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'I miss his creativity': Celebration of life planned for beloved Bozeman artist

Dennis Claude Dungan, known as “Buzzard,” in downtown Bozeman.
Olivia Weitz
/
Courtesy HRDC
Dennis Claude Dungan, known as “Buzzard,” poses in downtown Bozeman. A celebration of life is planned for the beloved artist.

A celebration of life for one of Bozeman’s most beloved artists is planned for Tuesday. Dennis Claude Dungan, known as “Buzzard,” passed away from cancer in late October.

Buzzard’s creativity left a lasting mark on those who met him, and many of his window paintings continue to bring life to downtown storefronts.

Speaking from her second floor office at the nonprofit Human Resource Development Council in downtown Bozeman, Kristin Hamburg says Buzzard gave back to his community in ways both big and small.

“Below my window is some bird feeders that he bought from Sacks and insisted on having in our trees," she said, "and even on the coldest, windiest days when he wasn’t feeling his best he would trudge out there and refill them and check on them all of the time."

Hamburg says even though Buzzard struggled at times with homelessness and mental health, in the 8 years she knew him he was kind and generous.

“He always wanted to make people happy, and he worried that he didn’t. He would worry that people didn’t understand him or weren’t comfortable with him or didn’t like him… and the reality is most people loved him,” she said.

Some of Buzzard’s artwork is on display at Wild Joe’s. Erica Brubaker holds one of his paintings.
Olivia Weitz
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Some of Buzzard’s artwork is on display at Wild Joe’s. Erica Brubaker holds one of his paintings.

That included Erica Brubaker, owner of Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot. She says most days Buzzard would get to the cafe before it opened. He’d sit at the same table painting on giant canvases.

“Very colorful, very sparkly. He liked to use glow-in-the-dark paint. He liked to use golds and silvers and every single color," Brubaker said. "He was a master of drawing circles. He could probably draw a circle better than anybody I’ve ever met."

Brubaker remembers Buzzard giving out art supplies to kids who came up to his table at the coffee shop, encouraging them to make their own art.

Buzzard painted the windows at the Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery in downtown Bozeman. Hamburg with HRDC estimates that he painted windows for around 29 different businesses in Bozeman.
Olivia Weitz
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Buzzard painted the windows at the Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery in downtown Bozeman. Hamburg with HRDC estimates that he painted windows for around 29 different businesses in Bozeman.

Brubaker says that he also enjoyed telling stories through his art.

“I miss his creativity. I miss his laugh. I miss his smile," she said. "He always had such an interesting outlook on life and the world.

"He was a very wonderful person to have a conversation with."

Buzzard’s artwork will be on display at his celebration of life at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Wild Joe’s in downtown Bozeman. There will also be an open mic to share memories.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.