Clifford Patrick Schellinger, 90, joined his heavenly father on Dec. 17, 2018, at his home in Eltopia, Washington, with Vernell, his loving wife and partner of 38 years, by his side.
He was born in Minot, North Dakota, on March 17, 1928, the oldest of four children, to Albert and Clara Schellinger. In 1945 at the age of 17, he dropped out of high school, forged his parent’s signature, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After an honorable discharge, he returned to his hometown of Glasgow and began working for the Montana State Highway Department. He met and married Polly Clary in 1950, and they had four children, Shelley, Al, Kristi and Randy. They began their life together, and in 1956 Cliff established Schellinger Construction Company, building and repairing water and sewer utilities.
One of Cliff’s first big projects involved working on the Glasgow Air Force Base, but when the base closed he packed up his family and moved west, taking on numerous gravel crushing projects. After a brief stop in Augusta and Missoula, he moved the family to the Flathead Valley associating with various lumber mills including crushing rock and laying gravel for Forest Service roads and state highway projects. Schellinger Construction became a true family business as Cliff was soon joined by his brother, Dan, and later Cliff’s sons, Al and Randy, who spent their summers working for their dad and uncle. Al and Randy both found their careers in the business, along with Cliff’s grandsons, Kyle, Matt and A.J. One of many highlights of Cliff’s career came when he proudly served on the board and was elected president of the Montana Contractors Association in 1982.
When Cliff was not busy building his company, he always found time for fun. When the children were small, he and Polly spent their summers on Fort Peck Lake. He enjoyed taking friends and family out on the boat, where many developed a passion for water-skiing, a pasttime his great-grandchildren enjoy to this day. In the early 1970s, Cliff discovered a particular affection for black Labs and named each succeeding one Tide. Those dogs came in handy during his numerous duck hunting adventures with his logging buddies to Canada or their annual pheasant hunting trip. Beginning in 1975 and continuing through the fall of 2018, Cliff, his best pals — the Cheffs, Holly Larson, Fosters, Virgil Walter, Glen Kartheiser, and Cliff’s sons and grandsons, hunted pheasants on the Joe Foran family property, making lifelong friendships in Grass Range.
In 1982, Cliff found a passion for horse racing and in his travels to the different tracks, discovered and fell in love with the Tri-Cities area. He found a 47-acre parcel in Eltopia, where he and his wife, Vernell, developed a ranch for breeding and raising race horses, which they raced in the Pacific Northwest. In 1987, he became a member of the board of directors of TriCity Horse Racing and along with his good friends Dick Monahan and Nancy Sorick, was fundamental in the annual horse racing meet at Sundowns Race Track in Kennewick, Washington. He continued for 25 years until he retired.
Horses, however, were not Cliff and Vernell’s only four legged friends; many a stray dog and cat seemed to know they could find a warm bed and a bowl of chow at their home. Cliff and Vernell always said that they never had to look for a dog, as the dogs always found them. Cliff also became the adoptive grandfather to Morgan, Marlo, McCall and McKenna Lovejoy of Eltopia. As they were growing up on the farm in Eltopia, Cliff could be found daily going to their 4-H, school, sports and farm activities. He spent numerous hours sharing meals and creating great memories with the girls.
On the ranch, Cliff learned the art of growing alfalfa and oats for the horses and was so proud to be an accomplished hay king. Throughout his years in Eltopia, he became friends with many of the local farmers. Part of his daily routine was a visit to Mr. Qwik’s corner store, where he would learn the daily gossip.
Cliff was a parishioner at St. Paul’s in Eltopia and a devout Catholic. This faith brings his family peace, knowing he is now reunited with his parents, his wife Polly, his daughter Kristi, his son Randy, his brother Robert, his sister Bunny and her husband Dr. Ed Cerkovnik, his brother Dan and wife Faithe, his son-in-law Pat Dolan and his grandson Brett Schellinger.
Cliff is survived by his wife Vernell, his daughter Shelley Dolan, son Al (Sandy), son Don Allen, granddaughters Heather Bergeson (Robb), Nicci Daniher (J.D.), Megan Griffiths (Josh) and grandsons Nathan Dolan (Jessica), Kyle Schellinger (Darcy), Eric Allen (A’Lisa), Matt Schellinger, A.J. Schellinger, Dustin Ohs, Jesse Ohs and 14 great-grandchildren, along with many adopted grandchildren, including the Foran and Lovejoy children.
A memorial service was held Dec. 21 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Eltopia.
A second celebration of life for Cliff will take place in the Flathead Valley at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the St. Paul’s Scholarship Fund. 14181 Glade North Road, Eltopia, Washington 99330.