Our Hearts are broken to announce that on April 29, 2021, we lost a loving father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and loyal friend. After fighting a long battle with depression and the severe pain of pancreatitis, Charles “Chuck” John Ackerman chose to end his own suffering and join his parents and loved ones in heaven.
Chuck is preceded in death by both his parents, Charles Henry Ackerman and Margaret Jane (Moy) Ackerman; his close cousin, Stanley Ackerman; and father-in-law, Robert Wayne Berry.
He is survived by his former wife of 32 years and lifelong friend, Joni Landon Ackerman; and their five children, Charles “Chaz” Ackerman, Kalli Ackerman, Thomas “Breanna” Ackerman, Chance Ackerman and Doratello Juan “D.J.” Fischer; his seven grandchildren, Kyra Ackerman, Caeland Ackerman, DeKarye’ Cox, Cash Ackerman, Charlie Ackerman, Hank Ackerman and Emily Ackerman; his two great-grandchildren, Luna Terry and Israel Davis; his sister, Debbie (Steve) Gibbs and his brother, Dennis (Robin) Ackerman; his mother-in-law, Alouise Smith Berry; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins nieces, nephews and many close friends he called family.
Chuck retired from CM2 Hill on the North Slope of Alaska as a tanker driver on the oilfields and during his life, worked sales and owned his own painting business: AOK Paint.
Chuck spent his younger years growing up in Great Falls. His parents’ love for the outdoors was passed down through the generations. He spent many summers on the boat with the family and participated in competition waterskiing. Chuck quickly became well known for his slalom and barefoot skiing he used to do at 40 mph. He would go on to later wow his kids with his athleticism and tricks and spent time teaching each of them to ski. He spent time hunting with his dad and brother, and years later working in the family bar, Ackerman’s Town Tavern, where he enjoyed playing pool.
After moving to Billings, Chuck attended Catholic schools, where he was a starting basketball and football player and rumored to surely get a scholarship. He played there until he and his brother Denny were kicked out for throwing an M80 firecracker in the hallway. One of many pranks and firecracker stories to add to a long list and life of pranks, antics and laughs. He went on to graduate from Billings Senior High School in 1972. It was in Billings that he met and married Joni Ackerman on Aug. 28, 1976, and they had four children together, adding a fifth child to their family, D.J., who was no less their son than their other children.
Chuck was a member of the Billings Waterski Club, Potters Club, many pool leagues and a proud member of the NRA. He loved to play pool and participated in many bar league pool teams. If he wasn’t winning trophies with his trick shots, he was often found using them to bring money home for the family. Maybe carrying alongside a black eye or two. Chuck was known as a skilled fighter, often fighting the battles of others. He always fought for the underdog or anyone he loved. He learned to box as a child after a boxing coach saw him get pummeled by a school bully. That coach taught him after school until he fought that bully and won. Chuck believed in standing up for others and instilled this in each of his kids. He taught each of us to throw a jab and uppercut and disagreements where often settled in the backyard with a set of boxing gloves. He believed strongly in never starting a fight, but if a fight was coming, “you better throw the first punch, because you don’t know if that first hit will be a one hitter quitter.” This led to him picking up a few of his kids from school after expulsions with a proud smile on his face.
Around 1986, Chuck became a born-again Christian, and lived his life for the Lord. He taught his kids the love and forgiveness of Jesus and dedicated his time to his family, often working second jobs to afford his kids every opportunity he could, whether it was sports camps or private school. Chuck shared his athleticism with his kids teaching and coaching; Kalli’s softball, Chaz’s Little League, and spending countless hours playing catch, one-on-one pitching practice with Thomas, D.J. and Chance. He could often be found in the backyard building contraptions they could pitch and hit against without breaking neighbors’ windows. He enjoyed going to their games and was often found bragging about Chaz getting a full-ride scholarship to Texas Tech, Kalli getting a softball scholarship to Hope International or hearing him tell stories of going to watch Thomas play in Hawaii after winning the state championship. He also like to tell stories of Chance winning back-to-back state Royals’ championships and being awarded MVP honors. He loved to talk of all the pins he collected with Chance in his many baseball travels and could show you them and have stories for each. He was so proud of his son D.J. for fighting for his country, and serving in the Middle East and making it home alive.
Throughout his life, he hunted, fished and camped. He looked forward to hunting every year with his family and took all his kids on their first hunting trips. He enjoyed chasing monster whitetails, and the horns adorn his house as proof. He processed his own meat and taught these skills to all his children. The freezer stayed full of his wild game and provided countless meals.
He proudly graduated from Eastern Montana College in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, where he fell in love with art, and learned to throw. He was a talented potter and took extreme joy in his raku glazes and works. He made cowboy boots and hats and sold them in the M89 Cattle drive. He especially loved talking art with his granddaughter Kyra and receiving and proudly displaying her art in his house.
Chuck struggled with alcoholism in his final 18 years and was so proud to have quit drinking cold turkey 2 ½ years ago. Anyone who knew Dad and was close to him sat and had a cold Budweiser with him on his couch and chatted and heard his many stories, often on repeat. He loved to share these stories with his kids and grandkids. He was first to offer a cold beer to his friends, and often opened his house to take in anyone who needed a place to stay. He was so thankful for his son Chance, who was always there by his side, and he cherished their closeness. In his final years, if you came to visit, he would offer you a cold Dr. Pepper. His drink of choice may have changed, but his big heart, infectious smile and his wild and amazing stories of his life never did. He was a man of his word, a loyal friend, a loving father, a courageous fighter, generous giver, and his handshake meant something. He was loved by all who met him, and even in his darkest moments he continued to love the Lord.
You’re pain-free now, Dad.
Services will be at noon on Wednesday, May 12, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, with burial to follow at Holy Cross Cemetery. Celebration of life will be at 2 p.m. at the Elks Club.