Sunday, November 22, 2015

STEVEN JESSE BARCUS, Quietly Remarkable

Steven Jesse Barcus, 86, of Browning and a Blackfeet Tribal member, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Benefis Hospital in Great Falls.

A celebration of his life will be held at Mark Lanes in Browning, Saturday, Nov. 21, starting at 2 p.m. and running until 6 p.m. Bring your memories.

Born in Gardiner to Isaac and Roma (Samples) Barcus, he lived most of his life in or around Browning.

Steve was dedicated to helping his community in any way he could. He served on the school board for over 20 years, many of them as chairman. At the same time he served on the town council as Alderman and five terms as Mayor. During all that time he owned and operated Park Lanes for 38 years and raised a family of seven children. He is remembered as a man who cared about the youth in his community.

Steve grew up on the family ranch north of Browning near the Canadian border which was his mother’s original allotment. He learned to rope and ride for the brand and drive a team and rake for haying. He was not impressed with farming in those days of the steel wheel tractor, but he learned to love farming again when he partnered with his son and began driving tractors with cabs and air conditioning. He had numerous pets from an antelope to billy goats to dogs and horses. 

Steve attended grade school in many of the one-room schoolhouses that dotted the north in the 30s and 40s. He attended Browning High and graduated in 1948. While in school he was active in band, football and FFA. After high school he went to work on a contract crew, putting up poles for the electric cooperative. Steve joined the Navy prior to hostilities in Korea. He became an Electrician’s Mate and went to work on a troop transport. He sailed around the world twice before his enlistment ended. Once back home he became a lifelong member of the VFW.

Steve put his Naval education to use and got a job with Glacier Electric Cooperative as a lineman and worked for them for six years. In November 1962, two months after his youngest child was born, Steve made a mistake after a 58-hour shift that cost him his right arm. Reaching out for a live wire, 14,400 volts shot the last 10 inches and coursed through his body, in through his right hand and out the bottom of his left foot blowing a tightly tied work boot off in the process. 

Steve died there on that pole and would have stayed dead had he not fallen 30 feet to the ground. The abrupt stop started his heart again, and thankfully his apprentice, Ron Zuback, performed CPR and transported him to Browning. His right arm was amputated mid forearm, and his left foot had a two inch crater in the bottom. After months of skin grafts and healing Steve left the hospital with a hook for a right hand that in time he could use as well as his other hand. 

Instead of moving to Cut Bank to work at the Co-op’s warehouse, he took a severance package and bought the bowling alley in Browning. What was supposed to be a 10-year plan morphed into a 38-year, 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, 10 months a year obsession. He and Kathy were great bowlers, both having been state champions.

Steve and Kathy spent 38 years teaching Junior bowling and running adult leagues, but he loved to watch Browning teams compete in all high school sports and hoped to make bowling one of them. He loved to watch his children and grandchildren compete in all levels of sports and encouraged sportsmanship in all competition. “Win with honor. Lose with grace,“ was a familiar refrain from him.

He had many friends in his time here on earth.

Steve is survived by his wife of 58 years, Kathleen; and his children, Steven Barcus (Loyce), Daniel Barcus (Alcinda), Colleen Barcus, James Barcus and Donald Barcus (Johnel); his adopted children Will Wood (Jennifer) and Crystal Wood; six grandchildren, Daniel, Jeremy, Katie, Trecia, Katelyn and Jeran; and 12 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sisters Sara Edmo and Carolyn Barcus; a brother, Acel Barcus (Bobbi Jo); brother-in-law, Donald Stevenson (Vicky); and numerous nephews and nieces.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Isaac and Roma Barcus, and his twin brother, Clinton Barcus.


Park Lane, now Mark Lane

The Barcus family was like a lot of us in the Sixties: lived and worked in the business, kept hours from dawn to midnight, and felt lucky if it was work we really liked.  This is not the way people think of "Indians" because they never see the people quietly working indoors.  I'm sure some people thought the Barcuses were "white".  In fact, today they might be classified as "Metis," going on names alone.  Barcus is a Basque name. ( Samples is Scots and before that Norman-French.  ) He was on the school board that hired me in 1961, along with Robert Bremner, Merle Magee, Jerry Rosenberger, and maybe Fred Cobell.  It was a solid panel of sensible people.

Steve Junior married Loyce Pemberton who is now our postmaster in Valier.  I knew her sister back at the beginning of the Seventies when Bill Haw ran the Blackfeet Free School and Sandwich Shop out of the old commodities warehouse.  Dana is now the Human Resource Director.  This is another family very much invested in education.

Loyce and I spent a few moments remembering and smiling over Steve.  She said that if he had a reason to call her, he asked his question, got the answer, and just hung up!  No goodbye or howdy-doo or other fuss.  In his later years he began to say "thank you" at the end and she was startled!

When Steve and Kathy moved to make more room for the family, they were inspired to buy the old square two-story Masonic Lodge on  the town square and remodel it into a unique home.  I was never inside, but even from the outside it was an eye-catcher, full of color and flowers in the narrow yard.

The Park Bowling Alley is now owned by Mark Pollock and called the Mark Bowling Alley.  Only had to change one letter!  Steve Junior is a professional welder who can weld steel frames for skyscrapers, but he and a partner are developing a master welding service at the old Wellman place on highway 89 where it crosses Two Medicine River.  If I remember Loyce right, she said that Steve was born in a little cabin on the Mad Plume ranch and his birth certificate lists his place of birth as "Family."  That meant the closest established place:  "Holy Family Mission" on the river.

Some people travel the world, but the Barcuses stayed home and traveled through time.  1926 is far away now, but Steve didn't waste any time and didn't quit early.

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