Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

Jerome Cutler Rankin, 89

Jerome "Jerry" Cutler Rankin nearly traveled 90 years before Old Brain caught up with him. This genuinely Montana boy could have been born inside Glacier Park had not his mother, Gwen, nine months pregnant, snowshoed from their winter cabin across Lake McDonald to catch the train at Essex. Bound for Cleveland to stay with in-laws Lulu and Jimmy Rankin, she returned with newborn Jerry to join husband Barney, an engineer on Going to the Sun Highway, in a canvas tent surrounded by wires hooked up to a car battery to deter grizzlies.

Jerry's early ears were landscaped into the parks of Montana; the toddler child lived at Rocky Boy Reservation, then at Lewis and Clark Caverns until the Army unit Barney commanded was activated prior to World War II. While Barney served in Asian jungles, Gwen took Jerry and his younger sister Judith to Bozeman, and Jerry commanded his own army of 5 to 10-year-old youngsters who staged pretend battles on farmland now covered by houses and apartment buildings. With the end of WWII, Barney returned to the family in Bozeman as Montana State Parks Director, developed Bridger Bowl Ski Area with Gib and Charles, and then other parks at Flathead and Glendive.

Jerry graduated from Gallatin County High and enrolled at Montana State College, studying under revered artists Frances Senska, Jesse Wilbur, and Bob DeWeese. After finishing his BFA, he used his talent to earn a living as a commercial artist and graphic designer at Boeing Aircraft and the Army Corps of Engineers while serving in the National Guard. Jerry participated in theater programs at the University of Washington, and a large part of his life was composed of music performance, skilled in saxophone, clarinet, oboe, guitar, and more. He performed in a variety of ensembles, including the Helena Symphony, as well as jazz, blues, and rock groups in and around Montana.

While a station artist at KBLL in Helena, he met his future wife Margie (Margaret), and they remained married for 55 years. Jerry and Marge loved traveling together and exploring the US, Canada, and Mexico. Jerry completed his teaching certification in Bellingham, WA, taught in Cordova, AK, and then joined his father's submarine sales firm in California. After completing his MFA as a U of M Grizzly, Jerry taught at Northern Montana College and Great Falls School Districts. He retired to his summer home outside of Bozeman. He continued to expand his art career as a painter, printmaker, and sculptor, with his work shown at Montana's most prestigious contemporary art galleries, including a current exhibit at the Missoula Art Museum (MAM). Jerry and Margie returned to the Jefferson Valley when aging interfered with living on a mountaintop.

Jerry is survived by his wife Margie, sons Ben and Kevin, grandsons Kaleb and Nolan, and sister Judith Larsen of Bainbridge Island, WA. Cremation has been arranged through K & L Mortuary in Whitehall.

 

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