In memory of

Donald R. Snell, age 65 of Choteau

February 4, 1948 – June 4, 2013

Don-Richard Snell, 65, of Choteau, Montana passed away June 4, 2013 at the Fort Harrison VA Hospital in Helena, Montana from a prolonged illness.  A private funeral for family and close friends is to be held at a later date.


He was born February 4, 1948 in a taxi in Riverside, California to Verlane and Jean Snell and was raised in Bloomington, Minnesota.


Graduating from John F. Kennedy High School, he chose to enlist in the United States Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam in 1966.  After recovering from numerous injuries he joined the United States Air Force and returned to Vietnam, serving there until 1974.  Following the war, he worked at Malmstrom Air Force Base where he met and married his wife.  He later would Interservice Transfer to the United States Navy.


While he served his nation for 22 years and 10 months he was awarded the Purple Heart, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with one Star, a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device, a Marine Corps Rifle Marksman Badge, a Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, a Combat Action Ribbon, a Presidential Unit Citation, an Air Force Good Conduct medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with two Oak Leaf Clusters, an Air Force Overseas Long Tour Ribbon,  an Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon with three Oak Leaf Clusters, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal with three Stars, Six Navy/Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbons, a Navy Good Conduct Medal, and a Navy Unit Commendation.


He also received a Master’s Degree in Theology from the University of Tokyo.


He retired from the United States Navy with his family in 1988 to Montana to continue his love of fly fishing.  He was also a movie and music fanatic and collector of models, tools, and toys representing cars far too expensive for him to own.  In order to cope with PTSD he became quite the military historian.


He joined the American Legion shortly before his death and was a proud member of 2/5 Marines’ Hotel Company and the Disabled American Veterans Association.


He is preceded in death by his mother and father, Jean and Verlane Snell; brother, Charles Snell; two sisters, Pam Matsunada and Debbie Snell; wife and son, Ahn and Kim Snell.


He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Heather Snell; two sons, Dominick and Don-Vincent Snell; daughter, Savina Snell and grandson, Alexander Snell.


Military honors with interment will take place at a later date. Memorial donations may be sent in Don’s name to Disabled American Veterans Association, 3405 1st Ave N, Great Falls, MT 59401 ; the VA Medical Center, 3687 Veterans Dr., Fort Harrison, MT 59636 or to the Liberty House Foundation, PO Box 81, Fort Harrison, MT 59636. To offer a condolence or share a memory of Don, please visit below.


Read the thoughts and memories, then feel free to add your own.

  1. Savina Snell says:

    Love you dad. Miss you. You were always so wonderful, even if I didn’t see it right away, and you were so strong. I know you’re looking out for everyone now. Rest easy old man.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Dear Doc,
    I have enjoyed our friendship over the years, early on nobody could make me laugh or cry like you. You will be greatly missed, good bye ole friend, rest easy. Thank you for your treasured friendship, and support, and for believing in me when few others did.

  3. Tim Snell says:

    Don went by other names in our home growing up in Minnesota, Butch and Rammer. Not sure why we called him Butch but Rammer was because he and another brother ” Chuck ” had a misunderstanding that led to Don ramming Chuck through a glass shower door. Make no mistake, we grew up in a very loving home, I don’t remember a day that our parent didn’t say they loved us and no one came between family. Don kept that love alive in his own home too. He adored his family and friends too, he would always share stories of love and laughter about them.
    Don was and always will be my brother and I will miss him dearly.
    Rest easy brother, and may your next journey be filled with love and laughter too.

  4. Doc —–
    Son, Brother, Cousin, Nephew, Uncle, Husband, Father, Dad,
    Butch, Rammer, Donald, Don, Snake, Sweety, My Love, all were him.
    He was a force.
    Beloved and Remembered always.
    Especially by me and ours.
    No more pain no more worries.

