RONAN – John William Corum, 91, passed away on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, of natural causes. He was born into a family of eight on Oct. 6, 1921. Alex Mike and Alberta Wagner Corum were his parents. John’s early home years proved difficult and he was sent to live in Montana Children’s Home in Twin Bridges. He worked very hard at the orphanage. Life in “The Home” as he referred to it required him to rise early every day to milk the cows. Sometimes he helped empty coal cars, an all-day job. But he never spoke negatively of his time there. He always said it was the Depression and he had three meals a day. Montana Children’s Home had a chaplain and early on John heard about Christ of the Bible, his death and resurrection. He left the orphanage when he turned 18 while a junior in high school.
He loved sports and developed a lifelong passion for basketball, always his first love among sports. He also was a sprinter in track and even tried pole vaulting. He was always willing to play ping pong, shoot a basketball, or pass a football with his children while he was still able. On the first date with his future wife, Betty Lewis, he took her to see the Harlem Globetrotters (1950) in Missoula.
John joined the Civilian Conservation Corps for two years and helped build the ski run at Neihart.
John was passionate about finishing high school. He often would have to drop out and earn money before continuing his education. He finally graduated in 1942 from Missoula County High School at the age of 21.
John joined the Navy in 1942. He was attached to the U.S. Marines as a medic. After basic training he had medical training and jungle training. John fought in New Georgia and the retaking of Guam during World War II. The war ended and he was discharged in September 1945.
He returned to Missoula in December 1950. His mother passed shortly after his arrival. Through a friend in Missoula John met Betty Lewis, his wife of 61 years and the love of his life. John and Betty were married Feb. 15, 1952.
Throughout his long life John worked many jobs: Safeway in Dillon, trail crew in Glacier Park, Montgomery Ward and Illinois Tube and Steel Company in Chicago, three years at Manning’s Restaurant in Portland, construction on Noxon Rapids Dam, before settling in Ronan in 1959, where he started work at Plum Creek Lumber Mill and worked there for 28 years.
John was a servant. He was often found shelling peas, snapping beans, washing dishes, sweeping floors, mowing lawns or cooking for his family. For years he volunteered to wash cups at the Ronan Senior Center after their meal. Betty once said she couldn’t make a mess big enough that John couldn’t clean up.
John is survived by his wife of 61 years, Betty; his six children, Jeff (Lynette), Carey (Dawson), Brian (Donna), Amy (Rich), Debbie (Rick) and Robert. He is also survived by 14 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. John and Betty were in the foster care program for 25 years. Foster children included Christopher and Wyatt Powell for 10 years.
John was a member of the Ronan Senior Citizens Center and the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church.
A favorite outing of his was huckleberry picking. He was also a loyal fan of Ronan Chief and Maiden basketball and rarely missed a game.
John was a quiet, gentle man and kept to himself. He was slow to anger. Many thought him the “last of the true gentlemen.”
The Corum family thanks St. Luke’s Extended Care for its gracious care of John in his last five years of life.
Memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 11 at the Terrace Lake Community Church. Military Graveside honors will follow at the Ronan Cemetery.