Donald H. Kettner

Thursday, July 12, 2018
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Donald H. Kettner, age 86, of Glendive passed away on Sunday, July 1, 2018 at the Billings Clinic in Billings.

Visitation will be held from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. and from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday, July 13, 2018 at the Silha Funeral Home in Glendive. A Vigil Service will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 13, 2018 at the Silha Funeral Home. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 14, 2018 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Rite of Committal will be held at St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Beach, N.D. Silha Funeral Home of Glendive has been entrusted with the arrangements.

Donald Herman Kettner led a purposeful life. His journey began on July 16, 1931 as a son of Beach (N.D.) to Herman and Sylvia Kettner. Growing up during the Depression years taught him the values of working hard, setting goals and being financially independent, lessons that he carried with him throughout his life.

He began his lengthy educational career at Carroll College where he played football as he pursued his studies in pre-med. However, after less than two years at Carroll, Don enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He spent three years in the Corps, including one year serving as a Forward Observer in the Korean War. Staff Sergeant Donald Kettner was discharged in 1954 after receiving the Korean Service Medal, the U.N. Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. Though his tenure as an active Marine was over, his life as a Marine was not. He utilized the military codes of discipline, loyalty and sacrifice throughout his life. His Marine bulldog tattoo (which matched his personality) became a beacon to fellow service members who never failed to treat him with extra respect and kindness. He also served on the Montana Veterans Affairs Board from 2002-2012, three years as chairman.

Don returned to school and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in English and Physical Education from Dickinson State College. He later earned his Master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Montana and completed his higher education doctoral research at Montana State University. He began his career in education in Outlook, Mont. where he was the principal, athletic director and coach. In 1959 Don became the assistant superintendent and athletic director at St. Mary’s High School in New England, N.D. In 1962 he accepted a job at Dawson Community College (DCC) in Glendive where he stayed for 37 years. He began as a psychology and English instructor, coach and athletic director and methodically rose to assistant dean, registrar, then vice-president and finally president. He guided DCC (his fifth child) through some of its most successful years and there is no one that could convince Don that his little community college was no less important than any large university. He lobbied ferociously for funding, new programs, accreditation and student acquisitions. He was instrumental in adding dormitories and the Ullman Center to DCC’s growing campus. Don retired in 1999 due to health concerns, and proudly took on his title of President Emeritus. Shortly after his retirement, Kettner Dormitory was dedicated to him.

On a personal note, Don married twice, the first time to Vyonne Oech in 1956, and the second time to Elaine Marty in 1970. His first marriage blessed him with four children: Audrey, Lesley, Mike and Pat; and his second gave him two step-children: Tulli and Alan. Don worked hard to provide for his growing family, enforcing the importance of education, family, reputation, faith and financial responsibility in each of them. Later, Judy Thompson became his sweetheart and in 1999 his forever fiancée. Don truly enjoyed the companionship and friendship he shared with Judy, either on cruises to faraway destinations, tossing (and occasionally taking) some coins at Maddhatters Casino or just relaxing on her patio. After nearly 20 years of engagement, when questioned why he and Judy had not yet tied the knot, Don would reply that they didn’t want to rush into anything. She lovingly referred to him as her Little Stubborn German Marine. Judy and her three daughters Cheryl, Kelley and Jodi were indeed beloved family members.

Throughout Don’s life he set goals, he worked hard, he sacrificed and he expected the same from those around him. He raised six children, influenced countless number of students, athletes, educators and congressmen. He believed in the power of prayer, in giving back to one’s community, in standing for the American flag, never backing down from a challenge and the calming effect of a nip of brandy now and then. Don had a quick wit, a crooked smile and the heart of a buccaneer.

Don is survived by his four children: Audrey Nowlin of Glendive, Lesley (Rod) Gibbs of Fallon, Mike (Stacie) Kettner of Meridian, Idaho and Pat (Sherri) Kettner of Glendive; six grandchildren: Kelsey (Chris) Gibbs Crawford of Fallon, Beau Gibbs of Glendive, Ryan (Lora) Kettner of Kettle Falls, Wash., Callie (Matt) Kettner Miller of Kuna, Idaho, and Dalton and Savannah Kettner of Glendive; four greatgrandchildren: R’delle Crawford, Coraline Kettner, and Kaden and Kash Miller; one sister: Shirley (Jerry) Fischer of Bismarck, N.D.; and his fiancée, Judy Thompson of Glendive.

Don was preceded in death by his parents, Herman and Sylvia Kettner; step-father, James Eldridge; and his brother, Robert Kettner.

Donations or memorials may be made to the DCC Kettner Family Scholarship, our local VFW or to the blood drive of your choice.

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