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Bart's Party

June 25th 2016

Hamilton, Montana

Bart Allan Pickard, 65, of Corvallis, MT passed away on December 22, 2015 while skiing at Lost Trail Powder Mountain.  He died doing what he loved best and in the place he loved most.  Bart’s cathedral in the trees was the most beautiful place on Earth to him.  The family has not received a Death Certificate indicating specific cause of death as of this writing.  Despite numerous erroneous speculations in the media, Bart did not fall in a tree well and suffocate.  He did have an enlarged heart upon autopsy, but did not suffer a heart attack; the electrical currents in his heart simply quit. 

            However, In June of 2015, Bart endured two visits to the emergency room at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton, MT.  On both occasions all tests, to include x-rays, EKGs, and blood work, showed a normally working heart.  A stress test was inconclusive. A heart catheterization at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula showed absolutely no blockages in his arteries/veins.  It did not indicate an enlarged heart.  In June of 2011, Bart had open heart surgery at the Veterans’ Hospital in Salt Lake City by a cardiothoracic surgeon from the University of Utah to repair his mitral valve.  During the emergency room events, his mitral valve functioned normally.

Bart spent 27 days on the mountain before he was found on January 16, 2016.  By law, this is the legal date of death.  The family especially thanks and will be eternally grateful to the observant Lost Trail ski instructor who happened upon a ski sticking out of the snow, leading to Bart’s earlier than expected discovery.

Bart was born into a career United States Coast Guard family on December 28, 1949 in Long Beach, California to Joan Wester Pickard and the late Dale D. Pickard.  A few years later, he relocated to Hawaii with his family.  USCG orders then sent the family back to Long Beach, where Bart’s brother Bret was born.  The brothers were named long before the television show Maverick premiered.  After California, USCG orders sent the family to New York State.  While in New York, they lived on Long Island and Staten Island.  The family enjoyed camping and fly fishing in Upstate New York.

            The family retired from the Coast Guard and eventually moved to Missoula, MT, where Bart’s love of Montana emerged.  He spent two years at Hellgate High School, where he met many people that became very close friends, especially James and Linda Norwood of Lolo, MT and Ken and Viv Sularz of Clinton, MT.  The family then moved to Spokane, WA, where Bart graduated from Lewis & Clarke High School. 

            In 1968 Bart was accepted into the United States Coast Guard and completed Radioman training at Governor’s Island, NY.  Bart became exceedingly proficient in monitoring/responding to the continuous airwaves for calls of assistance and distress in the international language of Morse code.   He continued the proud tradition and heritage of his predecessor sentinels and saviors of the sea.  Bart proudly wore the Sparks insignia and was honored to be a Coast Guard Radioman.

After training, Bart reported to USCG Communications Station Portsmouth (Pungo) in Chesapeake, VA.  While there, Bart served four months of temporary duty on the offshore patrol cutter CHINCOTEAGUE in the North Atlantic Ocean Station Delta. Three years later the Coast Guard sent Bart to USCG Group Ketchikan, AK, where his beautiful daughter LeAnn was born.  While there, he was assigned on temporary duty to Barrow, AK to help establish a new communications station.

Bart was also assigned to the USCG Cutter BITTERSWEET in Ketchikan for two years, where he met mate Rick Harvey.  While in Ketchikan, Bart met life-long mates Ed Bourgault, Jack Janway, and others.  After seven years in Ketchikan, Bart decided to leave the service and to return to Missoula, where his beloved son Kory was born.

  Bart enrolled in the University of Montana and worked at UM and for Mountain Bell Telephone to supplement the GI Bill benefits he received.  While at Mountain Bell, he met long-time friends Ray Nelson, Connie Victor, and Lynnette Cash.  After three years at UM, Bart decided to reenter the Coast Guard, which gave him a choice of returning to Ketchikan or assignment to Guam.  Bart chose Guam.

While assigned to USCG Communications Station Guam, Bart met his roommate, close friend and confidant for life Matt Skahill, good friends and USCG mates Jodie Fisher Hamilton, Bryan Fisher, Joe Walters, and reconnected with Jack Janway, among so many others.  He also met lifelong close friends Al “Izzio” Yates and his wife, Lorna Gabel, who now live in Hamilton, MT.  Other close friends on Guam included Jimmy and Stacey Grose, and Ollie and Diane Navidad.  Bart enjoyed Guam, where he earned PADI Dive Master and Rescue Dive Master Certification.  He led many diving excursions for visiting tourists.

After seven years on Guam, Bart transferred to the USCG District Thirteen Communications Center in Seattle, WA.  After just a few months, he had the opportunity to return to Guam as the Radioman In Charge (RMIC) onboard the USCG Cutter BASSWOOD, where he met life-long friend Christopher Yurkanin.  Bart then transferred to the USCG Communications Station Honolulu in Wahiawa, Hawaii.  While there, he met life-long mates and friends Charlie Colburn, Sabrina Hearst, Gary Frizzell, Temple Bryant, Keith Jernigan, and Bill Heckler, among so many others.  Bart lived on the North Shore, where he could continue living the relaxed beach life he had come to love in Guam.

