Don Gardner Despain

Don Gardner Despain

Dec. 21, 1940 – May 23, 2022

Don Gardner Despain, 81, died May 23, 2022, surrounded by family in Billings after a long illness. 

He was born December 21, 1940, in Lovell to Lillian Gardner Despain and Daniel Gordon Despain. 

Don attended Lovell Elementary School and Lovell High School before graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1965. He was awarded a master’s degree from the University of Arizona in 1967 and continued his studies at the University of Illinois and the University of Alberta, where he was awarded a doctorate in 1972. In the summer of 1972 he did post-doctoral work on Devon Island in the Arctic.

While at the University of Wyoming he met Almira Burton, and they were married August 28, 1964, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Geological Survey, focusing on plant ecology and fire behavior in Yellowstone Park from October 1972 until his retirement in January of 2004. He was recognized as a leader in scientific research, understanding the place of wildfires in natural ecology.

He was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and led congregations in Gardiner and Bozeman, Montana. He served missions for the church in North Germany, 1961-1963, at the Freiberg Germany Temple, 2012-2014, and Frankfurt Germany Temple, 2014-2016.

He was preceded in death by his parents and an infant child, Daniel. 

He is survived by his wife, Almira; children Duane (Rebecca) Despain of Albuquerque, Amy (Tom) Beatty of Spanish Fork, Utah, Wendy (Giles) Schildt of Seattle, Linnaea (Isaac) Sutphin of Cheyenne, Devin (Susan) Despain of Billings, Eric (Julia) Despain of Saratoga Springs, Utah, Jordon (Andrea) Despain of Wenatchee, Washington; nine granddaughters; and 16 grandsons. 

His funeral will be held June 10 at 11 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 912 Wicks Lane, Billings. Services will be streamed online at: https://youtube/7RXvSne-we4.

Memorials can be made to Big Sky Senior Services, 935 Lake Elmo Drive, Suite B, Billings, MT 59105 or Riverstone Health Hospice Services, 123 S. 27th, Billings, MT 59101.