Joe Upshaw

Who was Joe Upshaw?

By Dale Upshaw

My father Joe grew up during the Great Depression on a family farm near Chinook on the Montana Hi-Line. He graduated from high school as class valedictorian, working evenings as a school janitor and hotel night clerk to help his family make ends meet. Just before turning 16, he joined the Montana National Guard for patriotic reasons, plus earning $1 for each day of weekend drill was good money in those days.

Joe had earned an alternate appointment to West Point and a one year scholarship to Montana State but worked for a couple of years on highway construction crews to save money for college. But in 1940, 15 months before Pearl Harbor, he was called to active duty and never got to use his college scholarship. Joe served on active duty for five years including three years as a decorated combat infantry leader in the South Pacific.

After the war Joe worked for the US Postal Service and returned to part-time National Guard service in Chinook, where he and our mother Gloria started our family. In 1961 he joined the National Guard full time and the family moved to Bozeman. In 1969 he was promoted to Helena to serve on the Guard Adjutant General's staff. Joe had a distinguished and devoted career with the Guard, retiring in 1977 as a Colonel after 40 years of overall service.

Before and after his retirement, Joe was very involved in military associations and Helena civic and philanthropic organizations. Among his many leadership positions were President of the Montana National Guard Officers Assn, the 163rd Infantry Assn and the Montana chapter of the US Army Assn. He was also a member of the Montana Military Museum board and the Museum Historical Building/Site Preservation board. After his retirement he strongly advocated for active duty service members and veterans. He was especially proud of having the 1-163 Montana Guard Infantry Battalion of Fort Harrison designate a 2005 Iraq combat mission as “Operation Upshaw' which not only honored him but all of the 163rd Infantry boys who served in WWII.

Joe served in many civic capacities after his retirement. He was a member of the State Regulatory Board of Public Accountants, Governor's Select Board for Health Care Cost Containment, Governor's Council on Aging, AARP National and State Legislative Councils, State Director of the AARP “VOTE” program, Helena Civic Center Board, Grand Street Theatre Board, Our Redeemer's Lutheran Board, and various other boards and organizations. Joe was also active in Grand Street Theatre productions and an avid fan of local high school athletics.

Joe was a wonderful, smart, fun, hardworking husband and father. He was a great role model for many to follow and truly representative of our country's Greatest Generation.

Joe would be so honored to know this scholarship would be awarded in his memory. Our family congratulates all Angel Fund scholarship winners and high school graduating seniors everywhere. We wish them all the very best in their future endeavors.