Celebrating the life of Paul Ledyard 'Tack' VanCleve, IV
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Tack went to grade school in Cortaro, AZ and the Melville and Settlement schools in Sweet Grass County. Since he has started school at age five, Tack’s mother decided to keep him in the 7th grade for 2 years, to improve his waltz skills and to teach him ballroom dancing before he got to high school. The waltz didn’t ever take but the dancing did and, throughout his life, Tack won dance contests here and there. He also loved square dancing and taught and called square dances for 62 years.
Tack also loved music and had a strong Irish tenor voice. He sang old songs and ballads to groups of seniors and solos of liturgical music. For him, the high point was singing a wedding mass at the Cathedral of St. Helena, in Helena MT, with the magnificent pipe organ.
After narrowly escaping being sent to the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M. for high school, Tack enrolled in the class of 1954 at Sweet Grass High School. Immediately upon graduation, he enrolled in the Air Force and was posted to Alaska, where he worked in a bomb-proof underground vault. He was there when Alaska became a state. What a surprise when his uncle arrived as base commander!
After his honorable discharge 4 years later, Tack enrolled in the University of Montana in a Liberal Arts program. After a tumultuous and unproductive year, he transferred to a private, Catholic men’s college in the San Francisco Bay area – he spent the next 3 years there and loved it!
Upon graduation in 1962, he started work on his Master’s degree at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT but, 5 months later, was recruited by Indian Affairs to teach English and all related subjects at the boarding school in Busby, MT. He went to work for the BIA in 1962 and spent 5 years there teaching at the Indian boarding school. From there, he spent a year teaching at the Mullen School in Colorado and then returned to MSU Bozeman to complete his Master’s degree. Tack was contacted by the Canadian Indian Affairs to become Head of Guidance and Counseling for Southern Alberta. He held this position until his parents, Spike and Barbara Van Cleve, sold the ranch to him and his brother-in-law, William Carroccia, and returned full-time to ranching on Otter Creek Ranch in Melville, MT.
Tack lost his home and all his belongings, save for some cars, his precious animals, and a dop kit, in the Chi-Chi Fire of November 2007. As devasting as that fire was to him, he showed what he was truly made of and set an example of tenaciousness and determination. He rebuilt on the family ranch and continued to live his life to the fullest and do the things that he loved most, while surrounded by his animals.
Throughout his life, Tack spent his summers at his family dude ranch, the Lazy K Bar Ranch. He was the go-to for all handyman issues and could fix pretty near anything he touched. He tirelessly drove the multiple Billings trips every week to shop and pick up guests. He also was the energy behind the square dances, was the raconteur who riveted generations with his ghost stories and recitations around dinner ride campfires. He was the person who made sure that the ranch always had fresh milk and cream from his beloved milk cows.
Tack had a very deep love for and connection with animals – from his cherished milks cows and weaner pigs to horses, as well as his menagerie of rescued cats and dogs. Animals truly sensed that he wouldn’t hurt them, wanted to help them and he could calm them with his gentle voice and soft touch. He was always surrounded by his animal companions and loved being able to rescue those who needed a loving home.
Tack adored antique cars and was always active in car clubs, swap meets, and just generally enjoying rebuilding, buying and selling the cars he adored. He belonged to many car clubs and made lifelong friends with others who shared his passion. A competing love was genealogy and he was absolutely the family historian who knew more about our family than anyone else. And he did all of his research the old-fashioned way without the Internet – exchanging letters and phone calls, sharing pictures, visiting family sites, digging in libraries for archives and information.
Tack lived a long, colorful, compassionate, and very fulfilling life and maintained his deep faith to the end. The number of lives that he touched, more deeply than he knew, are immeasurable.
Cremation has taken place and a Memorial Mass will be held 11:00 A.M. Saturday November 9 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Big Timber.
In lieu of flowers, he asked that you please send donations to the Stafford Animal Shelter , 3 Business Park Rd, Livingston, MT 59047 or the Crazy Mountain Museum, PO Box 83 Big Timber, MT 59011.
Condolences for the family may be made at www.stenbergfuneralhome.com
To plant a tree in memory of Paul Ledyard 'Tack' VanCleve, IV, visit the Tribute Store.
910 McLeod Street
Big Timber, MT 59011
Crazy Mountain Museum
Big Timber, MT 59011