, ride all day tying bales on a horse-drawn hay baler, and everything else associated with ranch life in the old days. And, when looking back on this experience, I’m confident it set the tone for my life as an adult. Joe and other old cowboys called it “grit.”
The summer after my sophomore year in high school was a turning point in my life. I pestered the owner of a small print shop and weekly newspaper for a job. I was a nuisance long enough that he hired me part time while I was in school. I earned 50 cents per hour for sweeping floors and stocking shelves with office supplies. I did a good job, was dependable and the boss liked me. I became an apprentice printer and for the next three years I learned everything I could about printing and publishing a weekly newspaper.
In June of 1959, I left the newspaper to join the Army National Guard and was stationed at Ft. Ord, Calif. The training I received in communications led to a job change when I returned home. I worked for a while as a lineman for the county electric company, but the brutal winter cold brought me back to the newspaper.
The best day of my life was June 3, 1963. On that day I married my best friend and only wife, Roxie. She possesses all the qualities I lacked. I think that made us a pretty darn good team for nearly 56 years.
Shortly after our wedding, I took a job with the Great Falls Tribune as a printer and my career was launched. I gravitated from working with hot metal through the transition to “cold type.” From there it was on to production management, advertising sales, and eventually I became a publisher and led several newspaper organizations. My career in newspapers provided me with opportunity I never dreamed possible. I traveled extensively and helped to build newspapers in communities across the U.S. In every case, our local newsrooms and business teams worked tirelessly to make the cities we served better places to live and work. It was a good ride for a country boy.
Our son Jay came to us in 1970, followed by the birth of Joseph in 1973. After the day I married Roxie, their birthdays were tied for second place in the best-day-of-my-life competition. The boys are now grown men who have made Roxie and me very proud over the years.
Since 1970 I have been living the dream. Who would imagine that a kid with a high school education could rise from sweeping floors in a country print shop to become the president of a newspaper group? Well, it happened for me. I will be forever grateful to my first employer, Lloyd Stinebaugh, for giving me an opportunity, and to my family for sticking by me through 15 separate relocations. I appreciate greatly all the blessings I’ve enjoyed throughout my life, especially my family.
To maintain sanity outside of corporate life, I spent time with my family and always had a project or two going. I built hotrods and custom cars, pinstriped anything that would hold paint, painted duck decoys and pictures, and liked to garden. Most recently, I followed my interest in musical instruments and learned how to build acoustic guitars from scratch under the Total Rojo http://totalrojoguitars .blogspot.com/ nameplate.
Art has always been my fallback position and I worked it up to the last day. In 2007, I was honored with induction into the Detroit Pinstripers Hall Of Fame.
Our sons married fine women, Amy (Jay) and Juliette (Joe), whom I consider my own daughters. Jay and Amy brought us two granddaughters, Elinor (20) and Margaret (16).
I’ve enjoyed a comfortable retirement, but I’ve never been inactive. I participated in several part time gigs which allowed me to learn how to design kitchens and baths, work in the professional photography business, and repair guitars for a small music company.
Cancer sidelined me in 2018, but it didn’t take me from the game I love…life. Determination and a loving family helped me to stay positive and active until the end.
I wish those whom I’ve hurt along the way will forgive me. And, I hope my friends and those whom I’ve helped will remember me in a good way.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Father Gregory Hite on Tuesday, April 23 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Burial followed in Prince of Peace Catholic Cemetery. The family was joined by friends at a luncheon in the St. Peter’s Franciscan Center immediately following the burial.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Monsignor Dunn Foundation https:// msgrdunnfoundation.org/; Harmony House https:// www.facebook.com/HarmonyHouseMansfield orThe Friendly House http://www. friendlyhouseonline.com/.
Words of comfort may be expressed to the family at www.wappner.com.