Leonard “Pat” J. Mager
Leonard “Pat” John Mager was born on September 19th, 1922 in Two Inlets, MN to Max and Clara (Schmitz) Mager. Leonard was one of 11 children. Although his given name was Leonard, his father nick named him Pat as he thought it fit better.
Pat headed west to Montana in search of better work. He began as a ranch hand baling hay and eventually took pack horses into the mountains in 1938. In 1940 Pat joined the 163rd MT National Guard 41st Company D Infantry Regiment. He was only 17 at the time so he lied to join. He went on to Fort Lewis, Washington for training. He was given the job of firing boilers, water heaters and furnaces. Pat was not impressed with the work and jumped at the opportunity to join the 161st Army Infantry in hopes to see more action. The 161st was only accepting privates at the time so Pat pulled of his stripe and told them “here, shove it”.
On December 6th, 1941 Pat’s company was put on a ship leaving from San Francisco headed to the Philippines on a troop transport. Pat recalled watching ships turn back to San Francisco on December 7th, but they weren’t told why. They were assigned as a machine gun company and they set up artillery all along the coast. Eventually they learned that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. On December 8th they arrived in Honolulu and were told to shoot anything they saw especially planes. His company made their way down the line of islands digging foxholes and bunkers all along the way.
Pat’s first real taste of combat took place in Guadalcanal as his company helped to take over the Bloody Ridge. Pat led many missions as a Staff Sergeant including protecting ammo, securing smaller islands and even rescuing pinned down marines. Pat’s time in the Solomon Islands ended in Luzon where he was hit with shrapnel in the jaw and has his leg scrapped up from a sniper. Pat was sent to recover in New Zealand. He later was assigned as an MP in New Caledonia and was eventually discharged towards the end of the war. When Pat was interviewed many years later, he stated “I would do it all over again if I had to”.
Pat returned to Montana and worked for 28 years on the railroad. He left Harlowton briefly to work in a steel and aluminum foundry. He moved back to Harlowton after he had aluminum poising. Pat loved watching westerns in his free time; John Wayne was his hero. He was an avid hunter and fisherman, he loved fishing with all his friends and family. He was excellent at woodworking and made many gifts for friends and family members.
One fateful day, a beautiful Loretta Parks walked into the restaurant Pat was at. A mutual friend introduced them, and Pat went on to ask her on a date. On December 19th, 1945 in Park Rapids, MN Pat married Loretta in a double wedding with his brother Tony and his wife Joyce. Pat kept Loretta busy canning with his green thumb. He loved a good home cooked meal. If you came to visit and left hungry, it was your own fault. Pat and Loretta had 5 children: Jerry, Bob, Dean, Lorraine, and Sharon.
Pat is remembered as having a sweet tooth and always having sweets stashed next to his chair that he would graciously had out to visitors. He had a big heart and a kind soul. He loved treating people at the local establishment to their favorite beverage. He was always a hard-working man who was devoted to his family.
He is survived by his sons Bob (Deb) Mager and Dean (Sharon) Mager all of Harlowton, MT; daughters Lorraine Hinman of North Dakota and Sharon Mager of Harlowton, MT; 10 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
Pat was proceeded in death by his wife Loretta Mager, son Jerry Mager, granddaughter Lilia Baltazar.
Friends are asked to make memorials to the Milwaukee Railroad Museum in Harlowton or the charity of their choice and they may be left with the Perkins Funeral Home, PO Box 313 Harlowton, MT 59036. Condolences for the family may be posted on-line at www.perkinsfuneralandcremation.com