Two great Montanans left us recently to go on to a greater place.
Joe Mazurek was a wise and insightful peacemaker. His passing was not unexpected, but his legacy for fairness and gentle persuasion will live on in the memory of all those who had the good fortune to work with him in the political process of our state.
Jim McGarvey was a brave and gallant fighter. He could sometimes be unkind to the King’s English, but never to a loyal friend. Montana’s legendary union leader, he was the true friend of working class people, and never forgot his common roots in the “sacred city” of Butte. He’ll be fighting for “the little guy” in spirit and by example as long as his memory lives.
I knew them both, very well, for more than 40 years. While college students, Joe and I first met while lobbying the legislature to lower the voting age. We later served together in the Legislature where I saw him perform public duty countless times with no expectation of receiving credit or even recognition for his dedicated service.
Joe was the furthest thing from a phony or a glad-hander. When a job had to be done, he was there to do it. His courage was in his integrity. He wouldn’t be manipulated. It simply wasn’t his nature to take the low road. He was a straight arrow and the whole Legislature knew it, and that is what gave him great influence in working out the compromises and getting to the solutions the legislative process requires.
I met Jim McGarvey soon after I met Joe Mazurek, and I became Jim’s lifelong friend by extending a simple human kindness to him. In the years that followed I whitewater rafted with him, snowmobiled with him, and on four-wheelers we challenged some perilous high country trails together. When I inquired about just what he had in mind when he invited me on one of his excursions, he didn’t exactly set my mind at ease by responding, “Well, it’s not fun if you can’t get killed doing it.”
When I received the call from his son, Tim, I sensed what was coming, but wouldn’t have been surprised if the cause had been from a death-defying accident.
Though quintessentially different, they were similarly monumental in the shadows they cast over Montana. There are empty places in Montana’s Big Skyline where Joe and Jim once stood tall.
Our federal Constitution, which they equally revered, contains a provision that prohibits the granting of titles of nobility to any citizen of our Republic. By their accomplishments and examples, though, both Joe and Jim were noble men. The wise peacemaker could honorably and skillfully bring others together, but could also boldly stand his ground against corrupting influence or dishonesty. The two-fisted fighter wouldn’t back down from a fight, but he long endured as a leader because he knew when it was time to settle, perhaps to fight again.
Now Joe and Jim are looking down on us from celestial heights beyond Montana’s Big Sky. Jim is still on guard against injustice and special privilege, and not fearful of bringing his views directly to the attention of his creator. Joe pretty much agrees with Jim, but is keeping his powder dry so he can be well positioned to work things out if necessary. That’s how they worked here on earth. We need Joes and Jims now more than ever before in my memory.
Take heed, young leaders. Look to the examples of Joe Mazurek and Jim McGarvey. We shouldn’t have to go to heaven to get good government.
Bob Brown is a former Montana secretary of state and State Senate president.