Harold (Red, Hal, Wit) Francis Witman was born June 6, 1924, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the second of four sons born to Edwin and Mary Frances (Grose) Witman. His father was a Methodist minister, and he was raised in parsonages across central Pennsylvania during the Great Depression.
He served in the Army Air Corps in a meteorology program during World War II, and was stationed first at Denison University, and then in Lincoln, Nebraska, before spending a year on Ascension Island. After his honorable discharge, he earned a B.S. in Education at Penn State University, followed by a Master of Science. At the Wesley Foundation, he met Carole Billstein, who was studying horticulture, and they were married on Aug. 14, 1948, in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Their devoted partnership lasted 71 years as they made homes and friendships across the country and raised four daughters. Their final move was to Billings in 2011.
He was a math and science teacher and educator. He invested himself in the lives of his students, and never failed to ask the wait staff at Mission Ridge Retirement Community about their classes and their dreams.
He loved the natural world — trees, mountains, wilderness — and thought it was his duty as an American citizen to show his kids the country. Family vacations were spent camping in national parks and exploring new places. He loved hiking, backpacking and mountain climbing, including Mt. Rainier and the highest peaks in the Cascade Range.
He enjoyed working with wood. Over the years he made several pieces of furniture, grandfather clocks, shelves, cabinets … and the canes that he used on his daily walks into his 90s. He appreciated his tools and his ability to fix things.
He loved to read, particularly American history, with an endless curiosity about the world. He was a student of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and had a singular respect for Sacajawea.
He was proud of his daughters’ education and accomplishments.
He loved a good joke, ice cream and Hershey’s chocolate.
He grieved the loss of his beloved wife Carole on Dec. 15, 2019, and spent the last few months, in his words, taking care of business. After a week in hospice care, he died peacefully on Sunday, March 29, 2020. He is survived by his daughters, Marjorie, Cynthia (Curt) Wrinkle, Nancy (Ken Obenauf) and Jan (Gary Geiman); his grandchildren, Karl Slagle, Michael Slagle, Rachael (David) Weasley, Sarah Witman (Dan Melamed), Luke (Katie) Obenauf; and one great-grandson, Zeke Weasley. He is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Henry and Louise Witman of Northfield, Minnesota; sister-in-law Carolyn Witman of Greensboro, North Carolina; and several nieces and nephews.
Memorials to Hope United Methodist Church, PO Box 50066, Billings, MT 59105; or the Faith and Leadership Fund (employee scholarship fund) with St. John’s United Foundation, 2429 Mission Way, Billings, MT 59102; or a scholarship of your choice.
Memorial service for Harold Witman will be at 10 a.m. Friday, July 24, at Hope United Methodist Church in Billings Heights.
Due to COVID restrictions, please RSVP to email@example.com as we will be limiting the gathering to 50 people; there will be no reception, and masks are expected.