During a 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, HI field exercise, the Coast Guard selected Bart to assist with Morse communications.  The Army trains Morse Intercept Operators, but they do not train these operators to actually transmit Morse code.  Bart transmitted Morse efficiently and quickly during the exercise and thoroughly enjoyed his time in the field with the Army, transmitting Morse to his heart’s content.

While in Hawaii, Bart met his wife, soulmate, and best friend Sheri Sigler, a United States Army Lieutenant Colonel.  They explored all of the islands of Hawaii together; he was there for six years and she was there for five.  They were inseparable.  The two of them could fling military acronyms at each other and actually understand the conversation.  Sheri supervised a very small communications station early in her career, so she and Bart shared a knowledge and love of communications technology and language.

            Bart and Sheri then lived in Kailua, HI, ten minutes from the best but lesser known Kailua Beach, their favorite in all of Hawaii.  Some of Bart’s other favorite places were Haunama Bay and Haleaukala on Maui.  His old roommate and best friend Matt Skahill was also stationed with Bart in Hawaii.  They were in the same duty section and spent many day and mid-watches reminiscing and contemplating all things Coast Guard and life.

Bart and Matt worked together at three separate duty stations (Guam, Seattle, and Hawaii) and were friends for over thirty years.  Bart admired Matt and was so proud of what he accomplished in his Coast Guard career.  Other fellow friends and shipmates were Matt Pickard (no relation) and William “Bill” Heckler.  Jack Pickard, a cousin somewhere in the lineage, was never stationed with Bart, but was a fellow Coast Guard radioman.

Bart so loved Montana that he spent his annual vacation mostly there, visiting family and friends.  After Bart was transferred to USCG District Fourteen in downtown Honolulu, HI, and after twenty-two years’ service he began to think about retirement to Montana.  The Coast Guard requested Bart continue his service at District Fourteen, but the mountains were calling him home.  He and Sheri bought their retirement home in Corvallis, MT while on leave in 1996.  They retired and returned to Corvallis in 1998.

In 1999, Bart and Sheri chaperoned a Corvallis Middle School class on its annual field trip to Lost Trail Powder Mountain.  It was then that Bart rediscovered his enduring love of skiing.  Every year for his birthday, Sheri bought Bart a season pass to Lost Trail.  Bart lived for ski season, although he also often enjoyed road and mountain biking in the summer with Al Yates and others.  Shortly after moving to Corvallis, he and Al hiked Trapper Peak with other friends.  Bart and Al were good friends for over thirty years, ever since they met on Guam.  Bart was obsessed with maps, for skiing, biking, and exploring.  He loved Google Earth.  Bart enjoyed exploring the back roads of the Sapphire and Bitterroot mountains with Darrell Hunt too many times to count, but at least once a week with the maps Bart had created.

While in Hawaii, Bart showed Sheri a custom engraving opportunity and she encouraged him to pursue it.  Bart created the small business B-S-M Custom Engraving, named after Bart, Sheri, and Mac, and enjoyed success on Oahu.  A year after they retired to Montana, Bart became a vendor, friend and supporter, and member of the Board of Directors of the Hamilton Farmer’s Market.  He had many cherished friends among the Market vendors, such as Sandy Gates, and admired their varied creations, particularly Ron Panko’s handmade knives.  Bart would selflessly and generously do anything for the Market and Market Manager and friend, Laura Craig.  As Laura says, “Bart is now one with the all: snow, trees, mountains and sky.  And likely Google Earth.“

As a custom engraver, Bart reimagined the majestic animals of the Bitterroot, among many other designs, on wood, metal, mirror, and crystal/glass for fifteen years.  Bart was a member of the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce during this time.  He engraved the annual SAFE awards, as well as the Chamber awards each year until he retired.  Bart was also a member of the Ravalli County Search and Rescue during the forest fires of 2000.

Bart was big bear of a man, but a sentimental one.  He often silently cried during movies at their most tender points.  He once remarked of Sheri, “I would much like to be half as handsome as she is beautiful.”  They were two halves of a whole, soulmates, and best friends to the end.  He had an amazing sense of humor.  His Uncle John often sent jokes via email, which Bart would share on Facebook.  Everyone always burst out laughing, no matter how corny the jokes were.

Bart loved to travel.  While in the Coast Guard, he visited Palau on diving trips, Costa Rico, and Sidney, Australia, where he really enjoyed Bondi Beach.  In April, 2014 Bart and Sheri visited her best friend of over fifty years, Sherry Moore Johnson and her husband Darrell, in Cape Coral and North Fort Myers, FL.  Bart enjoyed the museums and restaurants, especially Trader Vic’s, on Sanibel Island, and in South West Florida.  The foursome, now close friends, drove through the Everglades, and over the Seven Mile Bridge, along the Keys, and into Key West, crossing another item off of Bart’s Bucket List.  His favorite attraction in Key West was the Ernest Hemingway House.  His most enjoyable dining experience was Grouper.

