John Patrick “Pat” Dolan died peacefully at St. Vincent’s Healthcare on November 18, 2018, in Billings, MT at the age of 70. His best friend and wife of 47 years, Shelley, was by his side as he succumbed to complications following surgery earlier in the week.
Pat was born on January 2, 1948, in Helena, MT, to John and Virginia “Dede” Dolan. He was born into an Irish Catholic family along with his twin brother, Mike, and were so small at birth the doctor instructed their mother to take them home to die. He began to grow, and as he did, what he lacked in size early on he made up for with a larger than life personality. Pat’s childhood days were spent terrorizing the neighborhoods of Great Falls and rebuilding cars with his brothers and friends. The “Dolan Brothers” were an institution that, over the years, instilled both fear and respect in many o’ young lads.
In 1966 Pat graduated from Great Falls Central Catholic High School where his years were highlighted by nights on the gridiron with his brothers Mike and Johno. He then followed in his father’s footsteps, heading to the University of Montana where he played defensive safety for the mighty Montana Grizzlies. The team had their fair share of success, completing back to back undefeated regular seasons. The 1969 and 1970 teams were later inducted into the University of Montana Hall of Fame. While his success on the football field was remarkable, perhaps Pat’s greatest accomplishment during his college days was landing a date with Shelley Schellinger, a blonde coed three years his junior.
Pat and Shelley married on November 27, 1971. They lived and taught in Libby, MT for three years before moving to Missoula where Pat coached his beloved Grizzlies. The couple bled gold, silver, and copper, and welcomed their son Nathan in 1973 and daughter Heather in 1976. After seven years, Pat left the Griz and joined the ranks of high school coaches, first as the head coach at Glasgow High School where he was named Class A Coach of the Year in 1983 after leading the Scotties to the state title. From there, he moved on to Billings Senior High School where he served as the Broncs Head Coach 11 years, pinnacled by coaching his son Nathan, who went on to become a third generation Grizzly.
Pat’s middle years weren’t just spent on the football field. He taught Health Enhancement for 34 years and put his life on the line everyday as a driver’s ed instructor. Pat spent many hours seated in a gymnasium, first cheering on Nathan and Heather, and later supporting his beloved grandchildren.
Pat retired from teaching in 2010, but continued to coach football at Will James and Ben Steele Middle Schools. He spent his winters in Phoenix, AZ and his summers on Flathead Lake. Regardless of the zip code, Pat had a favorite watering hole everywhere he went. Whether it was cooking breakfast at the Mo’ Club before a home Griz game, perched atop a bar stool at Del’s on Flathead Lake, or watching an away Griz game from a corner table at Tiny’s, the Winner’s Circle or the Red Door in Billings, PD had a reputation that preceded him. He told stories that legends are made of. He left this earth as he entered it: a larger than life personality who had earned the respect of many.
Pat wore a lot of different hats — and helmets — in life, but the one he wore the best was that of “Papa.” His grandkids were truly the light of his life. From running football routes in the backyard to taking them to Griz games, he was happiest in their presence. A highlight was
in the fall of 2017 when he had the opportunity to coach his grandson, Riley, to an undefeated, championship middle school football season. He looked forward to continuing this with all his grandkids. It is here that the heartache happens; the grandkids looking into the stands for Papa, the car engine they were going to rebuild together that never will. It is their loss that his family mourns the most.
Pat was warmly welcomed into heaven by his parents Virginia “Dede” and John Dolan; his sister Darlene Muterspaw and brothers Mike, Johno, Phillip and Chuck Dolan; nephews Jason Muterspaw, Josh Muterspaw, and Brett Schellinger. On the night he died, Shelley witnessed an extraordinary sunset, a sure sign that he had arrived and the party had started.
Pat will forever be remembered by his wife Shelley Dolan; his beloved children, Nathan Dolan (Jessica) and Heather Bergeson (Robb); grandchildren Logan, McKenna, Riley, JJ and Finley; and many nieces and nephews he loved so much.
Services will be held at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Billings on Monday, November 26, 2018 at 10 am. A reception will follow at the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Pat’s name to the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation, 1106 N. 30th St., Billings, MT 59101. Pat’s family is forever grateful for the extraordinary care and love the nurses and doctors showed during Pat’s final days.
We thank you in advance for your generosity and appreciate the years of friendship you gave to Pat. Whether you knew him his entire life or met him last week, Pat did not know a stranger and he’ll be looking after all of us!