|Birth: ||Jun. 24, 1919|
Yellow Medicine County
|Death: ||Aug. 19, 2005|
Obituary from Helena's Independent Record 08/24/2005:
Leslie William Alke, age 86, died peacefully on Aug. 19, 2005, after a long period of declining health. A longtime resident of Helena, he was a vital part of the early Helena ski community both before and after World War II.
Les was born in Wood Lake, Minn., on June 24, 1919, the oldest son of Bill and Minnie Alke. After the Great Depression claimed the family farm, he moved with his parents, his brother Roger, and his sister Patricia, first to Baker, then to Helena. He graduated from Helena High School in 1936, a member of the graduating class with the unique experience of finishing high school in railroad cars, after the earthquake severely damaged the new Helena High School before it opened. After high school, he went to work for the Union Bank and Trust Company, in the heart of Last Chance Gulch.
His passion for skiing and the mountains began at Higgins Bar, a well known Helena watering hole a few doors down from the bank. He won a pair of skis on a punch board. That led to the Mount Helena Ski Club, the ski train to Blossburg, and the first small Helena ski area on the west side of MacDonald Pass. Les was one of four Helena skiers who volunteered to explore the possibility of a ski area on Mount Belmont, above Marysville. Les, together with Bob Sampson, Roy Riley, and Ken Kinney, formed the Belmont Ski Club. He served as the treasurer of the club from its inception to its end, when the ski area was acquired by Kevin Taylor and became the Great Divide Ski Area.
Les and his friends were at Belmont, building the first rope tow, when Pearl Harbor was bombed. They put the rope they had just purchased into storage, where it remained until after they returned from war. He volunteered for service with the 10th Mountain Division, the famous ski mountaineering troops. He was with the 10th almost from its beginning, enduring the bitter cold of winter maneuvers at Camp Hale in Colorado, and the ill fated invasion of Kiska in the Aleutian Islands, before embarking to the mountains of Northern Italy. Les and his fellow soldiers of the 10th stormed the heights of Riva Ridge and Mount Belvedere, driving the German Army north along the spine of the Apennine Mountains into the Dolomite Alps, where the Germans finally surrendered. He was awarded the Bronze Star for valor in combat along the shores of Lake Garda, gateway to the Dolomites. Even in war, he had a sense of adventure, including a surreptitious "ascent" of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and a ski ascent of the Marmolata, the highest peak in the Dolomites.
He returned to Helena, his beloved Belmont, and the Union Bank, where he met his wife to be, Betty VanSice. They were married in Helena on Feb. 12, 1947, and had three sons, Chris and John, who still live in Helena, and Van, who now lives in Bozeman. Each of his sons inherited his passion for adventure in the mountains, as all became avid skiers, mountain climbers, rock climbers and ice climbers.
For 30 years after he returned from Europe, he helped build, maintain, and tinker with the lifts and other facilities belonging to the Belmont Ski Club. He probably spent more time working on the ski hill and the ski club than skiing on his ever worsening knees. In addition to being passionate about Belmont, he was a lifelong Mason, avid golfer, and two-term member of the Helena School Board.
Les is survived by his brother; his sons; his daughter-in-law Marilyn (Van); his grandchildren: Brandon, Brooklyn, Jonathan, and Ben; and his great-grandchildren Delia and Sedona. His ashes will be spread in the mountains of Montana, joining those of Betty who died in 1983. A memorial service will be held at Hagler-Anderson Mortuary, 650 Logan, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate memorials in his name to his favorite charitable cause, the Algeria Shrine Children's Transportation Fund, P.O. Box 1174, Helena, MT 59624.
Specifically: Ashes spread in the mountains of Montana
Created by: A Marine's Daughter
Record added: Aug 25, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 11605705