David Joseph Ries

David Joseph Ries, beloved brother, uncle, and friend, passed away peacefully on Nov. 3, 2021, at Benefis Hospital in Great Falls, Mont., after an extended fight with COVID.

The family plans to hold a fly-in memorial for David at the airport in the spring of 2022.

 Born Sept. 7, 1948, David grew up on a wheat farm outside of Conrad, Mont., and graduated from Conrad High School in 1966. He served in the Army as a helicopter crew member in the 59th Division of the 3rd Light Aviation Section stationed in Korea. His time in the Army left him with a passion for aviation. 

David was a licensed pilot and member of the Montana Pilot’s Association and spent many hours in the cockpit of his yellow Piper “Tri-Pacer” often flying to see family and friends. One of his favorite missions with the Tri-Pacer was his annual flight to the Okanogan Valley in Washington on a “Peach Run.” He would bring back cases of fresh peaches for his friends and spend weeks canning and freezing his favorite fruit and baking delicious pies to share. 

He also enjoyed building and flying radio controlled (RC) airplanes and drones. 

A longtime employee of the Cut Bank International Airport, he started in 1993 as the Weather Observer and eventually became the Airport Operator. In 2011, under his direction, the airport received the Airport of the Year award from the Aeronautics Division of the Montana Department of Transportation. 

He also served as Secretary and Treasurer of the Airmen’s Museum at the Cut Bank International Airport and was working on the restoration of a WWII building to be used as a new location for the museum. 

For the last 18 years, he volunteered for the Montana Fun Weekend fly-in and car show. His favorite event was the popular Bowling Ball Drop, which he coordinated. 

David was always ready for a smile and a conversation, especially if the topic was aviation. One of his friends described him as “rough and grumpy but had a heart as big as a house.” He was admired for his strength of will and work ethic and was always generous with his time when a loved one or a friend needed his help. 

David was preceded in death by his parents, Raymond and Rosella Ries, his brothers, Robert Ries and Richard Ries, and nephew Craig Habets. 

He is survived by his siblings Jeanette Habets (Darrel) Valier, Mont., Michael Ries (Nancy) Sherwood, Ore., Barbara Ries, Spokane, Wash., and sister-in-law Marilyn Ries, Okanogan, Wash.; aunts, Bernice Muir of Sidney, Mont. and Joan Keegan (Mike) of Spokane Wash.; three nieces, four nephews, three great-nephews and many cousins and good friends. 

Memorials in David’s name may be made to the WWII Airmen’s Museum at the Cut Bank International Airport, P.O. Box 103, Cut Bank MT 59427. The museum is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.