Leslie “Les” H. Costel, Sr., passed on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021 in Seattle, Wash.
Services were held on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021 with an escort home by Glacier Electric Cooperative and arrival at the Glacier Homes Community Center with the Rosary at the center (via livestream) later that night. The Funeral Mass was held on Monday, Feb. 1, at the Little Flower Parish, Browning, Mont.
Les was born in Browning, Mont. on Sept. 10, 1964 to Estella “Stella” Whitegrass and raised at Starr School. Les is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe and was given his Blackfeet name akkiyaamstsinniima (Double Rainbow) by his great grandmother Mary Ground. As a child he was nicknamed Joe Spud by his cousin Daryl Homegun.
He was raised on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and attended High School at Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Ore., graduating in 1983.
Les and Stacey (Kipp) met in 1985 and married on June 25, 1988. They welcomed their first born, a son, Les “JR” Costel in 1986 and then a daughter, Beth Ellen, in 1991.
Les is survived by his wife, Stacey; son Les “JR” (Kristy, grandchildren, Kaci and Eli); his daughter Beth Ellen (Bill); sisters Patty (Craig) Hall of Leesville, La., and Charlene Finley of Browning; his nephews Adrian “Slew” (Eleisha) Costel and Fudd Whitegrass of Browning; Daniel Salway, Fairbanks, Alaska, Craig Al Hall; and a niece Andrea K. Hall, all of Leesville.
Les is predeceased by his mother, Stella; brothers Eugene “Jug” Whitegrass; and Nels Costel.
Les did many jobs during his time in this world. Beginning with his cowboy life working on Dan and Phyllis Connelly’s ranch west of Starr School, and he logged firewood for sale and for his own use, a wildland fire fighter, a Hot Shot firefighter for Zig Zag Ranger Station in Zig Zag, Ore., as a Home Living Assistant at BIA Chemawa Indian School and Blackfeet Boarding Dormitory, a groundman with Redrock Power and becoming a journeyman lineman with Glacier Electric Cooperative.
Les’ eldest brother Jug Whitegrass was a lineman for Glacier Construction. Les and JR continued the legacy by becoming linemen with Glacier Electric Cooperative. Les didn’t consider being a lineman his job, it was who he was.
Les began his lineman career with Glacier Electric Cooperative in April 1997 as an apprentice lineman and completing the apprenticeship and becoming a journeyman lineman in May 2002. He enjoyed all aspects of being a Lineman, from the maintenance of power lines, the camaraderie of his fellow linemen, being called out for a “trouble call” – where many an adventure would be had based on the often severe weather conditions and prided himself on the crew getting the power back on.
Once JR began working at Glacier Electric Cooperative in 2007 the adventures were shared, a unique opportunity for a father and son and an even stronger bond was formed. In the beginning of working together, JR commented that although his peer, his dad was his dad first and foremost and had higher expectations for him. The discussions between the two related to power lines and related topics of their lineman duties were invaluable. A prouder father and fellow Lineman you could not meet. He was cool and level headed during some really stressful situations, he took a lot of pride in this trade. There probably isn’t a power pole in the Glacier Electric Cooperative territory that Les didn’t work on.
Les was on leave from the Cooperative from January 2019 to May 2020, due to needing a new kidney. Although not on the call schedule, Les had the call radio on 24/7 listening to the crews out on the call, often times fielding calls from his fellow lineman to help find a location or clarify directions to the trouble site – staying up into the wee hours until everyone signaled off safely.
Les was physically fit and preferred physical work and labor as well as a mental strength to handle any and all situations presented to him in the course of his life and his work.
JR and Kristy have gifted us with two precious grandchildren. Again, a proud and loving papa, as evidenced by the fact he learned to embrace technology and his cellphone so that he could share texts and snapchats with Kaci. His patience with his grandkids was markedly more so than his children recall he had with them. Quoting his mom, Stella, if I had known grandkids were gonna be this much fun I would’ve had them first!
Beth Ellen, a daddy’s girl from birth, and something she embraced, shares her father’s personality, kindness, generosity, ability to easily love others and a love of horses. They shared a musical bond, his love of country music often listened to while relaxing with his Bud Light. He would text Beth a new song he’d heard or one that reminded him of her and suggest she listen to it if she hadn’t already. He and Beth would have their Bud Light over a long chat, truck ride or when ice fishing – they were best friends and he always wanted the best for her. Every conversation or text he closed with, “I love you, you’re my baby – no matter how old you get.” He was proud of her independence, her career choice, and the purchase of her own home in 2018.
Les doted on and loved Stacey. After 35 years of marriage they too had become best friends, they shared and mutually enjoyed experiences, the traveling, being with family and friends, the life at Fox Creek ranching and camping, the ATV rides, picnicking or just sitting quietly at home in their matching recliners. He conceded to her plans and direction, saying, if that’s what you want – you’re the boss. He said recently that when his health issues began looming he probably wouldn’t have lived as long as he had if Stacey hadn’t “run interference.”
There were many serious health issues that he faced, beginning in 2013 to the present – each time, his only inquiry was, “when can I go back to work?’
In January 2019, after Les went into renal failure, he was gifted a kidney on Nov. 5, 2019, nicknamed Koala, from Janet Reindl our generous, loving and selfless friend.
Les loved a good meal, in particular meat and potatoes and he could cook a mean steak! He performed most of the outdoor cooking, picnicking and gathering over a meal with family and friends was a favorite time for him.
Les was a true cowboy, what you saw is what you got. He lived that life at Fox Creek by ranching, pasturing cattle and recreating there and camping there – year-round. From May to October Les welcomed many to a campfire and a chair to sit up and visit.
While he preferred a horseback ride, he also utilized the modern day horse, ATV’s, which we enjoyed with our children, grandchildren and friends. Many cross country rides were taken from Starr School to Livermore. The camaraderie with his fellow ranchers and cowboys between St. Mary and Birch Creek is evidenced by his passion for the cowboy way of life and his ability to ride a good horse – broke or not. Les was well known for his sense of humor and got a good laugh about teasing his friends and the like, anyone he came in contact with knew he would eventually get around to “picking on” them. A fellow lineman said this “he could pick on you and make you feel good about it!”
Les loved to ice fish – he owns five ice houses and never passed up an opportunity to go ice fishing or buy ice fishing supplies!
Les had the ability to relate to anyone he came in contact with, often becoming quick friends. He touched so many lives and impacted and influenced many children from his days working at the Blackfeet Boarding Dorm and Chemawa Indian School.
Les’ final act of generosity was that he chose to be an organ donor. He has gifted his cornea to sightlife.org of Seattle.