Cover photo for Walter John VanDeren's Obituary
Walter John VanDeren Profile Photo
1934 Walter 2024

Walter John VanDeren

August 3, 1934 — May 18, 2024



Walter Van Deren, 89

Walter was born on August 3, 1934, in Flagstaff Arizona at the Butler home, to Earl and Leah (Seip) Van Deren. He passed away at Renaissance Southside in Dillon, MT on May 18, 2024, surrounded by his family. At Walter's request, he was cremated, and his ashes will be spread in a private ceremony on the ranch north of Dillon.

As a youngster, Walter lived with his parents on the "Mountain" summer ranch at Newman Park, 15 miles south of Flagstaff, AZ. They wintered the cattle near Earl's homestead in Dry Creek, 5 miles west of Sedona, AZ. Later, his parents moved to the Sedona ranch so Walter could attend the Sedona Grade School for 1st through 8th grades during the school months. Walter attended Flagstaff High School, where he played football and graduated in 1953. Then he attended the University of Arizona in Tucson. Walter graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Husbandry and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1957.

Walter trained at Ft. Knox, KY, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, Ft. Lewis, WA and the Yakima Firing Center. He completed his Army Reserve duties as a Captain commanding an M48 Patton tank crew. Walter's service brick is on the south wall of the Dillon Veterans Memorial.

After college, Walter and his parents determined with the influx of people to Sedona that cattle ranching was on the way out. In the fall of 1958, Walter, Earl and Leah went looking for a new ranch in Oregon, Idaho and Montana. They found and purchased the "Open A Ranch" from the Maws family that fall and moved to Dillon between Thanksgiving and Christmas 1958.

In November 1961, he married Patricia Danils in Billings, MT. They had two sons, Robert, in 1963 and John in 1965. Some of Walter's happiest memories were of days hauling gravel on the ranch in his 1936 GMC T-75 dump with his boys in the passenger seat "helping" their Dad haul gravel. Walter and his father built up a commercial black Angus cattle herd and operated the "Open A" until Earl's retirement in 1975. Walter considered moving to Brazil and took the family there to evaluate the prospects for a month in December 1975. He ultimately decided to keep the family ranch north of Dillon and operate it with his son, Robert, as a "winter place," selling winter pasture to ranchers as far away as Malta, MT. Walter also cherished watching Rob and Linda raise their son, Theodore, on the ranch, graduate high school and attend Carroll College's nursing program.

Walter was never prouder than when his son John graduated from the General Motors Institute and gave him his first grandson, Gunnar and granddaughter, Faith. He also enjoyed his trips to Detroit to see the grandkids and seeing the vehicle development facilities where John worked as an automotive engineer for Chrysler, Daimler, Navistar, Ford and Mitsubishi.

Walter was an active member of the Glen Unit and Beaverhead County Farm Bureaus and Beaverhead Post #20 of the American Legion. Walter was known throughout the valley for his ability to repair, weld and fabricate ranch machinery. He also enjoyed working on his antique cars, collecting Lionel trains, panning for gold with his cousins and digging for crystals and rubies with the grandkids.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Leah (1973) and Earl (1993) Van Deren and his in-laws, Charlie (1962) and Ida (1966) Krause and former wife, Patricia (2016) and his cousin Mary (2023).

Walter is survived by his sons, John Van Deren of Cottonwood, AZ and his children, Gunnar and Faith; Robert and Linda Van Deren of Dillon and their son, Theodore. He is also survived by his cousin Grant Smith (Karol) of Arizona.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Shriner's Hospitals for Children or a charity of the donor's choice are preferred. A guestbook is available online at:

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Walter John VanDeren, please visit our flower store.


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