  5. Dan Elkin says:

    Doc was a brother-in-law with few words when on the phone with me. Most of the time it was a quick joke for me then would say “You didn’t call to talk to me here is your sister” Gonna miss him and his jokes. He is feeling no more pain now. Thank you again brother for serving our country with so much valor. I know you will be watching us now and keeping us all safe.

  6. Cathy Wilson says:

    I met Heather when we were both in the dorm in Great Falls, MT. We hit it off right away. When she met and married Doc, we hit it off, too. I really enjoyed visiting with them. He introduced me to saki. Their son, Dominick, was the first baby I ever held. I was very glad to be able to spend some time with Doc and Heather this past summer. Heather, you picked a good one!

  7. from sweetie to babe 35 today miss ya still and always love ya
    3 months gone and we are still here it is difficult ups and downs
    remember us my love

  8. Savina Snell says:

    Happy birthday Daddy. I miss you so much.

  9. Heather says:

    hi Babe the day has come and gone rest in peace it was a day full of surprises a wonderful day we were all there Josh Tiff Adam James and kids Judy Cathy Mary Zan Jean and us miss you love you what a day Babe see you soon me

  10. Savina Snell says:

    A whole year gone Dad. Miss you a lot. Had quite the turnout! You must have gotten really popular after I left. Keep smiling old man. You’ll always be in our prayers. And hey, I’ll see you when the cows come home right? Go fishing with Grandpa while you’re up there. We left you some flies so you better put them to good use.

  11. Mike Esterley says:

    Heather and family
    I hesitated to add this note at this late date as I didn’t want to open healing wounds, but I felt compelled to say “Thanks” to Don for serving our country for so long. We just found out about his death while trying to find our classmates from 1966 with whom we have lost contact in preparation for our 50th reunion next year. Reading the obituary and loving comments from family and friends convinced me to add our note. Don will be missed at our 50th and we will send out a notification of his passing to both Kennedy and Lincoln classes of 1966 as he had friends in both.
    Mike Esterley,
    Reunion committee member

  12. So.. Sunday is Father’s day. This month has sucked… a lot. It hurt a lot… I can’t believe it’s been 4 years. I know i keep leaving stupid notes on here, but I can’t make it out to see you so this is all I’ve got for now.

    I miss you daddy. Jesse and I got our own place. You’d have loved to meet him. He’s a big fan of Anime. He and I have a couple cats. One of them is a ginger and white like Misty, go figure right? Can’t seem to get away from orange kitty cats. Mason’s a long haired Main Coone. He looks like a toasted marshmallow. But it’s like petting Miss Kitty all over again with how fluffy he is and how much he sheds!

    You’d be so proud dad. I held a crappy retail job for 11 months… now I work at a zoo! And I love it. I love where I work. Everyone’s so nice. I even managed to drag my GPA up for school. I have ONE more term left, just one and I’ll have my bachelor’s! And.. then Grad School.

    I miss you so much.

    Say hello to Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, Big Nana, Papa, Big Papa, Aunt Pam, Uncle Chuck, and the cats for me. If you see my boys Yuki and Sidney and Gizmo up there, tell them I miss them.

    Love you.

  13. hi babe I can not stop thinking about saying how I talk to you and think of you at least once a day or night or more. I miss all the times we had. It is lonely but I do what needs to do. The kids are adults and doing well. Very independent and independent just like you. They are genki desu. I miss you very much but time keeps going on for me I love ya babe.

  14. Your Chubby Cherub says:

    Soon it will be 4 years now. Not a day goes by that you aren’t missed. Your voice is fading and the face is getting fuzzier. May will be tough.

    But I feel you there. I felt you walking with me down the courthouse as I got married. I felt you hold me on stage as I graduated with my BA in Psychology. I felt you as you ushered me into my job and got me through one year at the place I love working at.

    It’s getting harder to remember the small things. The little moments or gestures you did. But sometimes I make something that you used to make, that you showed me to make… and I know you’re never really gone.

    I’m sorry and I miss you.

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