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314 Church St. | P.O. Box 12
Stevensville, Montana, 59870
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Email: whitesittfh@gmail.com

Michael John Kroetch

Born: Fri., Jun. 3, 1955
Died: Tue., May 11, 2021

Funeral Service

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Michael J. Kroetch, 65, peacefully took his last breath in his home in Stevensville, Montana surrounded by loved ones on May 11, 2021. He challenged cancer and was positive about life throughout the past year and a half. He was born June 3, 1955 and grew up in San Leandro, California. After graduating high school, Mike moved to Horse Creek, California where he fell in love with the wilderness and raised two daughters. Mike began his career as a wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service in 1974 and enjoyed every moment. Mike spent his fire career in various capacities, starting out on a fuels/fire crew and continued over the years with the Scott Bar engine, Redding Hotshots, Scott River Fuels Officer, Scott Valley Rappel Crew, and Fire Management Officer at Oak Knoll and Scott River Districts. Mike especially loved the implementation aspect of fuels and fire use to achieve healthy ecosystems and protect the forests he loved with all his heart. He was most at home in the woods and we cannot think of him without his iconic mustache, logging jeans, suspenders and a well-worn T-shirt. He took pride in a solid work ethic, physical fitness, and completing his work to perfection. He mentored so many firefighters along the way throughout his career, and that was always one of his greatest achievements – to teach others. If we just listen, we can hear him telling us all to “get back to work”! Mike had a love for storytelling and had more to share than he could keep up with. After his career, he started a new chapter in life in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. He continued his work with self-employment in fuels reduction and fire suppression. His chipper was his pride and joy and his attention to detail and service to the customer were of high importance to him. His last fire assignment was on the Beaverhead Deerlodge NF with his chipper, high up on a ridge overlooking Idaho and Montana. He was the first one to the coffee pot each morning, telling his tales to the young firefighters brave enough to face the freezing early morning temps while waiting for breakfast, listening to the elk bugle in the nearby meadow and anticipating the start of a new day. He simply loved each day and he loved to work. Mike was extremely creative and talented. He loved many hobbies and recreation during his life, and his consistent true passions were welding, construction and motorcycle riding. While he spent time with ATVs in the dunes, bicycle trips, and hiking; in the end, his greatest wish involved loading up on his KTM for adventure someplace new. He loved life in Montana and was so thankful every day for the experience, as well as all of the new riding opportunities. He had explored most of the accessible roads in western Montana and neighboring Idaho within his first two years and only wanted to keep going further, all the while planning the next BDR trip or other adventure. He also loved the desert country and provided fond memories of a happy man even in heat, dust, sand and every conceivable inconvenience. His riding companions and many others that knew his passion for riding hope he is now out scouting new trails with water at the campsites for when we ride with him again! Mike is the son of the late Thomas and Doris Kroetch. He is preceded in death by his brother Tom. He is survived by his wife, Paige Boyer; his two daughters and their families, Kjerstina (Kroetch) and husband, Abe Gutierrez; Michael Kroetch, her partner Harley Dahlin and their son Perrin; his former wife Karen and her husband, Tom Boehme; and his brothers Bob Kroetch and Jim Kroetch. Mike’s familial roots are in the Coeur d’Alene/Spokane area and the San Francisco Bay area. We are all very happy he had room in his life for so many loving relationships. Mike did not want a service or memorial. An online memorial will be available instead at:http://www.whitesittfuneralhome.com/obits/obituary.php?id=721575. Please post memories, stories, photos, etc. to share your love of Mike and his life. An informal gathering will be held in California at a future date to gather friends and family in his honor. The family wishes that any memorials be made to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation in Boise, Idaho. Website: www.wffoundation.org .

