“Big John” Stevens passed away July 3rd, 2018 at the TenderNest in Billings. He was born in Johnson City, New York, to Edwin and Ruth Stevens on March 11, 1939. He came to be known as “Papa” by those dearest to him. John grew up in Vestal and Apalachin, NY. Along the banks of the Susquehanna River he achieved Eagle Scout. He attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania after graduating from high school in Owego, NY in 1957. He then transferred to Rocky Mountain College in Billings, but moved to Miles City to work for Safeway. John joined the Montana Army National Guard in 1962. He served proudly, and was accepted into officers candidate school. In Miles City he met a beautiful school teacher named JoAnn Knudsvig. John and JoAnn were married April 23, 1966 in Miles City.
They moved back to Billings and started a family. He was a devoted father and husband. He thrived while taking his family camping, boating, prospecting and traveling in the old Ford school bus he had converted into a camper. John pursued a career with the Post Office beginning in 1968. He started by loading mail onto trucks, but before long he was fixing the sorting machines and maintaining the local facilities. By the end of his career he was in charge of post office remodels and new builds all around the state of Montana. He retired in 1998.
Gramp Smith, John’s grandfather, introduced him to aviation in the late 1940’s. He flew with his grandpa and in his dad’s glider which ultimately led to his love of aviation. John became a private pilot in his spare time as his kids grew older. Upon retiring, he started his lifelong dream of building an experimental airplane. N339JS (his bir
th month/year and initials) is part of the family and is currently being flown by his son Christopher.
John was afflicted by the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s at a relatively early age. He eventually had several strokes that affected his mobility and speech, and necessitated him going into long term care. John was surrounded by those that loved him during his last days.
He is survived by his wife JoAnn Stevens, his sisters Janet Stevens and Betsy Kuske, his sons Blaine, Barry, John (Cristina) and Chris (Lily) Stevens, and his daughter Brenda Lapham. He is also survived by his grandchildren Blaine (Lacey), Ashley (Derrick), Weston, Reed, LilyAnn, Lola, Benjamin, Catherine, and Allison, and great grandchildren Silas and Rowan. He was preceded in death by his parents.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to: Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, 34 Washington St. Ste. 200, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481 or at www.curealz.org.
John’s plane and his ashes will be present at a memorial to be held at the Experimental Aircraft Association (Chapter 57) Hangar at the Billings Logan Airport on July 14th at 2pm. Drive 9/10 of a mile west of the airport roundabout on Hwy 3, then turn right at Overlook Dr./gate 29. Look for yellow balloons.