West Glacier Officer Remembered as Devoted Colleague, Beloved Family Man

Friends, family gather to memorialize USFS officer killed by bear near Glacier Park

By Justin Franz
Somer Treat is presented with an American flag during a celebration of life ceremony for Forest Service Officer and West Glacier resident Brad Treat on July 7, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

A dedicated and skilled law enforcement officer. An honorable family man defined by integrity and compassion. A real-life superhero.

Friends, family and a large contingent of the law enforcement community gathered Thursday in Kalispell to remember Brad Treat, a 38-year-old U.S. Forest Service officer who was killed last week by a bear while mountain biking near Glacier National Park.

Approximately 2,500 people attended an emotional 90-minute service at Legends Stadium, where Treat was memorialized as an inspirational role model who dedicated his heart and soul to his job, his family and his entire community.

“Brad was Superman to many of us, and while he would never admit that, he proved it to us multiple times a day,” said Kyle Johnson, Treat’s uncle and a longtime park ranger at Glacier National Park. “He always found ways to make the worst situation better.”

“He leaves behind an incredible legacy that will impact this community for years to come. He touched the lives of so many people through his work,” said Robert Field, a patrol captain with the U.S. Forest Service and former partner of Treat’s.

Treat was mountain biking near his home in West Glacier with a family member on June 29 when he came down a trail and collided with a bear, according to state wildlife officials investigating the incident. The animal, which has not yet been officially identified as either a grizzly or black bear, killed him.

Early Thursday morning, law enforcement officers and staff members from state, local and federal agencies gathered at the Flathead National Forest headquarters for a procession through Kalispell. Shortly after 9 a.m., the solemn cavalcade traveled south along U.S. Highway 93, stretching nearly the entire length of Main Street through downtown. As the convoy slowly passed, local residents stood on the sidewalk to pay their respects.

Upon arrival at Legends Stadium, pallbearers carried Treat’s remains and the colors were posted. The ceremony, officiated by Flathead County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Drew Buckner, included remarks from Sheriff Chuck Curry, Acting Director for the USFS Law Enforcement and Investigations Tracy Perry and longtime Flathead High School running coach Paul Jorgensen.

»»» Click here to view video snippets from the memorial.

Treat was born and raised in Kalispell and became a standout athlete at Flathead High School, class of 1996. He graduated from the University of Montana with a masters degree in criminology before working as a law enforcement officer for 15 years on the Hungry Horse Ranger District. He was also a member of the local search and rescue organization, as well as swiftwater rescue and avalanche rescue teams. He also previously worked as a wildland firefighter and backcountry ranger for the National Park Service.

During the ceremony, friends and colleagues talked of Treat’s love for his job and his ability to make even the worst situation better, no matter the conditions or circumstances.

Curry said Treat was someone who could always be relied upon and would always offer solutions. Curry said Treat was a valued partner to every law enforcement agency in Northwest Montana.

“Brad was one of us,” Curry said. “The law enforcement community was better because of you. You were a great colleague, a great problem solver, but most importantly you were a friend.”

Perry, who flew in from Washington, D.C. to attend the memorial service, recalled doing a ride along with Treat in April 2012 while on assignment on the Flathead National Forest. Perry said during their time together he learned a lot about Treat and his values.

“I learned that Brad loved serving the community that he grew up in, but more importantly I learned that he loved his family, especially his wife, Somer,” Perry said.

Jorgensen, who has coached runners at Flathead for over 40 years, recalled a young man who loved to compete but never let his own desire to win get in the way of encouraging others. He specifically recalled one instance at a cross-country meet where Treat won the race and turned around and congratulated every competitor who finished.

Johnson, a longtime Glacier Park ranger and Treat’s uncle, recalled how Treat would always bring excitement and laughter to everything he did, including family gatherings. Johnson recalled Treat’s love for Halloween and how he would spend hours trying to carve the perfect pumpkin – going as far as dubbing himself the “Pumpkin Master” – even if his skills may not have warranted the title. He said that Treat and his wife, Somer Hileman Treat, brought joy with them wherever they went.

“Whenever Brad and Somer left a family gathering, they took the air out of the room with them,” he said.

During his emotional remarks, Johnson noted that the Forest Service road near the Hungry Horse Ranger Station would be renamed as a memorial to Treat.

“Brad will live on in our hearts forever,” Johnson said. “God speed until we meet again.”

Field, USFS patrol captain for the Pacific Northwest Region, worked with Treat for 11 years on the Flathead National Forest. He said that Treat was a hardworking officer who knew when to be tough and when to be compassionate. On one occasion, when Treat found a homeless man camping on Forest Service land with a fire that would barely burn, he went into the woods to retrieve more firewood to help.

“When I worked on the Hungry Horse Ranger District, I realized that I had the best job in the world, but now I realize it was all because of him,” Field said of Treat. “I looked forward going to work every day because I knew I would get to spend time with Brad and I knew that it would always be an adventure.”

Field added, “He made me want to be a better person.”

Chaplain Buckner read a statement from Treat’s wife, Somer, in which she thanked the community for the outpouring of support she and her family have received in the last week and talked about how there was no one quite like her late husband.

“I was so lucky to be his sidekick for all the years we have had, just as everyone he came in contact with feels lucky too,” she wrote. “He changed lives. He was not just liked, he was loved. He was not just respected, he was admired. He was not just average, he was exceptional.”

Toward the end of the ceremony, dispatchers called out Treat’s call sign, FS 44, over the radio one final time before retiring it for good.

“Last call for FS 44 Brad Treat. End of watch June 29, 2016. Gone but not forgotten. Rest in peace my friend,” the dispatcher said. “We have the watch from here.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a color guard of federal agents gave Treat a 21-gun salute before a single officer played Taps. The silence of the emotional ceremony was only interrupted when a rescue helicopter flew over the field.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to a memorial scholarship fund that has been set up in Treat’s honor with the Flathead High School Athletic Division. Checks can be made out to “Kalispell Public Schools in Memory of Brad Treat” and given to Glacier Bank of Kalispell. Donations can also be made online at www.gofundme.com/2cmwd3yp.

Additional reporting contributed by Dillon Tabish. 

A statement from Somer Hileman Treat, the wife of Brad Treat:

The Perfect Slice of Life

June 29th was the perfect blue bird Montana day. Brad Treat, the closest thing to a super hero I will ever know, was having a perfect day. Brad was 38 years old and lived what I will always consider to be the perfect slice of life. I have looked back over his years and thought who else could do it like Brad? Who else could make all the right choices, who else has all this, lives like this, what makes a person so good, so loyal, so passionate, so committed, so perfect? And I will never have the answer, because there was only one Brad. I was lucky to be his sidekick for all the years we have had, just as everyone he came in contact with feels lucky too. He changed lives. He was not just liked, he was loved. He was not just respected, he was admired. He was not just average, he was exceptional. And he chose to live each and every day that way. And because of who he was, and how we did it, every person who knows him will try to measure up to him.

The day Brad died, hundreds of people who loved him gathered to be part of the effort to help, to be part of this life story. The outpouring of loyalty and support in that moment will be part of the most impactful piece of my life. It is context to the way Brad lived. He impacted everyone. He brought out the best in everyone. He lived life to the fullest, he committed to everything he did and everyone in his life 100 percent. He is the role model for doing it right.

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