Lawrence (Larry) Carl Gauthier passed away early in the morning on Sunday, January 24th, 2021 at Kalispell Regional Hospital as a result of injuries sustained in a fall at home as well as from other complications.
Larry was the oldest child of Louie and Mary (Pearson) Gauthier, born at Saint Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula, 15 minutes before his twin Gary, on October 6, 1946. The boys were taken to their home in Arlee, where 11 months later they were joined by their sister Vicky. Imagine three active babies, no running water, an outhouse, and 30 Herefords to feed and water. Needless to say, the kids learned the term “chores” at an early age. Larry, Gary and Vicky were later joined by a little brother Bob and sister Bonnie.
Larry grew up loving the ranch and related activities including 4-H, fishing and riding horses. He was always a kind hearted big brother, willing to share the adventures he cooked up. In high school, Larry was active in sports and always worked hard, often for shorthanded neighbors. When the family sold the ranch following his junior year in high school, Larry chose to move to Thompson Falls and live with his aunt and uncle, Gene and Donna Jones, where he made several lifelong friends. He graduated from Thompson Falls High in 1964.
Following high school, Larry and his twin brother Gary enlisted in the United States Navy, inspired by stories of their Uncle Bob Pearson, who died in Pearl Harbor on the battle ship Arizona. Larry served during the Vietnam War on a battle-ship as well as stations in Japan and Kodiak Island, Alaska. Following his service, Larry returned to Missoula where he accepted a position as Manager of the new Kentucky Fried Chicken on Brooks Street. In 1970 he married Wilma Radke and gained a beautiful daughter, Roxann. The next year his son Travis was born.
Larry excelled in the restaurant business and his commitment to quality and customer service became his life’s work. In 1972, at age 27, he and a partner built the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Polson Montana. As far as we know, it was the first national franchise ever built on Tribal Trust Land! Over time he started or owned several other restaurants and bars including a second Kentucky Fried Chicken in Whitefish Montana, the Pizza Coop, the Pizza Pier, the Ancient Mariner, and Polson’s Driftwood Café. His final restaurant venture was with his Brother Bob when they founded Gauthier’s Steak and Seafood in 1985. Over the years, Larry provided many young folks their first job, most of the time making lifelong friends. In addition to his business, Larry was active in Jaycees, Chamber of Commerce and Elks Club activities.
For a couple of years, Larry worked for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in their Natural Resources Department. As an enrolled member, Larry was proud to work for the Tribes. However, Larry was an entrepreneur at heart. In 1995 his sister Vicky introduced him to Jolene Hamann who became his wife and business partner. Larry and Jolene started Full Moon Creations in Polson. While their business was versatile, they specialized in making tipis. Over 25 years he made nearly 900 tipis, many shipped to different parts of the world. They also developed a seven year relationship with Darden Restaurants, operators of Olive Garden and Red Lobster franchises. Under the new name Grey Wolf Trading, they performed a contract that produced thousands of aprons and napkins for the company and employed as many as 35 people. Larry and Jolene were featured in the Salish Kootenai College entrepreneurial training.
Larry was preceded in death by his parents, and sisters Vicky and Bonnie. He is survived by his wife Jolene, brothers Gary, Bob and half-brother Bob Decker, daughter Roxann (Darin) in Alaska, son Travis of Polson and step-sons Wes, BJ and Camron. He is also survived by several grandchildren and great grandchildren and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
At his request no services are planned. Because Larry loved his many dogs, we recommend memorials to be made in his name to the Mission Valley Animal Shelter, 36251 N. Reservoir Rd., Polson, Montana 59860.