MISSOULA — On Tuesday, December 18, 2018, we lost our father. He passed from congestive heart failure at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana.
Wesley Harrison Gander was born to Harry and Harriet Gander of Corvallis, on Feb. 8, 1928. He was the fourth of four children, Kathleen, Gilbert, Josephine and Wesley. He attended Corvallis schools and graduated in 1945 at age 17. He enlisted in the Naval Reserves in July 1945, and was called up in September. He served on the USS Iowa which sailed for Japan in January 1946, and was a member of the occupation troops in Japan. He was awarded two medals during his service (American Area Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal). Upon his return, he returned to the Naval Reserves and was discharged in July 1954.
On Sept. 19, 1949, he married Phyllis Jean Boding of Hamilton. They had three children, Ross Alan, Colleen Kay, and Maureen Jo. He worked various jobs as a body and fender man, forest firefighter and truck driver, and the family moved to Missoula in 1955. He was employed by Community Creamery (which became Meadow Gold) for 15 years. After leaving Meadow Gold, he worked for Western Transport (Denny Washington Company) and other truck fleet companies. He divorced in 1966. He remarried three times after that. He worked in Soda Springs, Idaho, for a time, then returned to Missoula. He also worked for Dixon Bros., Inc. until he retired in 1991. He was working in western Washington the day Mount St. Helens blew and took amazing pictures of that event. As a young man, he enjoyed hunting and fishing. As a young father, he enjoyed taking his family to Seeley and Flathead lakes for weekends and liked giving everyone on the beach a boat ride or waterski trip. In later life, he was always bowling on a league. He was crazy about airplanes from second grade on and obtained two pilot licenses. He entered the Navy with the desire to become an airplane mechanic, but was placed on a ship instead. He liked attending air shows and would travel across country to do so. He had a great sense of humor that lasted his entire life.
He is survived by his children (Ross Gander, Colleen Mattson and Maureen Moya) and five grandchildren (Lara Mattson-Radle of Missoula, Amy Rombyer of Broomfield, Colorado, Levi Mattson of Billings, Evan (and Emily) Gander of Seattle, and Stacy (and Mattei) Mitaru of Portland, Oregon, and five great-grandchildren (Logan and Kieran Mattson-Radle of Missoula, Leo and Maxwell Mitaru of Portland, Oregon, and Adah Gonitzke of Billings). Also, surviving him are his sister, Jo, six nieces and a nephew and their children.
Cremation will be handled by Brothers Mortuary of Hamilton and his remains will lay at rest in the Bitterroot. There is no memorial service scheduled. Please donate to an aviation charity of your choice listed on flyingmag.com/resources/aviation-charities if you are so inclined.
Brothers Mortuary and Crematory are honored to care for the family. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at brothersmortuary.com.