Obituary: Donald Keith Knudsen

The world has never been the same since Donald Keith Knudsen was born on July 6, 1939 in Fort Peck, Montana to Knud and Adeline “Blondie” Knudsen! Sadly, he recently passed away at his home in Stevensville, Montana after suffering complications from Parkinson’s disease. However, Don was the only son, his sisters Viola “Tootsie” Flatt, Diana Kroll and Kaye Hartrick, who made up a large part of his life. Raised on the family farm/ranch in McCabe, Montana, Don always had a love of horses and was an avid rider.

After high school in Froid, Montana, he married Jo Carol Hippe. Their marriage produced daughters Della (Mark) Ehlke and Juli Jo (Larry) Kelly. They later divorced and he later married Kay Beeler. Don and Kay met in the early 1990s and were together until his death. They decided to make it “official” and married in 2020 and lived in Stevensville, MT. Kay was by his side in good times and bad, she was his sole carer throughout his illness to the end.

Don supported his family early in life by working on the oil rigs in eastern MT and Wyoming. He later worked for Frontier Airlines for many years and retired in 1996, which gave him time to pursue his true passion, training racehorses. He had trained horses for many years while on the job, but after his retirement he was able to travel to racecourses throughout the Northwest and Canada and enjoy the sport he loved so much. Some of the many horses he was very proud of were Zippee Stripper, Admirality Cove, Trick Falls, Gray Fortune and Bingo Sue. He has won the Top Coach award many times at various racing events and while humble he was very proud of these achievements. He has trained by his side for many years with his daughter (July Jo) and has many great memories of wins, losses, laughs and fights, but all in all a great experience for both of them!

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010, his life slowed down and there were many changes as he could no longer keep up with the physical activity required for training. It was very difficult for him to leave behind the sport he loved so much.

Living in western Montana for most of his adult life, he was an avid Montana Grizzlies fan, having held season tickets to Lady Griz’s basketball games for years. He was a faithful follower of the Griz football team and made for some interesting conversations between some family members who are Bobcat fans! He’ll be at the front of all Griz games now.

Don is survived by his wife Kay, daughters Della (Mark) Ehlke of Townsend and Juli Jo (Larry) Kelly of Ulm, granddaughters Lacey (Zach) Jepson, Jane’a (Jake) Merkel, and great-grandchildren Maverick and McCoy, all in Townsend . Kay’s two daughters Charity (Gerry) Rondo and Michelle (Bruce) Parks were very involved in his life in his later years, as were their children Elizabeth (Brandon), Nathan (Shelby), Alex (Lane), Joshua (Zach), Jacob (Lauren), Jessica (Devin) and numerous great-grandchildren. Don is also survived by two of his sisters, Kaye Hartick and Diana (Bud) Kroll, and also has numerous nieces and nephews. Don’s cousin, Dick (Jan) Fisher, from Fort Benton, Montana, played a big part in his life and they formed a lifelong friendship.

Don will surely be missed by his family and friends, he was loved by everyone he met due to his kind personality and generosity. His dry humor had everyone laughing and wondering what he was going to say next. Heaven won a great soul, fly high and win some races!

Services are pending, in lieu of flowers donations may be made to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, Bpx 61420, Staten Island, NY 10306

“May your horse never stumble, your girth never break, your belly never growl, and your heart never ache.” (Cowboy Prayer)


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