William (Bill), a lifelong Montana resident, was born January 24, 1922 to Leon Rolland Tabor (Prairie du Sac, Wisc.) and Jessie Janeice Black (St. Paul, Minn.) in Great Falls. The family eventually moved to a ranch at Loon Lake, south of Big Arm on Flathead Lake. Bill ran the ranch starting in his preteen years as his father spent his summers as a wrangler at the Jennings Hard Trigger Dude Ranch just south of Glacier Park Station. While finishing high school in Polson, he met Katherine Ethel Werle. After spending some time “rodeoing” throughout the Northwest, they married November 4, 1941 at the Kiehlbauch Ranch outside of Great Falls.
Their first home was in Dayton, then they moved to Seattle where he worked at a Seattle steel yard for a time before serving in the Navy during World War II.
Bill received Navy training as a diesel engineer at the Navy Pier in Chicago, then served aboard the USS LSM-237 in the Asia Pacific Theater under John L. Poole, USNR in command. They were part of the initial invasion of Palawan, Cebu and Borneo and he was wounded by shrapnel in one of the battles. He recently reconnected with a shipmate, Charles Baker of Sunset, S.C. and knew they still have each other’s back even after all these years.
The family is very appreciative and proud of his service and sacrifice to keep our country safe and free.
Following the war, Bill and family lived in the Flathead Lake area where he worked for the Montana State Highway Department and relocated to Plains in 1954. He retired at 55 years of age and worked several years as a backhoe operator and hunting/fishing guide. He remained in Plains until his health required him to have full-time care and relocated to Billings.
Bill was an artist and well-known for his wildlife and Montana landscapes on canvas, conks, saw blades and plates. He sold his pieces as far away as Wisconsin and Georgia. In his later years he tooled leather and made numerous gun belts, holsters and wallets that he usually gave away.
He loved to spend time in the woods hunting, fishing, woodcutting and riding his horse, Stormy. Bill was quite the local character seen in his Dodge Ram pickup truck piled high with firewood.
He was a life member of the National Rifle Association and was extremely proud of the designation, as well as belonging to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Bill’s wife, Katherine, of 65 years preceded him in death in 2007, as well as his brothers Robert Guy, Jess Jay and Richard Rolland. He is survived by his sister Doris (Ray) Walters of Forest Grove, Ore.; brother Clark Tabor of Orcas Island, Wash.; sons, William Tabor, Jr. of Billings and Bruce (Karen)Tabor of Kalispell; daughter Sharon (Michael) Cottet of Billings; grandchildren Angela, Lisa, Leon, Shawnaly, Laura, Season and Jeremy and numerous great-grandchildren.
Condolences can be sent to 7920 Eland Ave., Billings, MT 59106. A community “Celebration of Life” will be announced later this fall in the Plains area.