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Condolence Booklet

   Posted Sat May 15, 2021
We will all be at a loss without Mike in our lives. Please share your comments, photos or stories on line so that we can all share his life. His friends and family are spread far and wide, so while we cannot gather in one place in person, we can share here and enjoy memories of the incredible person who was so full of life and living. He was amazing to the very last breath, and we must wait to see him again. He would want us all to continue living with passion for work and play and to see the beauty in every day. Each day was meaningful to Mike, and I aspire to continue to live as he did. Although my heart is broken, I know that my life has been blessed to have shared his. Mike spread much love into the world. My thoughts go out to all of his family and friends who will miss him.

Peter Eddy
   Posted Sat May 15, 2021
My deepest condolences. Mike was a good friend, full of positive energy and one of the most clever men that I have had the privilege to befriend. He will be missed by all that have known him.
Sincerely, Peter Eddy

Jimmy J. Butac
   Posted Sat May 15, 2021
I got to first meet uncle Mike when he came over to PA with my aunt Paige,
Uncle Mike had a personality that had me instantly like him. We got to talking about fly fishing and how he and Aunt Paige were slowly getting into it and how I had a place to come if I ever wanted to come and visit and try my luck on the bitterroot. Uncle Mike and Aunt Paige were talking about how busy they were still in the fire service even after retirement and that’s when we got even closer, I had to go out and grab my helmet and show uncle Mike, I still remember the look of surprise when I handed him my leather and the reply of “that’s pretty heavy, I wouldn’t want to wear that doing wild land firefighting”. We got to talking about the fire service and about my recent promotion at that time to assistant chief of my fire station.
I would have really liked to go out and visit uncle Mike and Aunt Paige, do a little fishing and porch sitting before he became ill.
In your honor this November uncle Mike I’m growing out my mustache just like yours. Hope you’ll be smiling up above at this little gesture.
Until we meet again.
Your loving nephew Jay.

Gary Hirata
   Posted Sat May 15, 2021
Mike and I went to high school together. We grew up in the Bay Area, but Mike was an outdoorsman and moved to the Siskiyous after graduating. He knew everything about the mountains. Mike was a great friend. We spend many vacations riding motorcycles. Motorcycles were his passion, but Paige was his love. Mike was proud of his daughters Kjer and Michael. Mike died too soon, but still lived a full and accomplished life. I will miss Mike and think of him often, but especially when riding my motorcycles. Ride in Peace my friend.

Ken Harris
   Posted Sat May 15, 2021
Mike was an amazing and wonderful person. He will be missed by all who had the honor of knowing him.

Gary Hirata
   Posted Sat May 15, 2021
Mike and I went to high school in the Bay Area. Mike was an outdoorsman and moved to the Siskiyous upon graduation. He dedicated his life to preserving the wildlands for us and future generations. Mike led his crew by demonstrating and demanding fitness and work ethics. Mike had a passion for riding motorcycles, but his love was Paige, and his daughters Kjer and Michael. Mike was a great friend. We spent vacations riding motorcycles to remote locations. My only issue with Mike was he did not mind going a week in the woods without bathing and expected me to do the same. We passed many streams and lakes only to camp in a dry location. I’m going to miss my good friend. I will think of Mike often and especially when I ride my motorcycle. Ride in Peace

Mike Smith
   Posted Sat May 15, 2021
Mike was my brother in law for most of my life, even after he and my sister divorced Mike remained like a brother to me. I have learned so much from him in the construction field and will really miss being able to call on him for advice on a project. Mike was probably to blame for my 40 year career in fire I think because I looked up to him for so long as a kid and an adult. Although I never got to ride with him in Montana I had several years of riding with him before he moved east and have great memories of all of them. I recently met Mike and Paige in Washington to buy his old KTM from him and that was unfortunately the last time I was able to see him. I will greatly enjoy going on some rides and will think of him often. Rest In Peace Brother.

