Albert (Al) Duane Braughton

January 28,1932 — April 27, 2022
Thursday, June 2, 2022
Albert (Al) Duane Braughton

Albert (Al) Duane Braughton died Wednesday, April 27, at Martinsdale Reservoir, Martinsdale, Montana, doing what he loved most – fishing. He had caught four brown trout, including one measuring 24 inches long, and had a fifth on the line when his heart gave out.

Al was born at home in Big Timber on January 28, 1932. He was delivered by a pipesmoking midwife fondly known as Grandma Thompson, with help from his paternal grandma, Cordelia Braughton. Al spent his first years in a small house near East 1st Avenue until his parents, Walter Braughton and Helen Warp Braughton, traded the house for the Warp homestead, a 160-acre ranch north of Big Timber along the Yellowstone where Al spent much of his childhood and teenage years.

Al’s passion for fishing occupied his every free moment. When he wasn’t doing chores, Al could be found down by the river with a line in the water and a fish or two flopping on the shore. In his spare time, he attended Big Timber High School, played football and participated in 4-H.

Al’s sophomore year a young woman, Frederica “Fritzie” Jeanette Miley, and her family moved to town. Al was smitten! He had found the love of his life and on August 12, 1950, when both were Juniors in High School, he and Fritzie married. Nine months later, their oldest son, Gary, was born and thirteen months after that their second son, David, came along. Their first daughter, Sandra, arrived in 1955. Later the couple would have two more daughters, Kelli and Cynthia.

As if having five children of their own wasn’t enough, Al and Fritzie became foster parents to 26 more children, including Julie, Chuck, and Joe, who stayed with the family for 10 years until they graduated from high school. And, after they were done parenting, they opened an assisted living facility for older women.

When Fritzie’s mother died, the family moved to Western Montana, first to Charlo and later Plains and Paradise where Al ranched, worked at a sawmill, and later returned to falling trees. Al’s reputation with a chainsaw and hard work made him a favorite with the Forest Service, which called upon him often during fire season. He was on the front lines of several major fires and in 1988 led a crew of sawyers recruited to clear trails in the Jones Creek Area, near the eastern border of Yellowstone National Park where multiple fires burned over 36% of the park.

Al and Fritzie returned to Big Timber in 1974 where he ran the State Research Ranch and resumed another childhood passion – trapping. After Al retired from working in the woods, he was inspired by a sister-in-law to take up wood carving. His eye for detail and willingness to spend the long hours needed to sculpt hair or etch scales, or meticulously paint each image earned him dozens of awards and made him a favorite of local art collectors.

Al lost Fritzie in 1997. He never remarried and continued to mourn her to his dying day. Al is survived by his sons, Gary Braughton and David Braughton, his three daughters, Sandra Maine, Kelli Esp, and Cindy Braughton, his sister Dolores Brekke, 16 grandchildren, 20 plus great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild. Although his family deeply mourns his loss, it should not go without mentioning that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of coyotes, foxes, beavers, and fish that will sleep better tonight knowing he’s gone to heaven. A Celebration of Al’s life is being planned for September.

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