Dr. William Michael “Bill” Callaghan
At the end of his earthly journey of 92 years and 237 days, Bill Callaghan closed his eyes for the final time and awoke in the arms of his beloved wife, Jean. His loved ones are sad to lose him but overjoyed to know that he and Jean are together again in heaven.
William Michael “Bill” Callaghan was born April 15, 1927, in Helena, Montana to Eugene Joseph and Carrie Mae (Cloninger) Callaghan. Bill was a direct descendant of Montana pioneer woman Mary “Granny” Wells Yates. He was the third-born son in a family of five boys and identical twin to his brother, Bob. Bill attended elementary school at Cathedral Grade School in Helena and graduated from Helena High School in 1945. The day following his high school graduation, Bill and his twin brother, Bob, entered the United States Navy during World War II. Following an honorable discharge from his naval service, Bill studied at Carroll College in Helena. A mentor convinced him that engineering might not be his forte, so he finished his undergraduate degree in Physics. Following his studies at Carroll College, Bill attended the Northern College of Optometry in Chicago, Illinois where he received his Doctor of Optometry degree in September 1950.
Growing up in Helena, Bill was an excellent student and a talented athlete. He was the co-captain of the Helena High School Bengals basketball team when they won the State championship in 1945 and was a long-distance runner (half-mile and mile) for the Bengals track team. Bill was a superb swimmer, downhill skier, ice skater and golfer. He also enjoyed being a part of a men’s league bowling team in Anaconda for many years.
On Valentine’s Day 1949, Bill attended a party in Chicago with friends. He loved to tell the story of how he looked across the room, connected with the beautiful seafoam green eyes of Jeannie Feld and immediately fell head over heels in love. Bill pursued her until he finally convinced her to marry him. Bill and Jean were married on April 20, 1950, in St. Paul’s Church, Greencastle, Indiana. They spent 66 years together until Jean’s death in 2015.
Following his graduation from the College of Optometry in Chicago, Bill and Jean moved back to Helena, Montana, Bill’s hometown. Bill worked on the railroad while waiting to take his Board exams for licensure in Montana. In Spring 1951, Bill opened his optometric practice in Anaconda, Montana. In addition to his Anaconda practice, Bill served as the optometrist for Warm Springs (Montana) State Hospital, Galen State Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Twin Bridges for many years. Bill retired from the practice of optometry in 1999, at the age of 72. He loved being an optometrist and loved his patients, caring for generations of area families over the 48 years he was in practice.
Bill always told his family that he was born and grew up in Helena, but Anaconda was his town. He survived many economic ups and downs in Anaconda over the years but remained a loyal citizen of the town until his death. Bill felt blessed to be able to live in the family home he and Jean built in 1957, the first house constructed on their block. Bill fondly nicknamed his neighborhood West Goosetown. He often reminisced about the families who had come and gone over the many years he lived there and he had many wonderful stories to share. It is the passing of an era, as Bill was the last of the original residents on his block.
Bill was a self-taught, lifelong pianist. Being a child of the Depression era, there was no money for music lessons for Bill and his brothers, so he worked tirelessly to teach himself to play the piano. Bill was well-known in Anaconda for his piano bar style of playing. He had hundreds of tunes in his repertoire and could accompany singers in any key they chose. Bill and Jean spent countless hours making music together, when Jean sang and Bill accompanied her. He was committed to making certain his four children could read music and he provided for many years of piano lessons for all of them. Bill enjoyed playing duets with his kids and jamming with other musicians. Making music was one of Bill’s greatest passions, and his family is very grateful for the 60+ years they were able to hear him play.
Community involvement and volunteerism were important values in Bill’s life. He believed in giving back to his community. Bill was passionate about supporting Anaconda. He taught his children to “shop local” and to always support their community. He led by example. He was a Boy Scout leader, a member of the American Legion (he was recently honored as a past Commander and as one of the remaining WWII veterans) and a member of the Anaconda Catholic Community since he moved to Anaconda in 1951. Bill was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, 4th Degree. He told many stories of working with other parents and community members to build St. Joseph’s Grade School, which all four of his children attended. Bill served for many years on the Board of Directors for the historic Marcus Daly (Montana) Hotel and the Magicland Corporation (community development organization.) He was the president of the Anaconda Community Concert Association for 25 years and with Jean, facilitated bringing many world-class performing arts groups to Washoe Theater in Anaconda. Bill was a longtime member of the Anaconda Country Club, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (he was honored as the Grand Marshal of the AOH St. Patrick’s Day Parade/Celebration in 2017) and the Anaconda Elks Club.
Preceding Bill in death were his wife, Jean; his parents; his three brothers, Eugene Jr. Richard L.; his twin brother Robert A.; his sister-in-law, Marcia; his in-laws Walter L. and Margaret Feld; his infant great-grandson, Michael Luedtke; and his brothers and sisters-in-law, Alan Feld, Rosemarie Feld, Winifred (Feld) Frederick, Raymond Feld, Joan (Feld) Neff, Nancy (Feld) Halton, and Angela (Feld) Dixon; and Dr. Hal Hagan, Bill’s “brother of the heart.”
Bill leaves a legacy of love in his four children, their spouses, eight grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren:
Children: Bill (Susan); Tricie (Smokey); Jack (Peggy); Celeste (Jim.)
Grandchildren: Ben (Dana); Merida; Amanda (Jason); Bree (Mike); Liam (Katie); Tara (Anthony); Kate (Brett); Meara (Daniel).
Great-grandchildren: Jake, Spencer, Owen, Skylar, Stella, Maelle, Laila, Molly, Weston, Paige, Mitchell, Harrison, Luke, Angus, Joshua, Eileen.
Bill is also survived by his nieces and nephew: Lisa and Clive Jerram; Marykay and Don Whitmer and family; Brian and Maura Callaghan and family; numerous cousins; and his dear friends, Charlene Hagan and the Hagan family and Paul and Arlene Rosenberg and the Rosenberg family, all of whom Bill considered a part of his own family.
Cremation has taken place. Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Thursday, December 19 at Holy Family Church in Anaconda. Visitation with the family will begin at the church at 9:00 and Mass will begin at 10:30, with a luncheon immediately following in the parish center. Private interment will be in the Callaghan family gravesite at Resurrection Cemetery in Helena.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that remembrances of Bill be made in his name to the Anaconda Catholic Community, 217 W Pennsylvania Ave, Anaconda, MT 59711 or the Meals on Wheels program, 115 E. Pennsylvania Ave, Anaconda, MT 59711.
In paradisium — “May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem. May choirs of angels welcome you and lead you to the bosom of Abraham; and where Lazarus is poor no longer, may you find eternal rest.”
Please see below to offer the family a condolence or to share a memory of Bill. Axelson Funeral and Cremation Services has been privileged to care for Bill and his family.