VICTOR – A favorite Bitterroot son, Steve Powell, was lain to rest in the Victor Cemetery on Sunday, April 21 following an admirable life highlighted by a love for his family, friendships, and nature.
Born in Hamilton on April 22, 1951 to L.M. and Colleen Powell, Steve was a fourth generation Bitterrooter and graduated from Hamilton High School in 1969, finishing his high school career with a trip to the national debate tournament in Washington, D.C.
Steve married, Maureen Munoz, in 1973 and in 1987 adopted their daughter, Charlotte.
Steve attended Stanford University where he made friendships that lasted his entire life. Out of the Stanford years grew the Big Sky Mudflaps, Steve’s band of nearly 40 years, a passion and artistic outlet he shared with Maureen. The “rollickingly rural punch” of Steve’s chords on the piano was heard throughout Montana and the country, including two appearances on NBC’s Today Show.
He learned to survey from his father and continued Powell Surveying for four decades. Steve’s flowing signature can be seen on property deeds in the chain of title to nearly every property in the valley, a unique, lasting imprint on the valley’s history. His many survey clients soon learned Steve’s love for the Bitterroot Valley, for people, and for solving land use challenges made him much more than a hired professional. Steve was a trusted advisor, friend and counselor to many Bitterroot families.
Steve spent his life’s energy immersed in activities he was passionate about: Skiing fresh powder, hiking, boating, and community building. His commitment to the Bitterroot Valley led him to election as a Ravalli County Commissioner, serving from 1989 to 1994. Steve’s life and influence created many close friends. He delighted in connecting the people in his life with one another, constantly intermingling friends from his personal and professional lives; drawing people together.
A master listener, diplomat, and communicator, Steve’s innate sense of perspective and vision for his community was evident in his many volunteer engagements. Steve was a long-time member of the Lost Trail Ski Patrol, a member of the Nordic Ski Patrol, and sat on many boards, including the Teller Wildlife Refuge, Literacy Bitterroot, and a regional transportation management association (iRide). Steve’s love for the natural landscapes of the Bitterroot Valley led him to help found the Bitter Root Land Trust in 1997, providing farmers and ranchers an option for keeping their lands undeveloped, working, and in the family. Steve served the Land Trust in every conceivable capacity: Founder, Board President, Executive Director, Lands Program Director, moral compass, and guiding visionary. The legacy of open spaces, working agriculture, and wildlife habitat he leaves behind is one of Steve’s greatest, lasting gifts to our community.
Steve is survived by his wife of 40 years, Maureen; his daughter, Charlotte; parents, L.M. and Colleen Powell; sister, Diana Simpson (Rick); and many nieces and nephews.
Steve taught so many people how to gracefully, humbly, and fully approach living and dying. He will continue to be loved and missed by an entire community.
The family suggests memorials in Steve’s honor be made to the Bitter Root Land Trust to perpetuate Steve’s lifelong commitment to the landowners, landscapes, residents, and wide open spaces of the Bitterroot.
A memorial gathering and potluck for Steve is planned for Friday, April 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the St. Francis Parish Center, 411 S. Fifth St. in Hamilton. People wishing to join Steve’s family for a walk along the river can meet at 4 p.m. at the Demmons Fishing Access Site at the Main Street bridge.