Dave Milner
   Posted Sat May 15, 2021
I've Know Mike and been a friend and relative since our days in High School together
I knew him before I met and married his cousin Cathy the love of my life
He was a great friend and inspiration We shared a love of adventure in the outdoors
His stories of fighting wild fires were epic !
Mike will always be a legend to me
I was blessed with a son that looks a lot like Him and reminds me of him every time i see him
He was alway i great physical shape and that makes it all the more shocking that he would leave us so soon He was an extraordinary carpenter and metal worker olongapo his many talents
He was one of kind
A mans man
He was loved by all of the family
We had a lot of great times and laughs
I'll always remember his laugh

Christin Rzasa
   Posted Sun May 16, 2021
Art and I were grocery shopping in the little market in Stevensville one Sunday when we were approached by a lanky guy with a Yosemite Sam moustache and laughing blue eyes. “Hey – I think you’re my neighbors!” he said with a grin. We spent the next half hour standing in the produce section chatting with one of the friendliest guys we’d met in a long time, and we left relieved and delighted to know who was building the new house just down the slough. The second time we met was in another typical-Mike interlude. I was working in my garden when I glanced up and noticed my gelding – two pastures away – staring intently at me with both his front legs caught up in the field fencing along the road. I sprinted the 200-yard dash from the garden, through the slough and across the hayfield to find that same mustachioed man standing outside our fence quietly talking to my horse, helping to keep him calm until I got there to free up his legs. What a NICE guy!! After that, Art and I often met Mike out at our mailboxes or the grocery store where Mike would entertain us with stories of his amazing fire-fighting career or we’d swap back-country adventure tales. Mike almost never failed to mention his wife, Paige, still working in California, and how he was anxious for her to join him in their new home in the Bitterroot. “I can’t wait for you to meet Paige!” he’d say, nearly every time I ran into him. His great love and respect for her were so obvious – and made me like him that much more. Mike and Art enjoyed several forays to the neighbor’s ranch to fall dead cottonwoods for our firewood. Mike’s incredible wealth of knowledge about the art of felling trees – as well as his skill at sharing that knowledge with others – was invaluable to both of us. I had no worries about my relative-neophyte logger husband when I knew Mike was going along with him. Mike was incredibly generous, friendly, dynamic – just a lovely person to be around. We will miss him terribly, but we are so grateful to have had him in our lives for even a little while. Rest easy, my friend!

Margaret J Boland
   Posted Sun May 16, 2021
We were so lucky to have Mike work on the Klamath NF for a number of years and wish they could have been more. I always enjoyed time spent with Mike and Paige and they enriched my life.

Lucinda D Hyatt
   Posted Sun May 16, 2021
Jeff and I are so sorry for your loss. We send our love to you.

Sherri Taketa
   Posted Sun May 16, 2021
From the moment I met Mike he had a sparkle in his eyes. As time passed and I got to know him better I realized that sparkle was his zest for life, creativity, joy of family and love for us. Always thinking, always smiling, and smoothing his moustache. When Mike married my sister, Paige and our families joined, I was blessed with another brother. Mike was a strong man, mentally and physically, driven with a moral code to be admired and a sense of humor until he left us on his next journey. One day, Mike, when we meet again, I'll be ready to don a helmet, hop on for a ride and check out the trails you've been blazing. Forever in my heart, brother Mike.

Carl Donelson
   Posted Sun May 16, 2021
Paige, I was so sorry to hear the news as I know you and Mike were so excited about the future and your plans. I wish I could have gotten to know Mike. You are an amazing person and you must have given him a lot of that strength to fight you had mentioned. I wish you all the best moving forward and if there is any assistance you might need moving through this challenge please reach out. Once again this came as a shock and I am so sorry. Carl

Aaron Schuh
   Posted Sun May 16, 2021
Hi Paige, very sorry to hear of Mikes passing. He was a great FMO. So stoked I got to know him and watch how he took care of folks set expectations and was just a fun all around guy to hang with and talk with. I will always remember the Handle bar mustache and the Brown Vuarnet sunglasses he sported. Take care Paige you are in my thoughts. Aaron

