Raymond Robert Sorenson was born in Malta Dec. 9, 1940 to Richard R. and Mary Craft Sorenson and died on April 20, 2020 in Columbia Falls at home with family at his side.
He went to school in Malta until he was 15 years old and then left home with suitcase in hand and traveled west to Columbia Falls, where he lived with extended family, John and Lola Craft. After a short stay with them, he was on the road again. He worked as a “gandy dancer” on the railroad and a carnie for Oakey Norton shows, and traveled from Montana to Mexico and back by the time he was 18 years old.
At the age of 21 he joined the U.S. Army and served his country faithfully from 1961 until 1967. During his army career he spent time in Korea and ended up as a drill instructor training troops in Fort Ord, California. While in Korea the first time, he met his future wife but was sent back to the U.S. early because the army discouraged marriage between American troops and Korean nationals. Always stubborn and single-minded, he reenlisted dependent on being sent back to Korea. Upon seeing him back in Korea, Sung said, “Why you come back, are you dingy, dingy?” Yes, he was. They were married on Feb. 12, 1964 and he was “dingy, dingy” for his wife Sung until her passing 54 and one-half years later.
After his release from the Army, Raymond and Sung settled in Columbia Falls when he began a career at Columbia Falls Aluminum Co., where he worked for 34 years and was very involved in union affairs. While working his full shifts and taking every opportunity to work overtime, Raymond also attended Flathead Valley Community College and graduated with an associate of arts degree. At the same time, he studied to take his real estate salesperson test and eventually obtained a broker’s license and had his own office. During his FVCC years, he made many friends politically and became a “diehard” Democrat and was very active in the Democratic party. He took great pride in helping to start the Baucus for Senate committee in the Flathead Valley and because Max Baucus stayed at his house during his walk across Montana to gather votes.
Known as a man who built a three-story home without getting above the first rung of a ladder because of fear of heights, he amazed all who knew him when he received his license to become one of the first hot air balloon pilots in Montana. Many friends and family spent hours in a “chase vehicle” as he floated thousands of feet in the air.
Raymond enjoyed playing any card game and was very good at poker and craps. Thirty-nine of the past 42 years he and a group of seven to nine friends who were serious gamblers met in Las Vegas the weeks before and after each Super Bowl. Most of the time, he paid for his trip at the poker tables.
An excellent marksman, Raymond hunted many years. After having put in for a bull elk tag for south of Malta 18 years straight, he received one as a 78 year old and bagged a five-point bull.
Besides his family, Raymond was most proud of being a Mason and a Shriner. Raymond entered the Masons in January 1974 and became a Master Mason in May of that year. He became a noble for the Algeria Shriners in December 1987 and was installed as Potentate of Algeria Shriners in January 2010. He joined the Royal Arch Masons of Montana in 1980 and was elected Grand High Priest Royal Arch Mason of Montana in 2007.
He felt the most important thing he could do was to sponsor a child to be sent to the Shrine Hospital for Children and was especially excited to have helped the grandchildren of his dear friend, Alan Connors. Dedicated to the Masonic Temple and Shriners far beyond most, he traveled from Vancouver and Calgary, Canada, to Houston and Orlando and many points in between to attend national conferences. He was proud of only missing three or four monthly business meetings in Helena over a 20-year period, because he was attending to other Masonic business.
Raymond was preceded in death by his parents, Richard and Mary Sorenson; a brother Gary; and his beloved wife Sung. He is survived by his son Richard of Columbia Falls; his son Johnny, of Tempe, Arizona and wife Paula; and grandchildren Justin, Morgan and Addison. He is also survived by his brother Karl and his wife Kathleen of Columbia Falls; his many cousins; and nieces Ranette Sorenson of Bigfork and Jessica Sorenson of Columbia Falls; and two stepsisters, Leslie Mellinger of Sheridan, Wyoming and Wendy (Steve) Simononton of Malta, as well as many friends.
Raymond will be cremated and Masonic graveside service and celebration of life will held at a later date to be announced.
The family asks that memorials be made to Shriner’s Children Hospitals.
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