ST. IGNATIUS — Steve Clairmont was born on June 30, 1942, to Alexander Alphonse (Sam) and Vuelta (Bella) Clairmont in St. Ignatius. He grew up in Dixon at the Tribal Agency and was a proud member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana. After graduation, he spread his wings with a trip to California to fight fire on the Las Priotis fire crew out of Los Angeles under the supervision of Howard E. Marino, a WW2 boxer. This is where he found his calling in Fire and Aviation and after one year on that fire crew, he joined up with the Missoula Smokejumpers in 1962. After 32 years of service, he retired in 1994 with a record 504 career jumps. However, retirement couldn’t keep him away from the lifelong bond and friendships formed with his band of brothers. He continued with work at the smokejumper base, packing and loading until 2015, and rarely missed a Jumper reunion or Rookie party.
Along with fighting fires throughout the continental U.S. and Alaska, Steve traveled thousands of miles around the state of Montana, Idaho and the Dakotas recruiting youth in small towns and reservations for careers in smoke jumping. He gained career recognition with these accomplishments and also designed a mechanism and parachute that enabled the safe dispatch of cargo from an aircraft for deployment.
Steve enjoyed many outdoor activities: wood cutting, fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, and competing with his son on who would find the most morel mushrooms. He also enjoyed a good game of cribbage. He was an aerial consultant for Steven Spielberg for the movie, “Always” in the 1990s. As an avid skier and a powder lover on his “fat boy” skis, he enjoyed the skiing culture and community that enriched his life in so many ways. He also enjoyed handcrafting custom petroglyphs on Montana flagstone inspired by images he discovered on his many travels. He spent his summers fishing the Flathead River and was lucky to be on hand to save a boy from drowning in 2004. Physical fitness was a priority in his retirement. He worked out every day at the local fitness center where he met new friends and other retired jumpers. They made working out a raucous party!
Steve loved and married Catherine Louise Doney and had four beautiful children: Christian (deceased in 1965), Craig (wife Tanya), Tracy (husband David) and Joan (husband Kirk).
He enjoyed taking his children fishing and at times would carry all three at once (one on each hip and the youngest on his shoulders) across a knee deep river crossing on the backwaters of the Flathead and Jocko Rivers without hesitation. His children developed a passion for the rivers and lakes as well as the wilderness and outdoors just like their father.
He later met and married the love of his life, Terry Puckett, during the 1986 fire season. After retiring from the Forest Service, Steve and Terry moved to the Flathead Indian Reservation at St. Ignatius. They enjoyed summer trips to Glacier Park and surrounding areas near home on their Can-Am motorcycle. They built a life in the Mission Valley and treasured 33 wonderful years together.
Steve is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren: Ethan (wife Sara), Joselyn (“Josie”), Lauren, Riley, Silas, Elias (deceased), Caleb, twin great-grandsons, Alex and Ben Shotts, and siblings: Jane, Carol (husband Ron), Jim (wife Judy), and Wendy.
Steve passed away on December 6, 2018 after a hard fought battle with complications due to pancreatic cancer and diabetes.
Condolences may be sent to www.thelakefuneralhomeandcremation.com. In lieu of flowers, Steve wished to have donations made to the National Smokejumper Association Scholarship Fund, the American Diabetes Association or toward Pancreatic Cancer Research.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Spring 2019 with his smokejumper brethren, friends and family along with a Rolling Thunder motorcycle tribute. Arrangements are under the care of The Lake Funeral Home and Crematory.