Arthur Louis Depner, age 99, entered into Eternal Glory on February 8, 2021.
Art was born in Lewistown, MT on December 20, 1921, to Martin and Katherine (Gerber) Depner. He was the 5th of 9 children. Shortly after Art was born, the family moved to Billings, MT. When Art was 15, he paid $20 for his first car: a 1918 Studebaker. His little sisters loved going for rides with their big brother. Art graduated from Billings High School in 1939. He enlisted in the Air Force when he was 19, proudly serving as a Bomb Loader during World War II. Several men from his group were part of the Doolittle Raiders, as depicted in “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”, Art’s favorite war movie. Writing “Regards the Depners” on a bomb before loading it onto a plane was a favorite story Art liked to share. Art spent his 21st birthday on the USS Susan B. Anthony troopship outside of Casablanca Morocco and toured much of Europe during his time in the Air Force.
Art had a keen memory for dates, names, locations, and even the food he ate during his military years. He became a living history book for the Depners. Upon his discharge from the military, Art found his way back to Billings and worked alongside his father in the family-owned business, New Method Shoe Repair CO. Eventually Art took over the business, changed the name to Depner Shoe Repair, and the rest is history. The shop became a Billings landmark. Art gave Depner Shoes the personal touch. He knew all his customers by name. He knew their kids and the sports they played. He supplied ice skates for the city of Billings and made sure the blades were kept sharp. Art took pride in his work, always trying to make a repaired shoe look as new as possible.
In 1948 Art met Elizabeth Schwehr at The St. Patrick’s Young Adult Group; a popular place for young singles to interact. There was lots of dancing and Art and Elizabeth often went to the Elks Lodge or the Knights of Columbus to take in the big bands such as Kay Kyser and Glen Miller. The two were married in 1949, and together raised 9 children. They were long time members of St. Pius X Catholic Church in Billings. Art was a baby whisperer, loving babies and children. The family enjoyed picnicking and camping in the mountains. Art loved fishing, hunting and bowling. He and Elizabeth lived in Billings until 2005, when they moved to Spokane, WA to be closer to family. There they became members of Assumption Parish.
Throughout his life, Art maintained a quick wit and wonderful sense of humor and laughed a lot. He had a knack for recalling specific details and dates about events in his life. A highlight for Art in 2012 was taking the Honors Flight for World War II Veterans to Washington D.C., with his “kid brother”, Ed. Another highlight from the war was when he visited his brother Earl, a fighter pilot, who was stationed near him in Dijon, France. Earl asked him if he’d like to go to Paris and Art said, “Of course! When do we leave?”. So, Earl flew him to Paris for the weekend in a P-41 that had an extra seat! Art was a fighter and never gave up, including surviving Covid-19 when he was 98. He always made the best of every situation no matter what life threw at him, with never a complaint.
He is survived by his children James Depner, Dan (Roberta) Depner, Jerry (Christine) Depner, Steve Depner, Greg Depner, Joe Depner, Chuck Depner and Mary (Rob) Johnson, along with 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his siblings, Earl Depner, Ed Depner and Patricia Gomm and many nieces and nephews. Art was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 65 years, Elizabeth, and his daughter, Cheryl Koch, as well as two daughters-in-law, Joanie Depner and Tish Depner. He was also preceded in death by his parents and siblings Gladys (infant), Helen Nordlund, Sister Mary SCL, Rita Leader and Arnold Depner.
Art’s faith remained a constant in his life and is what gives his family hope in their grief. Our hearts ache as we miss our Dad, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle. But we know that he trusted in his Lord and Savior throughout his life and is now enjoying his reward, resting in the arms of Jesus.
A small graveside service will be held at the Washington State Veteran’s Cemetery in Medical Lake. A Celebration of Life will be held in Billings, MT at a later time this spring or summer, TBA.
To send sympathy gifts to the family or plant a tree in memory of Arthur Louis Depner, please visit our tribute store.