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Wolf Point’s Gary Flaten Remembered

Wolf Point’s Gary Flaten Remembered Wolf Point’s Gary Flaten Remembered

Monday, Nov. 13, 1980, started like many others for Gary Flaten of Wolf Point ... until an explosion at the Montana State Highway Department took his life and the life of truck driver Raymond Morgan of Billings.

The explosion took place at about 9:25 a.m. and occurred while Morgan was offloading two tanks of MC 250 liquid asphalt into storage tanks at the highway department, reported The Herald-News in an article published at the time. An accumulation of fumes was believed to be the cause of the explosion at the time. Flaten, who was 38 at the time of his death, was thrown 40 feet from the truck when the first tank blew and the rear end of the cylindrical tank was blown off.

His widow, Arlene (née Olson, now Doornek), remembers the day vividly. “The tragedy of that day and the many that followed are a surreal blur,” she said. “Nov. 13, 1980, began like any other day for Gary, who had worked for the Highway Department for 11 years. Work for him, a vacation day for me to entertain Gary’s parents who just happened to be visiting from Libby where they lived; and school for our two children, Jeff, age 15, and Janna, age 12.”

“The last thing I expected after hearing the explosion that morning at 9:25 a.m. was to have Roosevelt County Sheriff Don Carpenter knock on the door of our home to tell me he was sorry that Gary had just lost his life in a tank explosion at the Montana Highway Department yard in Wolf Point,” Arlene recalled.

“Support from my family and friends and the love of my children helped sustain and comfort us during the days, weeks and years that followed. Time has healed the pain of that tragic day, and my faith and trust in the providence of our loving God has helped to keep me centered,” Arlene said.

He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Flaten. He was raised and educated in Wolf Point, graduating from Wolf Point High School in 1960.

His favorite leisure activities included hunting, fishing and boating.

Bill Juve, a former coworker who had worked with him on several road projects, said he was a great guy and a lot of fun to be around. “Gary was always the life of the road crew,” Juve said.

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