On the rainy afternoon of April 28, 2017, my dad, Tom Uzelac, left for heaven at the age of 93. True to the tough and resilient qualities of his generation, he waited until he could celebrate his 66th wedding anniversary with my mom, Vera.
He began his life on April 4, 1924, in Red Lodge, as the second of five children born to Joe and Mary Uzelac. As many other children born during the Depression, he started working at a very young age to help support the family. When he wasn’t delivering groceries, picking beans, shoveling snow or painting the roofs of the Red Lodge tourist park cabins, you could find him fly fishing on the West Fork of Rock Creek, or, more than likely, smoking discarded cigarette butts and wreaking a little havoc on the streets of Red Lodge. He graduated from Carbon County High and immediately entered the Army in June of 1943, spending his entire service time at the Wheeler Field near Pearl Harbor. Upon his return to Red Lodge, his beautiful blue eyes caught the attention of my mom, Vera Jurovich, and they were married on April 21, 1952. They made their home in Billings, where he became employed at the Conoco Refinery, eventually retiring after 30 years of service.
He was a quiet man with a kind heart, loyal and reliable. You could trust him with a secret and call him if you needed help. He taught us to appreciate the value in all things recycled. A piece of wire, a spool of twine or a scrap of wood, all found a place in his meticulously organized garage. We teased him about it, but now we all do it too! He enjoyed Early Times with club soda, a big plate of hot spaghetti, anything with sauerkraut and lemon meringue pie. He loved his grandchildren, Brittie and Tanner, and was his happiest listening to their stories and watching them grow up.
He is survived by his wife, Vera; his daughter, Vicki Halseth, son-in-law Eric and grandchildren Britt and Tanner Halseth; his sister, Dorothy Uzelac; sister-in-law Dodgie Jurovich; his nieces, MaryJo Woods (Ernie), Jaye Uzelac (Mark), Joanie Cotter; and nephews Joe Uzelac (Kathy) and John Uzelac (Pam).
We will miss you terribly, Dad, but we know that you are having a wonderful reunion with your parents; your sister, Emma; your brothers, Jim and Joe; and nephew Jim Cotter.
It’s impossible to thank all of those who helped my dad in his later years, but his hospice nurse, Alescia of RiverStone Hospice was a true gem, as was Dr. Duval and his nurse Kelly at the Billings Clinic.
His funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 4, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave.