Former Flathead County Commissioner Dale Lauman, who was well-known not only for extensive community service that spanned decades but also for his statesmanship, kindness and compassion, died Wednesday. He was 80.
Lauman served as county commissioner from 2007 to 2012. During his tenure the historic county courthouse underwent a $2.7 million restoration.
“Dale did not have an enemy in the world,” said former Flathead County Commissioner Gary Hall, who served with Lauman for several years. “He was a true statesman who took pride in his office and position, and did an amazing job thinking out each of the issues and exploring them.
“He treated everyone with respect,” even those who may have been upset with a particular commission decision, Hall recalled. “He was a delight to be around, and one of the nicest men I’ve known.”
Hall said Lauman served the county well, even during the tough economic times of the yearslong recession that began around 2008.
“He worked to build up reserves and make sure we were one of the healthiest counties in the state,” Hall added.
Lauman grew up in Somers in the 1940s and ’50s. His Norwegian grandfather moved to the Flathead Valley in 1900, and his father worked in the Somers railroad tie plant.
Lauman worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 30 years, from 1963 until he retired in 1992. He was postmaster in Bigfork for the last 19 years of his postal service career.
In addition to his postmaster duties, he served as a regional training manager, helping to install new post offices and train personnel. He also spent 14 months in Washington, D.C., as temporary national manager for the training program, overseeing a multimillion-dollar budget.
When Lauman threw his hat in the ring as a Republican candidate for Flathead County commissioner in 2006, his quiet, friendly demeanor stood out among his opponents. His style was an obvious contrast to more flamboyant candidates.
“I took a pledge not to attack my opponent,” Lauman told the Daily Inter Lake in 2006 shortly before the election he won. “I wanted to conduct a clean campaign that focuses on my ideas, goals and qualifications, and I think I’ve done that.”
During his campaign for commissioner, the Inter Lake took note of Lauman’s “detailed familiarity” with county issues at the time. He’d done his homework thoroughly.
Lauman was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Stage II lymphoma in October 2009 and underwent chemotherapy treatments. He weathered the rigors of the cancer in the public eye, losing 46 pounds and his hair, but nevertheless retaining his upbeat attitude.
Although he missed a few commissioner sessions because of the cancer treatments, he kept working and attended most major meetings.
Lauman approached his cancer with a positive, matter-of-fact demeanor. “In the highway of life, I regard this as a detour,” he told the Inter Lake in April, 2010, when he was elated that after months of treatment and a “no beef” edict from his doctor, Lauman finally got to eat a long-awaited cheeseburger.
He credited his wife, Lois, for her support throughout his cancer treatment.
“Lois has been so tremendous,” he gushed during that 2010 interview with the Inter Lake. “There’s so much information and so much to absorb. For one person alone it would be difficult.”
Lois told the Inter Lake Thursday morning that her husband has been “a trooper who never complained,” throughout the many years he battled his health challenges. She read some of the comments from the nurses at the infusion center at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where he was a regular for blood transfusions.
“He was one in a million,” one nurse noted. “A great human being and storyteller.” The nurses also mentioned his smile and “boyish charm,” and perhaps most poignant, one caregiver pointed out: “When he was at his worst, he was at most people’s best.”
Lois recalled her husband’s zest for life.
“He was a role model for being positive, honest and strong,” she said. “He used to say the heart makes the person. He had core values.”
Mary Pat Murphy, a longtime friend of the Laumans, pointed out the scope of Dale’s contributions to the community “can’t be over-emphasized.
“He was an amazing part of the Somers-Lakeside community, and Kalispell,” Murphy said. “The list of things they’ve been a part of is very daunting.”
A memorial service for Lauman is pending. A complete obituary will be published in Sunday’s Inter Lake.