Giving Back to Montana

The story behind James Daley's $1 million donation to FVCC

By Xavier Flory

LAKESIDE — When James “Jim” Daley first started setting cables at the Stoltze Lumber Company in 1937, he was paid 38 cents an hour. Last week, the Flathead Valley Community College Foundation announced it had received a $1 million dollar gift from Daley, 96, and his late wife, Doris Monk Daley. The new James and Doris Monk Daley Endowed Scholarship Fund is designed to provide scholarships for Montanans to attend FVCC who would not otherwise be able to afford college.

Jim himself barely graduated high school. One of seven children, he flunked world history his senior year, but as he often would, Jim persevered and stayed the extra semester to get his diploma.

He first moved to Montana in 1926 when his father came to Whitefish to work for Stoltze. By the time Jim started working in the 1930s, “there wasn’t too much work, especially in the winter time.” He did whatever logging he could, and when there wasn’t work in the woods, he worked as a farm hand or picked huckleberries.

Although he struggled at first in the Flathead, there was always food on the table and most of his best memories are from the valley.

“The ice was smooth and perfect” on McWenneger Slough when Jim went skating one morning in early December. His eyes light up at the memory of being interrupted by a young girl from Pleasant Valley, a member of the Monk family who settled Montana in the 19th century. The girl he met that day was Doris Monk, to whom he was married for 60 years before she passed away in 2000.

After getting married, and with work disappearing in Whitefish in the late 1930s, Jim followed work advertisements to Tacoma, Wash., where he fitted pipes in the shipyard. His oldest daughter Joey was born on the train to Tacoma when Doris came to meet up with him. Since Doris worked midnight shift welding at the yard, Jim was in charge of Joey and would pick her up at night and bring her to the nursery in the morning.

The search for work then took him to a truss crew building army barracks in Moses Lake, Wash., and later to Portland, Ore. for carpentry work. He wasn’t drafted for the war until May 1945, and by the time he left for Marshall Islands as a seaman, the war was winding down. When he came back to Kalispell a year later, Doris was waiting with a new addition to the family, Sandy, who had been born while Jim was at sea.

“Yeah, I worked pretty hard when I got back,” Jim laughs. He spent a couple of years working on the Hungry Horse Dam, where he would hang precariously off the side on a safety belt for most of the time. While working on the dam, he was also building houses, sometimes with Montana Builders, sometimes on his own. And on the weekends, Jim took care of the cattle, planted alfalfa fields, and irrigated his land.

He bought his first car, a Ford T-Model, for $14 with his younger brother Garland in the late 1950s. During the 1960s, Jim continued building houses and working on the farm, while Doris drove the tractor, and built wooden boats during the winter. Once the girls graduated high school, she went to work at the power company.

Despite the years of working, in 1975 Jim sat down and realized he would have no money for retirement. So with $500 between them, Jim and Doris started investing in the stock market. At first, under the direction of a bargain broker, they took some losses. Even when they changed to a mutual fund, “it seemed like it was going too slow,” and so Jim started managing the money on his own.

“We just kept plugging along,” he said, but his concern was never about building up a fortune. Jim originally started investing in order to provide for his family and the new $1 million scholarship “seemed like a good way to get rid of [the money].”

Over a two-hour conversation, Jim was happy to talk about all the difficult episodes of his life, including the death of his grandson Dan Fredenberg, who was shot in 2012. But when asked why the new scholarship was for Montanans only, his eyes became moist and his voice shook.

“I wanted the money to stay in Montana,” he said. “I wanted to leave something here.”

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