Pat G. Vowell, who died in Bozeman on October 7, 2022, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1941, to Carlile and Esther Vowell. An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, Pat fell in love with the Rocky Mountains while attending gunsmithing school in Denver. He moved to Bozeman with his wife, Janie, and daughters, Amy and Sarah, in 1981.
For 26 years, he was employed by Montana State University as the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology’s experimental machinist. He taught lab classes in machine shop, welding, and metallurgy, helped students build their senior design projects, constructed research equipment for students and faculty in various departments, worked on the supersonic wind tunnel, and occasionally maintained and mended the university’s lawn and snow removal equipment, as well as the heating plant’s steam pumps. Pat’s favorite part of his job at MSU was working with students.
When he accepted the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Staff Award, he called the state university “an opportunity machine”—and he was a man who knew a thing or two about machines. After retiring in 2007, he built the tools for a historic wheelwright’s shop, which sounds like something he would do.
Days before his death, he and his grandson Owen repaired and fired an 1890s double-barreled shotgun owned by Pat’s great-grandfather, last shot in 1904.
He is mourned by his wife, Janie; daughters, Amy and Sarah; grandson. Owen Brooker; son-in-law. Jack Alexander; brother, Dick Vowell; sister-in-law, Cherry Vowell; sister-in-law, Jennie Parson; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Instead of a funeral, the family will follow his instructions to go to the Gravelly Range to shoot his ashes out of one of the seven cannons he built. How like him to add a sixth level to the five stages of grief—figuring out the logistics of lugging a homemade cannon up a mountain to blast a loved one into the Montana sky.
In lieu of flowers, consider shopping at his favorite hardware store, Owenhouse Ace Hardware on Bozeman’s Main Street.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com [dokkennelson.com]