HELENA — Monday was a somber day in Helena as family, friends and first responders paid their respects to Helena’s Assistant Chief of Police Curt Stinson who passed away this month after a fight with cancer.
A procession of law enforcement and other first responders traveled down Custer Ave shortly after 10:00 a.m., stretching for well over a mile.
Citizens and schoolchildren gathered by the side of the road to see the procession as the rain gently fell under overcast skies. The Montana POW/MIA Awareness Association held American flags near the corner of North Montana Ave to honor the fallen officer, with members noting how he had helped them in the past.
The Helena Fire Department and West Valley Volunteer Fire Department had their ladder trucks holding a massive American flag aloft at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds where funeral services were held. By 11:00 a.m., hundreds had made their way to honor Stinson.
A Montana native, Stinson graduated from Montana State University in 1994 right before joining the Helena Police Department in ‘95. Over the years Curt rose through the ranks until reaching his ultimate title of Assistant Chief of Police.
Stinson was the first officer Helena Chief of Police Steve Hagen ever trained. Haggen recalled an early conversation the two of them had during that training.
“If you do this job properly, there is nothing more noble you can do with your life. Curt, I can say you did this job properly. I'm proud of you and proud of the service to the department and the Helena community,” said Haggen.
Hagen said Stinson was constantly looking for ways to improve the Helena Police Department, including relocating the 911 Dispatch Center to the airport.
“Curt’s impact in the department will be felt for generations, through dispatch, support staff and officers,” noted Hagen.
An avid Bobcat fan, the funeral service was a sea of blue and gold, with some officers even breaking dress code -- with permission from the chief-- and donning bobcat-colored items on their uniforms.
Stinson loved his favorite football team nearly as much as he did his family. Those that spoke at the service said time with his family was sacred. They enjoyed camping, playing endless rounds of cribbage, going on adventures to ghost towns and sports games, and just spending genuine time together. He is survived by his wife, three children, mother and brother.
Stinson was heavily involved with his church, charities and the scouts, which he served as a scout leader. He also worked tirelessly to create a Police Explorers program in Helena and would donate blood at every opportunity.
“Chief Stinson was a staple of the Helena community and has been putting the safety of and well-being of our friends and neighbors over his own since January 1995,” said Helena’s Mayor Wilmot Collins.
After the funeral procession, a reception was held at the Fairgrounds where conversations of attendees turned to the character of Stinson and the impact he had on their lives. If those conversations are any indicator, he will be dearly missed and remembered in Helena for a long time to come.