Bart attended plays, musicals, and special events in Hawaii with Sheri.  He enjoyed The Phantom of the Opera twice, Stomp, and Tap Dogs. The two of them attended most of the plays and musicals at the Hamilton Playhouse, thoroughly enjoying them all.  Each summer Bart and Sheri would frequent the Bigfork Summer Playhouse to attend plays, musicals, and musical revues.  Bart’s favorite restaurant in that area of Montana was the Echo Lake Café, the best place for a delicious breakfast.  Bart and Sheri also enjoyed excursions to the Performing Arts Center in Spokane, WA with Terry Perkins of Big Sky Travel in Stevensville, MT.

Bart’s loss is deeply felt in the United States Coast Guard Community.  He was a skilled professional Radioman.  He was a friend, supervisor, mentor, and beloved Sea-Daddy to so many young Coast Guard men and women radiomen.  Bart was highly respected for the detailed and meticulous way he carried out his Coast Guard duties, as well as his mentoring of those younger “Coasties” who benefitted from his calm and assuring demeanor.  Bart was a member of Zeta Upsilon Tau, the Fraternal Order of Coast Guard CW Operators.  Continuous wave is a state of mind.  It is that skill that enables those so practiced to find that hidden place where the code reigns and where operators understand the language.  It is a place of karma, so to speak.

Bart’s family is both impressed and grateful for the outpouring of support from all of Bart’s fellow Coast Guard service men and women.  It is quite a tribute that Bart had such a significant and beneficial impact on so many.  It is impossible to name them all.

Bart is survived by his mother Joan Wester Pickard, 88, his brother Bret J. Pickard, 60, both of Hamilton, MT and his uncle John Wester and wife Irma of Missoula, MT, and numerous cousins.  He leaves behind his wife, soulmate, and best friend of twenty-one years, Sheri Sigler of Corvallis, MT.  Bart is also survived by his adult children, daughter and accomplished author LeAnn Edmondson and husband Todd, courageous Iraq War veteran son Kory Pickard and wife Toni, all of Ketchikan, AK, and stepson software engineer William M. (Mac) Sigler, Jr. and his wife Leslie Ann of Dallas, TX.  Bart is also survived by daughter-in-law Kirsten Pickard of Fairbanks, AK and brother-in-law Scott DeLong, his wife Michele, and nieces Kaitlyn and Lindsey, all of Toronto, Canada.  He was so proud of his children and their many accomplishments.

Bart leaves behind his grandchildren, of whom he was so fond:  Alexander Young of Washington State, Nick Pickard of Fairbanks, AK, Drake Pickard of Ketchikan, AK, William (Mac) III, Clara, and Nathaniel Sigler, all of Dallas, TX.  Bart called himself an old Norski and was very proud of his Norwegian, with a splash of Swedish, heritage.  Uff da!

Heartfelt gratitude to Bart’s family at Lost Trail Powder Mountain, especially Judy Grasser, Scott Grasser, the Lost Trail Ski Patrol, the Lost Trail Ski Instructors, lift operators, and the Yurt.  He loved them all, as each one of them held a special place in his heart.  Special thanks to Sheriff Chris Hoffmann and the Ravalli County Sheriff’s office and to Ravalli County Search and Rescue, in particular Burleigh Curtis and Peggy Martiny, close personal friends for twenty-three years, ever since Peggy and Sheri were stationed together at US Pacific Command in Hawaii, and also partners-in-crime.  Thank you also to Tom at Daly-Leach Memorial Chapel, who is taking great care of the family during this sad time.

Bart and Sheri frequently discussed end of life preferences as they approached life as older seniors.  Bart wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered at Lost Trail and under the willow tree in his backyard.  He said he didn’t want a funeral, but that “I wouldn’t mind a party.”  Bart did say if he had to go, he hoped it would be at Lost Trail.  His family is truly relieved and empowered to know that Bart died exactly where he wanted, doing what he wanted:  skiing at Lost Trail Powder Mountain, the most beautiful place on Earth to him, and where he felt closest to God.  Bart wanted any memorials to be directed to Lost Trail Powder Mountain or Ravalli County Search and Rescue.

There will be a gathering of family and friends June 25th at 5:30 pm in the Daly-Leach Community Room in Hamilton, MT to celebrate Bart. For more information, please call (406) 369-0614.  The family will scatter his ashes on the mountain he called the most beautiful place on Earth.   Fair Winds and Following Seas, Bart; others now have the watch.  73 AR VA Dit Dit.  You crossed the bar far too early.  Aloha, 73s and 88s, my love.  Semper Paratus!  “This is the true skinny.”

Arrangements are under the care of Daly-Leach Memorial Chapel.  Condolences may be left for the family at www.dalyleachchapel.com

There's still time to send flowers to the Celebration of Life at the Daly-Leach Chapel Community Room at 5:30 PM on Jun 25, 2016.