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MALTA- Leslie “Joe” Eskildsen, 94 a WWII Navy Veteran and retired farmer and rancher, died Friday, July 22, of natural causes.

    Graveside Services to be performed at The Malta Cemetery, Tuesday, July 26 at 10:00 A.M. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations of your time or money be made to any worthy local veterans group or other charity organization in honor of Joe. Condolences for the family may be left at

    Leslie “Joe” Eskildsen was born in Malta, Montana on March 23rd, 1922, to Laura and Ed Eskildsen. They lived and farmed on the family Homestead south of town until Joe was 9 years old at which time the family took over running the county Poor Farm. They continued to work hard caring for those less fortunate than themselves until 1936 when Social Security came into being and then Ed purchased the poor farm acreage from the county. Joe worked hard and purchased his first piece of land while still in high school and over his career continued to purchase additional farmland which he continued to work until he retired in his early eighties.

    As a young man he was proud of being an Eagle Scout and a Chevalier of DeMolay. He participated in band, football, basketball and he graduated from Malta High School in 1941.

    Following commencement, he and a few other young men from this area traveled to Alaska where they worked at various jobs for several months until World War II began and draft notices for many young men of their age began to appear in the mail boxes. Not wishing to be drafted into the local military units in Alaska, all the young men from Malta decided to return home and enlist in Montana. Joe decided to choose enlistment in the US Navy. He took basic training in Farragut, Idaho, and from there he was sent on to Lafayette, Indiana, to train as an electrician. He served aboard the YMS 281, which was a minesweeper, for the majority of his naval career of approximately three and a half years. Their area of operations was mainly in the Southern Pacific amongst a wide array of small islands. As in his high school years he was quick to make new friends and was able to keep up corresponding with these friends throughout his entire life. He said his comrades at arms were his best and most cherished memories of his time in the service.

    When he returned home he worked his own farm as well as helping his father with his farming endeavors.

    Shortly after returning home from the war Joe also found the love of his life Virginia “Ginny” Kienenberger, who he married in January, 1947.

    In 1957 he was elected to the Montana legislature from the Malta area and served five terms as a representative. While he was in the legislature one of the things he was most proud of was insuring that Malta was not left off of the list of new Armory buildings that were being built for the National Guard. Another item of importance to Joe was the establishment of a boat launch and campgrounds at Nelson Reservoir.

    Joe & Virginia's only child, a daughter named Loy Lee was born in 1960. They continued to live in one of the old houses on the poor farm for a few years and finally when Loy started school, the family moved to the” new house” which Joe built himself for the family in town.

    Not being done with regards to public service, Joe also ran for and won his place as a delegate for this area in the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention. He had great hope that he could help make a few positive changes to the state’s old constitution at this convention and for the most part was satisfied with the outcome of the proceedings. The issues of higher education funding and the loss of control of local County Commissioners with regards to property tax were among the things he was disappointed with the most. One of his special duties as part of the convention was Calling the Convention to a close. This was particularly satisfying for Joe after the frustrations of the proceedings.

    Another major area of interest in his life was participating in activities with the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. He was very active in the local post as well as advancing up the ladder with various tasks with the organization at the State and National levels.

    In the early 1970s he and Virginia started a tradition of spending winters in Hawaii, which they continued for 30 years. Joe again was involved in the building of a home where they were delighted to be visited by family and friends from the mainland and becoming friends with the neighbors.

    He was preceded in death by his father Ed in 1954, his mother Laura in 1980, his sister Arlyne in 2011 and a baby sister who died in 1916. He is survived by his wife Virginia, his daughter Loy and her husband Shane Patterson, all of Malta. He enjoyed the many brothers and sisters in laws he gained when he married Virginia and spending time with them and the nieces and nephews that followed was a great joy. Arlyne’s children were very special to him, Sharon Winters, Lonnie McCollom, Ed McCollom and Bruce McCollom.

Guest Book

From: Super Family Minot ND

Loy and Shane's friendship and kindness are tributes to Joe and Malta people on the whole.

From: Mrgie McCollom Winkler and Ralph Winkler; Marlene and Wes Anderson

Dear Ginny, Loy Lee, and Shane,
Bruce called us on Sunday to tell us of Joe's death. Joe was one of those people that we all somehow assumed would be around forever. We are both very sad that it is not to be. The Eskildsen family was perhaps the most important in myown family's history in Malta. You were always there for us, usually with one of the world's greatest dinners! Had we learned about Joe in time, we would have changed our plans and come to Montana in order be there with you tomorrow morning,, instead of late August as planned. checked out airline flights, but it was impossible, given that we needed another 4.5 hours of driving time after arriving in either Great Falls or Billings. We are so disappointed. We have missed visiting Malta for the past 4 years in a row because of major health stuff Ralph has had, most recently a broken hip from a biking accident. And now my brother Bill in in the hospital because of a stroke, from which he will not recover. He has great difficulty swallowing, significant memory loss, and is losing weight at a somewhat alarming rate.. Neither is projected to improve, so as soon as Marlene returns from Canada, where she is right now on a choir tour, we will together go to D.C. to see him. In the meantime, one or the other of our daughters, Cherie (NYC) and Carole (Boston & Switzerland), has been with him and taking care of zillions of things until I can get there.
We hadn't known that Joe was an Eagle Scout ! (As was my brother Bill,) Or that he was a musician ! We especially want to know what instrument he played. Ralph and I send our love to the three of you. Our hearts will be with you tomorrow. A letter follows...Margie and Ralph Winkler

From: Debbie Demarais

Loy Shane and Virginia: My deepest sympathy to you. I am sending you hugs support and prayers.

From: bonnie breitbach

Sorry to hear of Joe's passing Had many good times through the VFW

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