Arlie Edwin Toavs returned home to be with the Lord on Sunday, February 6, 2022, after battling COVID and a deterioration in his heart condition. He was 90 years old.
Arlie was born in Wolf Point, Montana on May 15, 1931, to Nicholas and Katie Toavs. Arlie grew up working on the family farm at Wolf Point during the Depression and endured many difficult years. During the 1940s, including the years of World War II, he helped his family reap some of the most bountiful crops they had ever had. At a young age, he developed mechanical skills working on tractors and farm equipment that would serve him well throughout his life.
His family moved from Wolf Point to Columbia Falls in 1948, and Arlie held various flathead jobs that involved his mechanical skills and farming experience. From 1951 to 1955, he served as an electrician in the Air Force and was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant. He moved to Columbia Falls in 1955 to care for his mother and joined his brother Wilmer in running Toavs Oil Service, which was located at the current location of present-day Glacier Bank in Columbia Falls.
In 1961 he renamed the business to Toavs Auto Repair and moved to downtown Columbia Falls near the police station. Given its growing reputation, mechanical skills, and genuine, caring attitude, the company outgrew its downtown location. In 1977, he built a new store on US 2 west of Columbia Falls where the Logan Health facility now stands. Despite his deteriorating health, he continued his business until 1998, when he sold it to Gary Anderson. This marked 43 years of serving Columbia Falls as a mechanic and trusted advisor.
On October 5, 1963 Arlie married Geraldine Joyce “Jean” Woolridge in Columbia Falls and they had a son Ed who was born in June 1971. Through many years of hard work and perseverance they have built a family and a strong and enduring venture that has touched many lives and serves as an example of what a marriage and family based on the Christian faith is all about. Arlie always put the needs of his family and friends above his own and Jean supported him every time. He loved working hard and helping people and was the best example to set for others. Arlie was always the only person others went to for advice and help throughout her life.
In 1995 Arlie bought his first John Deere tractor, a 1955 Model 70D, which he restored. It was the first of many antique tractors he restored and it became his hobby for the rest of his life. He was a member of the Northwest Antique Tractor Association and was an active participant in the annual September tractor show every year without fail. He also participated in the Heritage Days parade every year until 2021 at the wheel of his John Deere Model 70D. He enjoyed sharing stories about tractors and farm equipment with others and taught many people about mechanics and tractors.
Arlie is survived by his wife, Jean, of 58; his son Ed and his wife Tracy; four grandchildren, Katie (Toavs) Olson and her husband Eric, Christine, David and Rebecca Toavs; great-granddaughter, Amanda Olson; sisters, Ruth Spenst and Hannah Shuttlesworth; sisters-in-law, Velma Arvidson and Donna Simmons; brother-in-law, Twerp Woolridge and wife Marge; and special mention to his nephews, Duane and Dave Toavs. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews and friends he considered family, including his tractor buddies.
A celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday February 19 at the Canvas Church in Kalispell with a reception to follow. As we mourn his absence, we celebrate his passing into the presence of God.
Columbia Mortuary in Columbia Falls takes care of the family.