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Hit-and-run victim remembered as legendary athlete

October 6, 2018

William “Bumps” Winter is being remembered fondly by legions of Flathead Valley residents.

Winter, known widely as “Bumps” or “Bumper,” died Sept. 28 at the age of 89 at Kalispell Regional Medical Center after he was hit by a car after leaving the Eagles Aerie 234 in downtown Kalispell the prior evening.

The driver of the van reportedly left the scene after striking Winter, but contacted Kalispell Police shortly afterward to report she had been in an accident. Police are still investigating the incident.

Winter was widely known as a sportsman who was skilled at everything he tried - from shooting marbles to playing golf.

Winter rolled several 300 games on local bowling lanes, was a state marbles champion when he was a young boy, and had at least 10 holes-in-one. He was a very good football, baseball and basketball player, too, according to those who knew him best.

“He always put a smile on your face,” longtime friend Marlin Hanson said. “He always had a one-liner. He may have got under the skin of a few people, but they broke the mold with him.

“Whatever he attempted athletically, he was good at it,” Hanson said. “It’s a tough loss for us, for those that knew him.”

Hanson caddied at Buffalo Hills Golf Course as a young man and he remembered Winter was a caddy there in the early 1940s, before he was even a teenager. Hanson recalled Winter carrying the bag of former mayor David Cameron, who the nine-hole course is named after.

“When he played baseball at old Griffin Field, where Smith’s store is now, he hit a home run over the fence in dead center field. That was about 420 feet and he was one of the few to ever do that,” Hanson said. “He could dribble a basketball with both hands and no one could ever take the ball from him.

“He was a great competitor, he could do anything he put his mind to,” Hanson added.

Winter’s prowess with marbles was also legendary.

“He was probably only 11 or 12 years old when he won the state tournament,” Hanson said. “And he always carried a marble or two in his pocket. He’d use them to mark his golf ball. When I was bartending at Orlees or at the golf course, I knew I was going to lose a glass or two because he could shoot them about 20 feet and just break the glass.”

Winter’s daughter, Della Kienas, recalled a hard-working and generous man who supported two families after his second marriage ended in divorce. He worked at the aluminum plant in Columbia Falls, several lumber mills, Buffalo Hills Golf Course and as a pin setter at Skyline Bowl.

“He was funny. I called him the ‘Bouncer of Hardees’ because when he worked there, the kids would cruise through the parking lot or go up into the woods to party, but he would keep them moving or go and tell stories to them,” Kienas said.

Kienas said he would take her and her sister golfing. She recalled how long it took to dust all of the trophies he won and how he’d return many of the golf trophies to Buffalo Hills so young players that had won a tournament could receive one.

Longtime Buffalo Hills golf pro Dave Broeder said Winter played at the course as recently as 2017.

“He was in car accident a few years ago that slowed him down quite a bit, but he loved it here, being around all his buddies, telling jokes, keeping everyone entertained. He may have ruffled a few feathers while he was a marshall here, but he always had a joke to get everyone laughing,” Broeder said. “He was a natural athlete. You might not think that, seeing this short, bow-legged guy, but he had very good coordination and the physique.

“How many 89-year-olds still had the desire to get up and go out the way he did?” Broeder said. “He sure will be missed.”

According to grandson, Bill Kienas, the family received permission to scatter his ashes at Buffalo Hills.

“He was a legend in his own time,” Kienas said.

Skyline Bowl was a favorite haunt of Winter before it burned down in 2004.

“After it burned, he’d come into the VFW and play the games in the casino and he always had jokes for the girls that worked in there,” Kienas said.

Kalispell resident Hank Olson first met Winter in 1945.

“I was an athlete and he was the best I’ve seen,” he remembered. “He could hit a golf ball 200 yards with a putter from his knees.”

Olson relayed one story from the baseball diamond.

“A guy yelled from the stands that if he hit a home run, he’d give Bumps five silver dollars. Bumps stepped out of the batter’s box, waved to him, stepped back in and hit one out. After he rounded the bases, he never stopped, went into the stands and held out his hand for the man to drop the silver dollars into.”

A memorial service for will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Glacier Park VFW Post 2252.

“Anyone who has a passion to speak about Bumps should be there,” Olson said. “It’s really going to be something, to hear all the stories about him.”

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 406-758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com

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