Gene was well known as the “honorary mayor” of Victor, Montana, where he and his wife, Mavis, owned and operated the Homemakers Center. Gene sold and repaired vacuum cleaners and sewing machines and visited with everyone who routinely stopped by the store, while Mavis taught classes and made fudge, cakes and other goodies.
A lifelong outdoorsman, Gene especially enjoyed sharing his love of the wilderness with his family. He and Mavis had two children, Brian and Janice; eight grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. He would often take them fishing, camping and horseback riding. They all share wonderful memories of this time with him.
Gene was rarely seen without his trademark cowboy hat. When referred to as a “cowboy,” however, he
would say, “I’m not a cowboy, I’m a horseman.” He helped found the Bitterroot Valley chapter of the Back Country Horsemen and, as two-time president, three-time vice president, and an enthusiastic member, he taught many people how to do pack trips and trail rides. He was awarded the Back Country Horsemen Lifetime Achievement Award for 30 years of dedication and service.
Gene was civically involved throughout his life. He helped promote a presidential campaign and participated in political activist groups. He was on the Victor Park Board and was also instrumental in the annual Chief Victor Days celebration. He was designated Parade Marshal one year, and he and Mavis were Victor’s 2006 Citizens of the Year.
Making Victor the best it could be was very important to Gene. He worked with the highway department to create the beautiful Victor section of highway 93 we see today, with the widened safety medians that he called “get abouts.” This required years of dedication and perseverance. But he had a vision in his mind and would not give up until it was complete. The beauty of this stretch of road is largely because of him.
Gene was a natural optimist who was gifted at finding the bright side in hard situations – a skill he learned early on. Born in Waitsburg, Washington on July 13, 1929 to Clarice Grove and Elmer Lewis Buroker, he entered a family dynamic that was often fraught with difficulty, due to his father’s alcoholism. Gene’s mother regularly sent him to the bar to fetch what he could of his father’s paycheck before it was entirely spent. When he was six years old, Dad’s mother fled, leaving him in charge of his two younger siblings with his father mostly absent.
Despite his early troubles, Gene wasn’t bitter. He turned his early hardships into life lessons that he passed onto his own children and grandchildren. In his later years, Gene often helped a local homeless man by giving him window washing and other paid work at his store. He told his grandchildren that the man reminded him of his own father.
Gene and Mavis were active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where Gene served in several teaching and leadership roles. He was a wonderful and engaging storyteller, which helped him bring teachings to life. He always had a strong testimony of the church, however, he also had an affinity for cussing. That was alright because, as he put it, “Hell and damn aren’t swearwords.”
No matter what, Gene always took the time to stop and listen to those he met along the way. He was a true friend who cared for those around him. He was known for being warm and accepting, and never speaking ill of others.
In his last few days on this earth, Gene often revisited memories of his time in the woods. He described the meditation of fishing in a cool mountain stream, and the graceful swish and flick of the perfect cast.
His heart was always in the woods, with his family and his community. We will always remember him.
Gene is preceded in death by his wife, Mavis June Pearson Buroker; his parents, Clarice Grove McCauley and Elmer Lewis Buroker; his sisters Diana, Carole Louise, and his brother Bobby.
He is survived by his daughter, Janice Buroker Mineer and her husband, Randy; son Brian Buroker and his wife, Tish; eight grandchildren; 16 (soon-to-be 17) great grandchildren; and his sisters Marjorie, Darlene, Sandy and Carol.