Gary Lee Distad

Saturday, November 13, 2021
Gary Lee Distad
Gary Lee Distad

Gary Lee Distad, 64, of Lewistown, passed away with family by his side on Nov. 9, 2021, after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was born April 12, 1957, at St. Joseph Hospital in Lewistown, the son of Gene and Maxine (Heller) Distad.

He graduated from Fergus High School in 1975 and continued on to Basic Training with the US Army that December. After completion of Basic Training, he was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany in May 1976 where he was assigned to the 8th Infantry Division, Baumholder, Germany. He went on to Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery Regiment as a PFC (Private First Class) and then was promoted to SP/4-Specialist E-4. After he fulfilled his tour of duty, he left Germany in December of 1978 where he was flown to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to be discharged. Once he returned home Gary enlisted in the Montana Army National Guard on March 12 in the Lewistown, Unit Detachment 1, Howitzer Battery 1/163rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Having reached the age of 60 years, Gary retired from Montana Army National Guard in March of 2017.

He met Esther Petersen here in Lewistown and was united in marriage on Sept. 6, 1986. Gary remained in the National Guard throughout 4-plus years of college when he graduated in 1990 from Northern Montana College in Havre, earning a Bachelors’ Degree in Diesel Technology.

The family moved to Monroe, Wisconsin in 1991 where Gary accepted a job with Fairbanks Morris, Engine Division and then was relocated to Monroe, Washington in 1994. These positions took him around the world working at various military stations repairing many different naval ship engines, Alaskan fishing vessels, and also a few nuclear power plants. Early 1995, the family moved back to Lewistown where Gary worked several different jobs before starting with the Lewistown School District in 1997, where he thrived. Gary loved this position, his co-workers and making work fun. Gary was a great bus mechanic as well as a bus driver, winning several awards at the Annual Bus Drivers Convention and Rodeos.

On personal time, he enjoyed family gatherings, hunting, fishing, camping, pets, and the simpler pleasures in life. He continued his service with Montana Army National Guard and his guard family. He was always willing to help in any way and was a member of Central Montana Search and Rescue until he was no longer physically able. This broke his heart but not his spirit. He always found something to smile about.

Gary is survived by his wife, Esther, and daughter, Danielle, of Lewistown; daughter, Nicole (Layne Bull) of Dallas, Oregon; his son, Jason Bray of Billings; sister-in-law, Mary Ellen (Bill) Apple of Lewistown; one brother-in-law, Thomas (Heidi) Petersen of Marysville, Washington; six grandchildren; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

Gary was preceded in death by his parents, grandparents, and two brothers-in-law.

Memorial services for Gary Lee Distad will be Monday, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. in the Central Baptist Church with committal to follow in the Lewistown City Cemetery with military honors. The Cloyd Funeral Home is assisting the family.

Following the committal, we will have a celebration of Gary’s life at Brooks Market. We will share many photos and videos of his life and we hope you will bring many stories to share with all of us as well. There will be food and drink so we can all stay a while.

Friends are asked to make memorials to Hospice of Central Montana, Veterans Memorial Park, or to the charity of their choice and they may be left with the Cloyd Funeral Home. Condolences for the family may be posted online at