Bill “Willie” Dimich died at his home in Billings, on March 14, 2021, two months short of his 90th birthday. Born on May 12, 1931, in Red Lodge to Serbian immigrants, Mike D. Dimich and Sofia Teslich, he was proud of his Slavic heritage and sponsored the Tamburitza programs for a number of years, honoring Slavic friends from Red Lodge and Billings. He was the youngest of six siblings who all grew up working after school at the family-run Beartooth Bottling Company.
Willie went to Carbon County High School, where he was active in student government and sports, and proudly attended the first Boys State in Montana. In 1949, he enrolled at Montana State University, where he went by the name Bill. He entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1952, serving with the 1st Marine Corps Division in Korea. He considered those to be the best years of his life. On the GI Bill, he returned to MSU and became an active member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Bill graduated in 1956 with a degree in education. While in college, he fell in love with “the brightest of the brightest,” Jessie Jean Gowin of Belgrade. They met when he promised her sorority sister he would vote for Jean to be MSU Homecoming Queen if he could have a coffee date with Jean. They were married on June 10, 1956, at Bozeman’s First Presbyterian Church.
Bill’s first teaching assignment was in Roundup, where he taught history and was the assistant basketball coach. In 1957, the couple’s son Tom was born. Two years later, the family moved to Billings, where Bill joined his two brothers, Danny and Mitch, in the family-run Pepsi-Cola Bottling business founded in 1926 by his father, Mike D. Dimich, in Red Lodge. His daughters, Carol and Nancy, were born in 1960 and 1963. His wife Jean passed away in 2002. He was married to Sharon B. Parrish from 2004 to 2018.
Willie, as he was known to old friends and folks from Red Lodge, enjoyed restoring classic cars, especially those from the 1930’s and Model A’s and was an avid reader of history about Montana, World War II and Korea. He loved listening to the big band music of Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey and driving the backroads of Carbon County. Up until a few weeks before his death, Willie faithfully drove the Number 3 forklift at his beloved Pepsi plant. He was well known for his entertaining stories about the history of Red Lodge and Billings and for his signoff, “I’ll see you when I see you.”
Known for his leadership and innovative ideas in the beverage industry, Bill received a lifetime achievement award for independent bottlers. He was well respected for his role as treasurer for the Admiral Beverage Corporation of Worland, Wyoming.
Bill served in many roles and on many boards over the years. He was president of the MSU Alumni Association, member of the School District 2 School Board, chairman of Security Federal Savings and Loan, member of the Alberta Bair Theater board, member of the Moss Mansion board, and member of the City Parks and Recreation board, helping to create the Foundation. He was on the Session of the First Presbyterian Church in Billings and was a member of the Masons, Elks, and an advisor to the DeMolay chapter. He received a lifetime achievement award from the YMCA. Bill generously supported Dehler Park, Billings Clinic, and helped fund the building of the new Billings Public library.
His family is grateful for the help provided by Dr. Jesus Fabregas Mercado, Dr. Steven Gerstner, Peggy Jensen, Lorri and Robert Kroll, Noah Woodring, Joan McCracken, A Village Homecare, and St. John’s United Home Health and Hospice.
Willie was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, Danny, Mitch and Emil; his sisters Mary and Mildred; his nephew, Bill “Pertz” Dimich; and by his wife Jean and daughter Carol. He is survived by his son, Tom (Pam), granddaughters Allison and Caroline; his daughter, Nancy (Thierry), grandsons Max and Jesse and granddaughter Sophie; nephews Mike, Mark and Mitchell Dimich; and nieces Diane Gorder, Sandra Tunnell, Linda Cox and Susan Greenshields.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to the Billings Public Library Foundation, 510 N. Broadway, Billings, MT 59101; Special K Ranch, PO Box 479, Columbus, MT 59019; Carol D. Dimich Memorial Scholarship at Lewis and Clark College, 0615 S. W. Palatine Hill Road, Portland, OR 97219; or an organization of your choice.
Memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 27, outdoors with COVID safety precautions at the Pepsi-Cola Bottling plant, 344 Howard Ave., Billings.