Donald Kenneth Finlayson, a third generation Montanan, was born January 16, 1930, to Randolph Angus Finlayson and Jean Agnes Coleman Finlayson. He grew up in the Conrad area and attended Conrad Schools, graduating in 1948. Don married his college sweetheart, Esther Elliott, on June 20, 1959 at the First Presbyterian Church in Conrad. He would often, jokingly, introduce her as his first wife.
Starting at age 11, when a local farmer hired Don off the street to help with new lambs, he never passed a summer without work. In 1948, he enlisted in the US Airforce. After five years, eight months and twenty-three days in Anchorage, Alaska, and Upstate New York and being honorably discharged in 1953 as a Tech Sergeant, he returned to Montana and was hired onto construction crews on the Tiber Dam and the Texaco Refinery. He spent a year laying tile on the Brady sewer system. Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he attended the College of Great Falls and Montana State University in Bozeman. In 1956 he began what would become his lifetime career in the sales business beginning with selling vehicles, then in 1969, branching out to become successful in the insurance industry and estate planning. Donald loved his chosen career and came away with a lifetime of friendships.
Donald was an avid reader and observer of life, absorbing knowledge like a sponge. His relationship with God was deep and personal. He spoke like a true Scotsman, sparingly, yet meaningfully. A devoted husband and father, he shared his enjoyment of camping, gardening and exploring new places. Being a mechanical and construction guru, Don was able to build and fix most anything his family needed. He shared his love of cars and mechanics with his sons. All of his children learned the value of work and self-sufficiency at his hands. His passion was acquiring and using tools and had almost every tool there was, sometimes more than one, just in case. He felt pride in teaching children to use and respect equipment. Even in retirement, he did not cease to work. Selecting a hunk of caragana, oak, pine or apple wood and using various saws, knives, drills and sandpaper, he would create clever toy cars and trucks of various designs. As he and Esther traveled, there was always a box of toys in the trunk of the car. Don would distribute these all over the United States--anywhere a child caught his eye. The surprised look on the child’s face was his reward for his ingenuity.
Don passed away Wednesday, April 4, 2018 in Conrad.
He is survived by his wife Esther Elliott Finlayson, and five children: Jim (Kit) Finlayson, Julie Antoniou, Patrick Finlayson, Alan (Michelle) Finlayson and Mary (Cori) Di Biase. Grandchildren are Clint (Alissa) Finlayson, Shannalee (Ron) Baird, Alexander Finlayson and Carly Behr. Great grandchildren are Liam, Lily, Ruby and Adelaide Finlayson.
A memorial service to honor Donald’s life is scheduled for Monday, April 9, 2018 at 1:00 PM at the First Presbyterian Church in Conrad, MT. Memorials may be contributed to the charity of your choice or to Conrad’s First Presbyterian Church or to Benefis Peace Hospice.