Mountains

Eric Feaver

March 19, 1945 ~ June 22, 2022 (age 77)

Obituary

Eric Kenneth Feaver, 77, of Helena, MT died unexpectedly June 22, 2022 of natural causes. Eric was born to Kenneth and Elizabeth Feaver March 19, 1945 in Laramie, WY.

Eric grew up in Norman, Oklahoma as the youngest of three boys under the influence of his father, a Presbyterian Minister. Eric started working at age 6 delivering newspapers after school on his bicycle. He earned a BA in government, history and economics from the University of Oklahoma, where he met his wife, Ellen Jane Colby.

After graduating from OU in 1967, Eric and Ellen moved to Washington D.C. where Ellen worked at Price Waterhouse as a Certified Public Accountant and Eric started graduate school at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies working towards a master’s degree in international diplomacy. From graduate school, Eric was drafted and served as a combat medic (without a weapon as he was a conscientious objector) in Vietnam for 11 months and 10 days in country with the 4th Infantry Division. Among his commendations, he earned a Combat Medical Badge and Bronze Star for his service. Upon his return from war, he changed course and enrolled in the University of Maryland where he earned an MA in American History. In 1971, Eric and Ellen welcomed their first daughter, Amity.

Realizing raising children in a big city was not providing the type of community they desired, and knowing the West from camping trips to Montana and Wyoming, Eric, Ellen and Amity moved to Helena in1974. Ashley joined the family in 1976. Ellen started as deputy legislative auditor for the state and Eric took courses at Carroll College to become a licensed teacher. Eric worked with a team of lifelong friends at Helena Junior High teaching social studies, then moved on to Capital High School teaching English. Eric served as a local union leader in the HEA, then became MEA vice president followed by president.

As MEA president, Eric presided over mergers creating MEA/MFT, then joining union forces again creating MFPE (Montana Federation of Public Employees) representing over 25,000 members statewide. No other union leader in the nation has been so successful in joining diverse voices into one to better serve public employees. Eric knew leadership required integrity, inclusion and engagement. He inspired and elevated many people along the way. He has supported union members for public office and challenged MFPE members and others to better themselves every chance they had. Montana State University awarded Eric an honorary doctorate of education in 1999.

Eric touched many lives throughout his public leadership. He also raised two strong willed daughters. He could not have been more proud of them. Amity just earned a promotion to Regional Assistant Superintendent of the Northshore School District, a large public school district north of Seattle. She will continue oversight of her current responsibilities as the director of accelerated learning programs. When Amity called him a bit overwhelmed, her dad said, “They offered you the job because they know you are a Feaver. Feavers get the job done.” Ashley serves the Helena community as the Executive Medical Director of Inpatient Services and a hospitalist physician at St. Peter’s Health, fulfilling her dad’s example and expectation of service to others.

Eric retired in 2020 at the age of 75, but soon became anxious for a purpose during the pandemic and wrote “War Story, from Vietnam to Montana,” which is a fascinating summary of his life shaped by his Vietnam War experience. In 2021, he knew he was failing at retirement and needed to put his energy into service once again. He ran for Helena City Commission to represent the city he has loved for nearly 50 years. Since he was elected, he dove in and gave 100% to his duties on the Commission and never stopped learning, collaborating, engaging and including others. Eric’s work ethic and moral compass were surpassed by none. Eric loved Helena and couldn’t get enough of the natural beauty of Montana.

Every day, he would hike, bike, fish, snowshoe or ski, often taking pictures along the way. His last day on earth was nearly complete and an example of how he lived life to the fullest. He woke up at his usual 4:00am, read news from around the state and world, biked 12.5 miles in Helena’s South Hills, attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly remodeled Fire Tower Apartments as a City Commissioner, had a beer with friends, cared for his beautiful garden, then watched the Mariners’ game while enjoying a meal his wife of 55 years cooked for him. He died soon after dinner in his home at the end of a beautiful day… if only he’d also gone fishing.

Eric is survived by his wife, Ellen, daughters, Amity and Ashley, their husbands, Rich Butler and TJ Coggins; grandsons, Tristin, Cameron, Braden, Halo, Ethan, and Oliver; brothers, Douglas and Edward Feaver and their wives, Judy and Marylyn; many wonderful friends; his MFPE union family; and his cat, Rex. A celebration of Eric’s life will be held in mid-July (details pending). In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Eric’s memory to Prickly Pear Land Trust, ExplorationWorks, or the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation Endowment Fund or the Montana Federation of Public Employees Foundation Endowment Fund.

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