Gary Madison
   Posted Mon May 17, 2021
Dear Paige, Gary Hirata recently told me the very sad notice that Mike lost his battle with cancer. I am so very sorry and sad for your loss. I treasure our Idaho and Utah BDR rides with you and Mike. You both were great guides and hosts. These rides were bucket list highlights for me.
Mike was an outstanding person and real American. He was dedicated to public service and to making our public lands safe for all. I have never toured so many fire lookouts as we did on the rides with Mike! I enjoyed our talks around the campfires and at your beautiful home. Mike and you became two of my favorite and most admired persons after I had the great honor to ride with and spend time with both of you. I will miss another ride and fireside conversation with Mike.
Paige you are a very nice and strong person. I hope that knowing how we admire and love Mike and you will help during this heartbreaking time. I will think of Mike every time I ride my motorcycle, pass a lookout tower and sit by a camp fire. You can always contact me for anything.
Love from ole Gary on the Suzuki650.

Susan Daniels
   Posted Mon May 17, 2021
Paige, take care. Our thoughts are with you and Mikes extended family.
Phil and I kept saying that we should get in touch with you when we ventured across the Bitter roots but somehow we never managed it but we always had a smile and a story or two when we thought of you Your Klamath friends Sue Daniels and Phil McNeal

Trish Lee
   Posted Mon May 17, 2021
Dear Paige,
I am so sorry for your loss. I know it’s been a hard road these last few years. Please accept my sincere sympathies.
Bob has a great picture of Mike Bob and Tom at our house in Alaska with the totem. It was so wonderful to have them here that summer helping build out the new kitchen dining room. Tom was so happy to have them here. We had a lot of laughs!
Mike had a very unique sense of humor - I could never tell if he was serious or kidding, but he almost always made me laugh. I also witnessed his kindness and love for his family including the dogs!
Mike - you’re a Star and will be missed💕. I’m so jealous (not really of course) that you get to be with Tom and Doris - God Bless you Mike - rest in peace.


Joe and Karren Bistryski
   Posted Mon May 17, 2021
Paige and Family,
Karren and I send our most heartfelt condolences to you, Mike and Family. The photo and obituary tell much about the love of this great man for his life, his work, his outdoors and his ability to give to so many. Our thoughts remain with you every day in the celebration of Mike's life.

David Branson
   Posted Tue May 18, 2021
Mike! What a guy! I will miss the totally positive attitude and work ethic that he carried with him and shared with anyone who wanted to learn, work or just have fun. He often encouraged me to go for a thought, task or dream that seemed a little out of my reach. He always gave me good sound advice and sometimes that advise was a little tough to swallow. You know something though, when we put our heads together, things did go well. I like being around people smarter than myself, lol. Here is just one endeavor that we worked on together. Changing R5 fire, faller policy. Yes, this was huge, changing the faller/swamper module to a two faller module. With Mike's guidance, we did just that. Along with that came North Zone Fallers Company and to make this new company of fallers succeed I had to quit my teaching job with only 3 years before retirement. It happened and Mike retired shortly afterward and worked with us for a few summers. I can still hear him, "Branson you are a crazy, Ballzy sun of a bitch" and then his AHAAHAAA laugh. Knowing full well that if I didn't follow through and things went tits up, he was in it with me. He was great friend! But, this remark always came a year or two down the road. He wanted to make sure things worked out before he celebrated. There were many more ideas and challenges that we shared and were able to conquer. Mike also invented and made special tow hitches for our trailers and a portable stand for working on chainsaws. I use them all the time. I will always miss that big smile peaking out of his stach and his warm welcome every time you met him. Sure glad he met you Paige. He was left in good hands.

Joe Suter
   Posted Tue May 18, 2021
Are family had the pleasure of meeting Mike and family when are daughters played basket ball. Mikes contagious smile and laugh will never be forgotten. I friend who would do anything for you.
Joe and Beth Suter

Eric Taketa
   Posted Tue May 18, 2021
Mike definitely left us too soon. I remember him as someone who was enthusiastic about everything and his fondness for Wild Turkey whiskey.

Jim Schexnayder
   Posted Wed May 19, 2021
I have known the Kroetch family since 1964. Through Bob Kroetch I came to know Mike up in Weed, California and also Paige. Mike reflected character, sincerity and down to earth spirit.
May he enjoy his new life of endless beauty and peace.

