Gene (William Eugene) Vuckovich was born in Anaconda, MT, on March 9, 1936, to Daniel Vuckovich and Donnie (Elakovich) Vuckovich. His loving spirit left this world on the eve of the July full moon, commonly referred to as the Buck Moon. At the age of 86, Gene has shed his earthly presence for something greater.
Gene was born of humble beginnings and joined his older siblings Jack and Nada to create a loving family unit with a fierce devotion for one another. He was only 7 years old when his father suddenly passed away. Even though his family faced challenges and struggles, he believed these times helped develop his strong work ethic, sense of service to others and dedication to his community. These same traits were shared and passed on to his children and grandchildren.
It was during his high school years that he met the beautiful and charming Noreen Opie, the love of his life. They began their life-long marriage on August 31, 1957. Gene’s love for his wife did not end after her passing in 2016, it was only strengthened by the belief that their spirits would one day be reunited again.
After graduating from Anaconda Senior High School, Gene was offered a football scholarship at Western Montana College where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Education, majoring in English and Social Studies. He chose to further his education, completing graduate work at the University of Montana and University of Utah. Gene earned a Master of Science degree in Mathematics and Physics; his authored master’s thesis was entitled “Combinatorial Analysis”. He taught and coached in the Anaconda school system where he developed long lasting friendships with the students, staff, and fellow teachers. Through the years of studies and teaching, Gene worked as a Journeyman Ironworker in the summers and school breaks to help support his growing family. Gene was always a proud card-carrying union worker and believed in the “Good of the Order”. While on family trips around the state of Montana he always pointed out the bridges “he” built. Gene felt it was a privilege to be part of the crew of “men on the mountain”, a group of Ironworkers of Local 81 that helped assemble Our Lady of the Rockies.
Always wanting to challenge himself and look for new ventures, Gene changed career paths and stepped out of the education field. He began pursuing a variety of state and local governmental administrative and executive positions. Gene served as the Director of the Montana Concentrated Employment Program, and for over 16 years he served as the Director/Coordinator for the Montana Ironworkers’ Apprenticeship Program. One of the most challenging and fulfilling jobs of his career was being the City/County Manager of Anaconda/Deer Lodge County. He loved this job; he wanted to help the community that he treasured and believed was uniquely special and more than a footnote after the smelter closed. Gene was instrumental in having the Old Works Golf Course built on a superfund clean-up site. He topped off his professional career as the Executive Director for Montana Rural Development Partners, Inc where he worked closely with Federal, State, and local governments.
After retirement, Gene did some consulting but was looking to use his education, knowledge base and work experience to help better his local community and state. He ran for an open seat as a Montana State Senator. He was both honored and proud to be elected and he worked hard into his 80’s to fight for what he felt was fair and right for his district and all citizens of Montana.
Despite all his professional accomplishments he would tell you he was the proudest of being a loving husband and father. As his family grew, the proudness of family grew exponentially with his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Papa Gene loved sharing stories from his youth and his Serbian heritage. He would try to teach the grandkids the Serbian language or at least tried to make them understand what he was saying. Papa Gene’s grandchildren will always remember him for his jovial laugh, great story telling ability, record driving times, motorcycle rides, giant bear hugs and big kisses on the cheek. Gene and Noreen would travel across Montana and Washington to attend school activities and sporting events in which their grandchildren participated.
Gene became a member of the Catholic Church when he and Noreen wed. He embraced his newfound faith and was a devoted participant of the Anaconda Catholic Community. He used the gift of his booming voice to serve as a lector for Sunday Mass and funeral services.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents, wife Noreen, stepfather George Schimmings, in-laws William and Kathryn Opie-Mertzig, Kathryn’s second husband Louie Mertzig, brother-in-law Ray Sherrill, sister-in-law Vi Vuckovich, infant son William Eugene Vuckovich Jr, and grandson Jeremy Funston.
Gene is survived by his children and their families: Dan, Verna, McCall, Finnegan, and Emery; Chris, Jessica, Graham, Callait and Theo; Kim, Katie, Mark, Remy Lynne, and Tyler Ann; Mark; Jackie, Ken, Colin, Lacey, Connor, Kerianne and Kennah Beth; Mary, Andrea, Josh and Ellie; John and Vera. Gene is also survived by his brother Jack Vuckovich, sister Nada Sherrill, brother-in-law Jim Opie and his wife Carol, numerous nieces and nephews, and life-long cherished friends
Visitation for Gene will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, at Holy Family Catholic Church. The Rosary will be recited at 6:30 p.m. and the Vigil will begin at 7:00 p.m.
A Mass of Christian Burial to celebrate Gene’s life will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. There will be a one-hour visitation prior to the service. A luncheon will follow the service in the church's social hall.
In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial donations be made to Anaconda Community Foundation, 118 E. Seventh St., Ste 3F, Anaconda, MT 59711; Anaconda Catholic Community, 217 W. Pennsylvania Ave, Anaconda, MT 59711; Lynnore’s Place, 118 E. 7th St., Ste. 1A, Anaconda, MT 59711; Anaconda Community Hospital Foundation, 401 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Anaconda, MT 59711.