The Idaho Silver Valley loaned Tim Bush to Griz Nation for five years, but it was obvious at the recent celebration of the former All-American football player’s life what a profound effect he had on, not just his teammates and fans, but a mining community that has buried its share of sons.
Bush, still the far-and-away career sack and tackle-for-loss University of Montana football record holder, died like two other members of his family before him in an accident at the Galena Mine not far from Kellogg High School, where a standing-room-only crowd of about 1,000 people packed the gymnasium recently for his funeral.
Tim, 29, was a warrior defensive end who in back-to-back years (2002 and 2003) received UM’s Larry Miller Award as the team’s finest defensive lineman. He was named an Associated Press All-American his senior season – ironically, a year when he didn’t repeat as a Big Sky All Conference choice.
A large contingent of former teammates, such as defensive back Trey Young, who drove in from Seattle, and quarterback John Edwards, who traveled with his family from Billings, packed the gym 30 minutes before the funeral began.
But while the wearing of maroon was encouraged and ever-present, what I heard mostly was not about the Grizzlies but the story of a young man who left a lasting imprint on the communities he grew up in and the life he chose to return to.
“If Tim liked you, he had your back,” said Troy Schueller, his former wrestling coach who offered the sole eulogy.
A goatee – or whatever that growth on his chin was – a wide brimming smile and sparkling blue eyes: That was my first impression of Tim, who at 6-foot-3 inches and 245 pounds cast an imposing figure on the field but a gentle and playful soul off of it.
“One of the nicest guys,” said Schueller about Bush’s manner until competition was under way. “Then it was game on.”
A redshirt freshman on the championship runner-up team of 2000 and a member of the 15-1 National Championship 2001 Grizzly team, Tim often talked about teaching and coaching and was a semester from gaining his teacher’s certificate.
But the lure of the family mining tradition and the amount of money available to a contract miner lured him first to the Stillwater Mine in eastern Montana, then back to his family roots near Pinehurst, Idaho, home where his uncle and great uncle also lost their lives underground.
In addition to those at the funeral, hundreds lined the streets of Kellogg for the memorial procession and more than 1,000 left poignant messages on an “In memory of Tim Bush” Facebook page.
“Tim had a way of bringing joy and inspiration to all he encountered,” wrote Cathy Crow Sparks.
“Tim was one of the most thoughtful, sensitive guys I have ever known,” wrote Angie Kovasch, a lifelong friend, in a letter read at the funeral.
His motor always ran full throttle and he had an innate sense of the angle he needed to bull-rush an offensive lineman and corral a quarterback. But what I treasure most was not only No. 91’s dedication to family but pretty much to anybody he met and to whom he left a lasting impression.
He surely was one of mine and Griz Nation’s favorites because that’s the way he rolled.
“Kellogg lost another miner but heaven gained a great man,” wrote Bobbi Whatcott on Facebook.
“Be loyal, laugh a lot, live life to the fullest,” said Schueller during the eulogy about how Tim would want you to live. “Have no regrets and, most importantly, be proud of your family and your friends.”
Bush was to be married in September to Jennifer Campbell with whom he had a son, Davon, and a common-law relationship.
Memorial funds in Bush’s memory have been established at Panhandle State Bank in Kellogg and Wells Fargo Bank.
The Grizzlies will wear No. 91 on the back of their helmets this season in Bush’s honor.
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