Gary Craddock
   Posted Fri May 21, 2021
A few of us retired Old Guys from the Nest were reminiscing after hearing of Mike's passing. The general consensus was Mike was, plain and simply a hell of a great guy and truly someone to ride the river with. As retirement stretches from years to decades we lose track of those that impressed us but still remember the memories that led to the impression. Great Guy and great memories. Take care and our sympathies Paige.

Gary Craddock

   Posted Fri May 21, 2021
Dear Paige, All I can say is what a guy!!! Mike loved life, his family especially you Paige, the outdoors, those laughing eyes, the stories he would tell, he was always there for anyone who needed help, telling jokes.... The beers, the motorcycle rides... My prayers and thoughts are with you Paige & extended family❤️

Tom Fielden
   Posted Fri May 21, 2021
Paige, I send you my deepest condolences. I really don’t remember the first time I met Mike, it must have been back in the BD days, he was running a crew out of Oak Knoll and I was just a brush maggot on the Salmon River BD crew, the crews were always chasing fires all over the forest, but when you meet Mike, how can you forget him, especially with that handlebar mustache, LOL!!! It appeared through the smoke like a fog lamp. I left the Klamath to gain some out of state experience and then came back and I was offered a job at Oak Knoll where I was fortunate enough to work for Mike, a true leader and a good friend, who knew how to delineate the situation, I would have to say he is one of the leaders that helped me shape my leadership style throughout may career. Mike will be dearly missed, Paige you are in my thoughts and prayers, I know you are a very strong woman and while the pain cuts deep right now you will be OK.
Take care of yourself,

Heidi McNabb Ely
   Posted Sat May 22, 2021
Paige and all Family and Friends of Mike,

God bless you as you mourn the loss of such a great man. May the good Lord fill your hearts and minds with beautiful memories of Mike.


Yvonne Smith
   Posted Sun May 23, 2021
I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Mike. It was nice to read about all of his accomplishments and the love he had for others, his family and nature. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him but I will always remember his sweet heart and soul. RIP dear Mike❤️

Allen & Diane
   Posted Sun May 23, 2021
Mike's going to be missed big time. we both have enjoyed spending time with him no matter where we were. there were always laughs and jokes we even managed to get some work done. his advice and insight on our land purchase in Montana was invaluable. Last trip out mike was starting to teach me to weld. Wish we could have continued those lessons I definitely needed them, guess we can continue them when I cross over to the other side. Mike's passing leaves an empty spot in all our hearts. I hope wherever your at you have the perfect work shop in the middle of the mountains with nothing but good times ahead. we will meet again until then we love ya and miss you.

Allen & Diane

Madeleine Levaggi
   Posted Sun May 23, 2021
Getting to work with Mike was a highlight of my time on the Klamath. He was a mentor like no other. There was a void when he left the Knoll. I was grateful when he came out of retirement and spent quality time with me sharing his knowledge for the Johnny O'Neil fuels analysis.  When discussing the greats, those that valued hard work, that made a difference, the two words that inevitably follow are:   like Kroetch.
He was warm, kind, engaging and made stiffs laugh.
What a glorious time of year to grab his helmet for the last time. He is in our hearts and forever with you as he rides wherever the heavens lead.  My sincere condolences to you sweet Paige.

Mark & Laura
   Posted Sun May 23, 2021

We couldn't have been more blessed to have you as neighbors during your new adventures in Montana. Mike was an incredible man that loved his life, worked hard, played hard, and had a good supportive wife along side of him to his end days on this earth. He loved his Beautiful girls and his grandson Perrin too! We will miss his Smile and sincere heart. RIP Mike... Happy Trails. Tight Hugs to you,
Paige xoxoxo

Deryl d Hess
   Posted Tue May 25, 2021
My condolences to the family. I worked with Mike many years on the Klamath Natl. Forest. He always had a smile on his face and a friendly greeting on his lips.

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