Albert Lester “Les” Vining, 96, passed away peacefully at home on Aug. 21, 2017.
Les was born in Billings, Montana, on January 20, 1921; adopted on March 20, 1922 by his parents Albert Levi Vining and Lillian Winnifred Brown in Flathead County; and raised in Havre and Whitefish, graduating from Whitefish High School in 1939. Les enjoyed the great outdoors: golfing at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course; quarterbacking for the Whitefish Bulldogs football team; racing hydro class powerboats on Whitefish Lake with his best friend Ray Markus; fishing; hunting; and snowshoeing to cabins near Hell Roaring Creek to enjoy skiing on Big Mountain. He began working for the Great Northern Railway in 1937, where his father was employed as the Chief Clerk. Les devoted his life’s work to the railroad, working in Whitefish, Glasgow, Great Falls, Havre and Greybull, Wyoming, before retiring in 1979 as a Road Foreman/Traveling Engineer with the Burlington Northern Railroad.
In retirement, Les moved to Missoula, worked part-time for Camp Well Drilling and then retired fully. Les was a Mason, past Worthy Patron of Immanuel Chapter No. 54, O.E.S., and a member of the Scottish Rite, Kalif Shrine Temple and Missoula Bitty Bug Patrol.
As a veteran of the U.S. Army, Les first joined the National Guard after high school, enlisting on Sept. 5, 1940. As an experienced skier, he served in the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, the first American regiment of mountain troops which, as part of the 10th Mountain Division, trained on the snow-covered slopes of Mount Rainier. He obtained his pilot’s license at Hancock College of Aeronautics, transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps at Fort Morgan, Colorado, and later completed glider school at Albuquerque Army Air Base (Kirtland Army Air Field). As a member of the 95th Troop Carrier Squadron and 440th Troop Carrier Group, Les was a radio operator and mechanic assigned to WWII campaigns in Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. He often spoke of his time in Orléans, France, and visited France and England with family in 2008. Les attained the rank of Staff Sergeant and was honorably discharged on Sept. 8, 1945.
After WWII, Les earned his bachelors of science degree in electrical engineering from the Indiana Institute of Technology in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he also worked as a Brink’s security guard. As a child of the Depression and a member of the Greatest Generation, Les had a strong work ethic and demonstrated skill in his employment, especially in clearing train derailments, even when the terrain and weather presented significant challenges. He was a handyman, skilled at repairing and remodeling, and enjoyed tinkering with cars, guns, and reading. He looked forward to summer vacations, traveling and camping with family. In Glasgow, he was a league bowler; in Missoula, he golfed in the “Geritol League” at the UM Golf Course.
On March 12, Les celebrated 57 years of marriage to his wife, Phyllis Carmen Curry Vining, who survives him, along with his daughter, Barbara Leslie (Mike) Halligan of Missoula, and three sons, born of his first wife, Marian Lucille DeYoung: Richard Lester (Ruby) Vining, Olympia, Washington; Bruce Albert Vining (Yvonne Villanueva), Watsonville, California; Brett Alan (Karol) Vining, Pasco, Washington. He is survived by grandchildren: Michael Andrew Halligan, Lansing, Michigan; John Patrick Halligan, Missoula, Ryan Christopher Halligan, Campbell, California; Richelle Vining (Manuel Gonzalez), Olympia, Washington; David (Michelle) Steele, Watsonville, California; Christina Steele, Watsonville, California; Amber (Larry) Barker, Ceres, California; Daniel Joseph (Dallas Yuhas-Vining) Vining, Omaha, Nebraska; Lisa (Bruce) Kudrna, Havre, Montana; Tracy (Jason) Bartosik, Helena, Montana; and great-grandchildren: Allen Keefe, Andrew Keefe, Paul Santos, Alysa Santos, Nash Steele, Kassie (Curt) Leeds, Lindsey Kudrna, Tylor Bartosik, and Oscar, Vivian, Abram and Cleo Yuhas-Vining; cousin Jeanne Irene Vining, Whitefish; and cousins by marriage, Georgia “Tiny” Vining and Phyllis E. Vining, Great Falls.
He was preceded in death by his parents; Vining uncles Frank (Margaret), Perlie “Paul” (Louise), Robert (Helen), Thomas (Esther) and Walter (Arlene); Vining cousins Robert “Bob,” Lay (Jenny), Tom, Dorothy Frank and Marjorie Preston; and grandsons Jeffrey Bruce Ivan Vining and Thomas Andrew Halligan.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017 at 3 p.m. at Garden City Funeral Home, Missoula. A graveside service with military honors will be held at Highland Cemetery in Havre, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 at 2 p.m. Memorials may be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children or a charity of the donor’s choice.