The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them. — Proverbs 20:7
Our Dad walked with amazing integrity. By the time his life here on earth ended, the influence this faith-filled man had in his 85 well-lived years had spread far and wide.
He was a devoted husband, loving father, Korean War veteran, and a friend and mentor to so many.
Of all the things that come to mind when we think about our dad, what stands out is how well he lived his life. He was a wonderful example of living fully and living well by taking each opportunity and challenge that came his way and growing from it. Because of his example, we too try to take each day as it comes and make the best of it, knowing that it is up to us to decide how each occurrence, positive or not, will impact our lives.
Living this way required a steadfast faith in something greater than his personal power and Dad was a faithful man, serving our Lord the best ways he knew how. He shared his mighty faith in the Lord with his family. He was selfless in his work to strengthen the church, never shying away from saying yes to the Lord when He was called — be that building a church, leading a congregation, cleaning a bathroom, raising funds, teaching Sunday school or serving as an usher. He served with a sense of duty, respect and love. He is a fine example of someone who lived out their faith quietly, humbly and deeply. He was a beacon of strength in our lives. In retirement, Dad still had an innate need for service. Always an active member of the Lutheran Church, he became deeply involved with the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Billings, where he remained a member for the rest of his life.
We, stand in awe of our Dad’s amazing life! Born to Frederik D. Morck, a Danish immigrant to Sheridan County, Montana, and Adeline Ordahl Morck, a Norwegian American from North Dakota, our dad was the third of four brothers. His childhood spent growing up in Plentywood could be a work of history in itself — sprouting from a rather barren place that is rich with stories of hardship, triumph, and lessons of life. They survived the Depression and World War II in Plentywood, raised by their mother after losing their dad when our dad was only 6. He watched his mom go into the working world when most moms didn’t do that kind of thing, spent most summers working on various farms throughout Sheridan County, and built friendships that he has maintained from that time to today. Dad was good that way — he made friends everywhere he went and never lost track of them. It is clear that the goodness of that eastern Montana soil made its way into his DNA! After graduation from Plentywood High School, where he played football and basketball, in 1950, our dad began traveling all over the west working for what is now the USGS Cadastral Survey. When the Korean War broke out, he joined the United States Air Force. After basic training, Neil received advanced training as a Radar Gunsight Technician, learning electrical skills he would use for many years after. He was assigned to airbases in Japan and Korea, where he worked on F-84 fighter/bombers and F-86 jets. He completed his Air Force service at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Little did he know how good it would be to be home in Montana again after that adventure!
After his honorable discharge from the Air Force, Dad returned to Plentywood with the intention of buying a modest farm. His mother and the Sheridan County School superintendent thought otherwise. They encouraged him to take advantage of the GI Bill and enter college. He enrolled at Montana State, pursuing a degree in Range Science. Once again, his intent was to acquire a farm after graduation. Instead, he was recruited by the Bureau of Land Management, where he began a career spanning 32 years.
Prior to graduation, Dad was introduced to Evelyn Dyrud, a young elementary school teacher from Conrad, who was teaching in Livingston. It was love at first sight and they were married in 1957.
Upon graduation, Dad began his career with BLM in Dillon, accompanied by Evelyn. He was initially a Range Management Specialist. They next moved to Miles City, where he briefly left the BLM for banking — but quickly returned to the BLM.
Our dad was later promoted to District Manager of the Rock Springs, Wyoming, District Office. He then moved to Billings as Right of Way Coordinator for the Northern Tier Pipeline Project. He was subsequently promoted to the position of Deputy Director of Renewable Resources in Washington, D.C. In 1985, Dad came back out west as the BLM Western Service Center Director and, ultimately, the Colorado State Director, his final position with the agency.
Dad worked throughout the west, assigned to positions in Dillon and Miles City; Carson City and Winnemucca, Nevada; Cheyenne and Rock Springs, Wyoming; Billings; Washington, D.C.; and finally, Denver.
Along the way, Dad and Mom had the two of us, his son, Frederick, born in 1961, and his daughter, Erika, born in 1971.
He was driven to succeed and built a successful career all the while bettering the lives of those he worked with. Our hearts swell with pride over and over again when people comment about the good work our Dad did — they don’t usually talk about the actual work he did, but how he did it. His ethic, professionalism, sense of what is fair and what is right are shining examples of how to get along and work in this world! He was profoundly respected by so many from all walks of life.
He had a zest for life that most 40-year olds don’t have and his brush with death after sudden cardiac arrest while working out at the gym 13 years ago made him live his life even more vigorously. Dad found recreation in nature but loved a good game of poker too. He had a monthly poker circle that spanned over 30 years interrupted only by a “few” moves out of state. He enjoyed league trap shooting at the Billings Trap Club, pheasant hunting and tending his yard in the company of our beloved dogs, all of whom we are sure were anxiously awaiting him in heaven. But, his favorite pastime was on the golf course. He played 36 holes in a day well into his 80s. He served as president of Laurel Golf Course for many years, then moved his membership to Peter Yegen Golf Course so he could be on the course in under five minutes! While he delighted in playing well, he was fonder of the friends he made chasing those little white balls around the course.
As a “government man,” he embodied what good government looks like. He was awarded the highest honor of service bestowed by the Department of Interior — The Distinguished Service Award in 1986 — for his many achievements as an effective leader in the management and conservation of public lands, and his extraordinary executive ability and diversified management approach to the complex functions of the Bureau of Land Management. To the dismay of many, he retired in 1989 after 32 years of service. Dad was finally able to return to his beloved Montana with our mom Evelyn to begin retirement back in Billings, where many family members and longtime friends already lived.
Remaining connected with his career, Dad occasionally performed curriculum audits at colleges and universities offering Range Science programs. He also conducted historical land grant and title searches for properties originally plotted out in the post-Civil War years in Montana.
If one were to write the book of his life it would be a tale of true character, Montana fortitude, faith, family, fellowship and fidelity.
After struggling through the passing of his beloved wife Evelyn one year prior, followed by treatment for cancer, and finally, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, our dad passed away on a sunny Saturday morning, April 29, 2017. His daughter, Erika; his son, Fred; and Fred’s wife Kathie were by his side as he achieved his glorious and final destination. Neil was preceded in death by his much loved and devoted wife, Evelyn; parents Frederik and Adeline; his stepfather, Wilbur “Bill” Cummins; and his older brothers, Gerald and Grant.
Neil is immediately survived by his brother, Charles “Chuck” Morck; his son, Frederick (Kathie); and his daughter, Erika Morck.
Dad, we know your body was weary of this world and your spirit has longed to be free roaming the range, dancing with Mom and acing every hole from the tee for some time. We know you were ready for the ultimate glory awaiting you in heaven that you so richly deserve, but we were not. You are greatly missed already. You prepared us well for life. We love you and will carry on in your ways.
A celebration of Neil Morck’s life will be at 11 a.m. Friday, May 5, at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 1108 24th St. W., Billings. A luncheon will follow. Due to construction, parking is available at the far north end of the lot, on Lewis Avenue and on Arnold Lane by Lillis Park. Alley parking is available for those with limited mobility. Please honor Neil with your presence. Memorials may be given to The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd General Fund.