Elroy “Dan” Hickel, 88

Elroy “Dan” Hickel, 88

Elroy “Dan” Hickel, age 88 of Ray ND passed away at home in his sleep on 26 June 2021.

A celebration of life will be held at the Ray Auditorium in Ray ND, from noon to 4pm on 5 August 2021.

Dan was born in the Ray Hospital on 22 May 1933 and reared on his parents farm 3 miles north of Ray, graduating from Ray High School in 1952.

He was closest to brother Joseph (Bud), who called him Buzzy, and his rat pack that enjoyed the High-Life courtesy of Ray’s inattentive beer-delivery truck driver.

He was forever proud of the accomplishments of Ray’s HS basketball team of 1951-1952 and of dropping 26 pts in the first varsity game at the “new” gym on 8 Feb 1952. The Ray team narrowly fell to Arnegard in the regional championship game, so close to a state tournament berth.

He enlisted in the US Air Force out of high school, receiving training at Fort Lee and Lackland Air Force base before deployment to Bingen am Rhein Germany where he serviced typewriters for an intel team monitoring Eastern-bloc radio communications. He hopped military flights to tour Lisbon, Cannes, Norway, Greece, Paris and other cities in Europe. After his service, he returned to Ray where he met and married Mary Gail Donnelly, also of Ray, on 3 Sep 1957. After a semester at the Wahpeton State School of Science, he started an oil-field career, working his way up to driller for Circle A.

In 1965 he jumped to the air heater business, first working for Tioga Air Heaters, then moving to Helena MT in fall 1972 to start his own company, Air Heaters West, to provide temporary heating solutions for construction sites throughout the rocky mountain region. His inventory of heaters exceeded 100 at the peak.

Throughout he enjoyed farming the home place with his father, until his passing in late 1973, then continued farming a family property 14-miles south of Ray until selling his interest to brother Donald.

He married his second wife, Mickie Eckman, in 1977 and moved to Sheridan Wyoming in the early ‘80s, then back to Helena after several years. After millions of miles and more than a few harrowing experiences driving ice and snow-covered roads distributing/picking up heaters, he sold his business and moved back to Ray.

Remaining years were spent working on his project house in Ray; negotiating mineral leases; traveling (Caribbean cruise, tour of England to see his grandson Mike, vacations in Brasov Romania, New Zealand and Australia, fishing trips to Canada and Alaska, floating rivers, hanging out at favorite towns on the Pacific coast of Oregon, 1992 NCAA final four, 1984 NBA All Star game, and Scottsdale); building Frankenstein front-wheel drive pickups; taking a cutting torch and welder to anything needing his creative interpretation of its proper function; spending time in Billings with his girlfriend Rosalie; and showing up for every family wedding, funeral, graduation and special event.

He was a lifetime fan of Hank Williams Sr (HWYWML), the Boston Celtics (Russell, Havlicek, McHale, Bird and the Chief), watermelon, going shirtless in the summer time, bib overalls with sleeveless shirts in the winter time, assigning nicknames, Wong’s Chinese restaurant in Helena, Louis L’Amour westerns, Coors light, the 6-oz Sirloin at the Northside, big block Chevy’s, Hogan’s Heroes, Gunsmoke, building shops, spinning tales, bending IRS rules, his Uncle Bruno Weyrauch, and Aunts Della and Gina. He worked hard, had no shy bone in his body, was an unabashed flirt, inveterate BS’er, and enjoyed the occasional brawl.

And though his body was worn out at the end, he never lost enthusiasm for life, the next creation/project to be tackled or road trip to an adventure.

Survived by brothers Donald (Dolly) and Joseph (Veloris); sister Mildred Delaney; sons Steve (Pam), Brent and Darren (Donna); daughter Kathleen Lynn (Keith) Stephens; ten grandchildren and five great grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Preceded in death by his parents Joseph and Lois (Sayles) Hickel; infant sisters Ione and Shirley; sister Louella; Brother Kenneth; wife Mary Gail (Donnelly); and nephews Joel Allen and Kevin Delaney.

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