The world has never been the same since July 6th, 1939 when Donald Keith Knudsen was born in Fort Peck, Montana to Knud and Adeline “Blondie” Knudsen! Sadly, he recently passed away at his home in Stevensville Montana, after suffering complications of Parkinson’s disease. Don was the only son, however, his sisters Viola “Tootsie” Flatt, Diana Kroll and Kaye Hartrick who were a big part of his life. Being raised on the family farm/ranch in McCabe, Montana, Don has always had a love for horses and was an avid horseman.
After graduating high school from Froid, Montana, he married Jo Carol Hippe. Their marriage resulted in daughters, Della (Mark) Ehlke and Juli Jo (Larry) Kelly. They later divorced, and he went on later in life to marry Kay Beeler. Don and Kay met in the early 1990’s and were together up until his death, they decided to make it “official” and married in 2020, residing in Stevensville, MT. Kay was by his side through the good times and bad, she was his sole caretaker during his sickness, up until the very end.
Don supported his family early in life working on the oil rigs around eastern MT and Wyoming. He later went on to work for Frontier Airlines for many years, and retired in 1996 which allowed him time to pursue his true passion of training race horses. He had trained horses many years while working, but after retirement, it allowed him to travel to ractracks all over the Northwest and Canada and enjoy the sport he loved so much. A few of the many horses that he was very proud of were Zippee Stripper, Admirality Cove, Trick Falls, Grey Fortune and Bingo Sue. He won the “Top Trainer” award many times at various race meets, and although humble, he was very proud of those accomplishments. He spent many years training with his daughter (Juli Jo) alongside him, and made a lot of great memories of wins, losses, laughing and arguing, but all in all a great experience for both!
After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010 his life slowed down and had many changes, as he no longer could keep up with the physical exercise required to train. It was very hard on him to walk away from the sport he loved so much.
Living in western Montana most of his adult life, he was an avid fan of the Montana Grizzlies, having season tickets to the Lady Griz basketball games for years. He followed the Griz football team faithfully, causing some interesting conversations between some family members who are Bobcat fans! He’ll now have a front seat to all of the Griz games.
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 grandsons 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 well as 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 was a big part of his life, and they had a lifelong friendship.
Don will surely be missed by his family and friends, he was loved by everyone he crossed paths with due to his friendly personality, and generosity. His dry sense of humor kept everyone laughing and wondering what he would say next. Heaven gained a great soul, fly high and go win some races!
Services are pending, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to American Parkinson’s Disease Association, Bpx 61420, Staten Island, NY 10306
“May your horse never stumble, your cinch never break, your belly never rumble and your heart never ache.” (Cowboy Prayer)
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