Mass for Jackson Hole native Max Kudar Jr. has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 19 at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church. A party at 6 p.m. in the Grandview Lodge Ballroom will follow. Dancing shoes are recommended.
Kudar died peacefully Aug. 31 at home surrounded by his family, following a long battle with cancer. He was 81. His family provided the following.
Max Kudar Jr. came into the world on March 1, 1938, a snowy Jackson Hole day, delivered by Dr. Don McLeod at St. John’s Hospital to Max Kudar Sr. and Kathryn Berta.
Max grew up in the motel business. Raised on the property of Kudar’s Log Cabins, his main residence was the house located at the back of the property. Max spent many of his early years with his cousin, Joe Kudar Jr., exploring the forests and creeks, hunting and fishing.
When the first tow rope on Snow King was rigged up by Neil Rafferty with a Jeep motor, Max persuaded his father to buy him some Montgomery Ward skis. With no metal edges and leather bindings, the wooden skis provided a thrilling ride straight down the mountain. With buddies Johnny Curtis, Benny Tucker, Spike Graffey and Ben Ferrin he had many crazy adventures. He graduated from Jackson-Wilson High School in 1957 in a class of 34 students.
Max served in the Army Reserves at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, after high school and then attended Regis College in Denver, graduating with a degree in business in 1962. While attending college in 1960, Max met Helen Klocker, of Arvada, Colorado, at a Sadie Hawkins dance. In 1964 he married that “pretty girl in the red sweater” who he had danced with all night.
Max took a job as the assistant manager at a Woolsworth Dry Goods store in downtown Denver. After he was held at gunpoint, tied up and robbed, it didn’t take much to convince Helen to move back to Jackson Hole, feeling the big city was not for them.
Their first daughter, Diana, was born in 1965, and in the winter of 1966-67 Max loaded chairs at the newly opened Jackson Hole Ski Corporation ski mountain. He soon became the assistant supervisor of the tram, where he stayed for 10 years. Not long after starting with the Ski Corp., Max and Helen had their second daughter, Janel, then, the year before he departed the Ski Corp. in 1975, Max and Helen had their third daughter, Jennifer. Max told many stories of his time with the Ski Corp., like spending the night at the top of the tram through 70 mph winds, helping with rescues in the middle of the night and tragically finding the body of his close friend, Bob Sesintaffer, after he fell from the tram roof during routine maintenance.
After Max’s father passed away the Kudar Cabins were bought out by Max’s uncle, Joe Kudar Sr. Max and Helen decided they weren’t ready to be out of the hospitality business. Across the street on Cache Street a small, nine-unit motel came up for sale. Max and Helen bought the business in 1969, renamed it and a new adventure began.
Fixing the rooms up themselves, they opened the Trapper Motel that next summer. By 1991 they had 55 units where Max did most of the repairs and maintenance himself. He was famous for his hospitality and was called out by name in guide books about the valley. At first both Max and Helen had extra jobs to make ends meet. While running their motel Helen also worked as a registered nurse, public health nurse and school nurse. Max continued to run the tram in the winter and the motel (and even a fruit stand for a short time) in the summer somehow finding a balance so he could continue to hunt, fish and camp with his girls.
Max loved his bicycles and playing basketball. He was famous for a hook shot in his post position and went on to play in town leagues and refereed games. In the early days he modified bicycles to fit his 6-foot-4 frame and over the years had mountain bikes and even a snow bike. Once he gave up downhill skiing he took out his cross-country skis almost every day in the winter, grooming his own path near their home north of town.
Max retired from the motel business in 1999 after Diana and her husband, Tim, bought and expanded the business. Max and Helen embraced the retired life and did some traveling and visiting with family and friends. Max loved a good elk steak and anything his wife, Helen, made him. Max believed enough water could drown any cold and that exercise every day kept you sane and moving. He would rarely be found sitting still unless he had a fishing pole in his hand.
Jackson Lake and fishing for its treasures would be the second love of Max’s life. He would frequently drag his loving wife and boat to Yellowstone Lake and Lake Powell many times over the years, but it was Jackson Lake that held his heart. Max and Joe owned their first boat when they were 13 years old, buying the small metal craft with the money they made from selling “wormz” to the tourists. Ultimately Max would hold the longest standing buoy on Jackson Lake, never missing a season. His girls believe the chance to fish just one more day — and the amazing St. John’s Medical Center and Huntsman Cancer Institute teams — was what helped Max defy his terminal cancer diagnosis for 10 years.
Everyone who met Max fell in love with his passion for the valley and his charming stories of life. Like cutting ice from Gros Ventre Slide Lake to cool the ice boxes in the cabins and all the old traps being melted down by the newly minted park rangers when Grand Teton National Park was created. Max never missed one of his girls’ sports games. Many remember his wonderful smile that lit up the gym as he cheered on “his girls” and from time to time the ribbing of a referee.
Max’s compassion is what most will remember. He was known as a gentle bear of a man, standing tall with a booming voice and an enveloping hug. He believed in his Catholic faith and reminded anyone who was bitching that it was not about the man at the altar, it was about your time with God. His compassion was widespread and he and Helen taught their children that love, kindness and hard work were the key to happiness.
We sincerely hope that all those who were loved by our husband and father know how much he truly cared about each and every one of you and how important it is to pass it on. He will be greatly missed by many.
Max is survived by his wife of 55 years, Helen; his daughters, Diana (Tim) Waycott, of Jackson; Janel (Mark) Trowbridge, of Bozeman, Montana; and Jennifer (Jim) Tucker, of Helena, Montana; his five grandchildren, Audrey Trowbridge; Max and Shane Waycott; and Matthias and Amelia Tucker; his sister, Noreen Julian, of Bend, Oregon; as well as many other family and friends.
Max said more than once before he passed that when he was gone he wanted us to have a party to celebrate his life. So that is what we are going to do. Please come and bring your dancing shoes as we celebrate the wonderful life and man that was Max Kudar Jr. on Oct. 19 at a party at Grandview Lodge Ballroom scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Mass for him at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church will be that morning at 9:30 a.m.