Peter Geil BOVINGDON April 3, 1969 – June 25, 2021. Peter Geil Bovingdon died peacefully at home on June 25th after a noble fight against brain cancer. He was surrounded by his family, including his two beloved dogs, Pancho and Lefty, who were vigilant to the end.
Peter was born in Seattle, Washington in 1969 where he grew up in the Laurelhurst neighborhood at the edge of Lake Washington with a childhood marked by long summers spent swimming and sailing. He moved to Montana in 1995 for law school, met and fell in love with his wife, Ali, a law school classmate and Chinook, MT native, and quickly made Big Sky Country his new home. He was a graduate of Colorado College, and he earned his law degree at the University of Montana, in Missoula.
A lawyer on the side of good causes, Peter got his start in the legal profession as a law clerk for Montana District Court Judge James Purcell before moving to the Public Defender’s office, representing people before the court who could not afford legal counsel. Peter was dedicated to his clients and saw their fundamental humanity through the difficulty of their circumstances. After leaving the Public Defender’s office, Peter went on to be an Assistant Attorney General, while also contracting with the state to represent abused and neglected children in Lewis and Clark County. Work for which Peter was recognized with a community service award in 2008.
Peter also worked for the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, teaching constitutional law in the classroom and high-speed pursuit driving on the track, where he enjoyed besting the lap times of his students and earning their respect—enough respect to get them to listen to him in the classroom where he was a natural born teacher. Most recently Peter was the Chief Legal Counsel for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Just before he took ill, Peter helped lead an investigation into a troubled youth home found to have a history of abuse of children. Through his investigation, Peter helped secure the permanent revocation of the facility’s license to operate. This achievement was one of the largest child protection efforts in the state of Montana, spanning teams from local law enforcement, the Montana Department of Justice, local prosecutors, and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.
Peter was a devoted father, a husband, a friend, and an accomplished lawyer. He was also thrilled by the world and had an adventurer’s spirit. He earned his pilot’s license in college and went on to become a helicopter pilot, a hang glider, and even a crop duster on the North Fork of Long Island, NY. He was a diehard skier – in fact, he was a lobbyist for the Montana state ski industry. It seemed Peter couldn’t even take a lobbyist job without it being for a good cause. He was a newspaper columnist, an art enthusiast, and an accomplished guitarist. He relished expression through words, music, and art and would often play guitar and sing with the kids on his frequent family-and-friends ski trips. He was a motorcyclist, a sailor, a lacrosse player, a skateboarder, and a mountain biker. If it could go fast and made him feel alive, he would want to try it. And if his brow was a little sweaty in the office it wasn’t from the pressures of work, more likely it was due to mountain biking in the hills behind the state capitol building in Helena. His route through the trails timed perfectly to squeeze the most out of his lunch hour.
Peter had a prodigious memory and an unrivaled sense of humor – two superpowers he would combine to great effect. He often would tell funny stories, describing events in detail that even people who were present had forgotten, and in the process crack up everyone in the room. He had a special ability to place himself in time and recall things as if it were yesterday. His detailed recollections of his youth not only made him a powerful advocate for children, but also made him a natural philosopher. He would ask, why do the thoughts of lives unlived hold us back from doing what we can in the moment? What prevents us from seeing what is before us? Why do we try to postpone happiness until some unrealized future point in time? Peter lived his life to minimize those lives unlived. He created for himself a life at once both of adventure and of dedication to those he loved and those he felt he could help – a balancing act few can achieve.
Peter’s greatest adventure was his daughter Gillian. Whether rock-climbing, mountain biking, playing songs, or watching her karate lessons, he wanted a life full of challenge and fun for her. After years of encouragement and cajoling, just before his illness last fall, Peter watched Gilly achieve her black belt. His affection for- and pride in- his daughter was ever present.
Peter is survived by his wife of 21 years, Ali Sheppard Bovingdon, his daughter, Gillian Bovingdon of Helena, his sister, Margaret Bovingdon and Margaret’s husband Jamie Moran of Seattle; his niece Pliny Stevens of New York City, his brother Gardner Bovingdon, Gardner’s wife Sara and daughter Maddie, of Bloomington, Indiana, and his mother Margaret Gardner Judson of Seattle. He is also survived by many loving extended family members in Montana. He was preceded in death by his father, George Bovingdon, who died in 1995. A memorial service is to be held at Great Divide Ski Area on Saturday September 11th from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children) of Lewis and Clark and Broadwater Counties.