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Bozeman remembers 'Buzzard'

Billy McWilliams helped organize Buzzard’s celebration of life. At an open mic community members shared their “Buzzard stories.”
Olivia Weitz
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Billy McWilliams helped organize Buzzard’s celebration of life. At an open mic community members shared their “Buzzard stories.”

Bozeman residents and business owners gathered at a downtown coffee shop this week to remember the life of artist Dennis Claude Dungan, known as “Buzzard.”

Before he died of cancer in late October, Buzzard painted dozens of downtown storefronts. Some of his paintings are on display at Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot until next Tuesday.

McWilliams said Buzzard "literally painted till his dying day. He’d be laying, writhing in pain, and painting circles.”
Olivia Weitz
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
McWilliams said Buzzard "literally painted till his dying day. He’d be laying, writhing in pain, and painting circles.”

Here, some community members share memories of Buzzard and the life he lived:

Mollie Bryan: "We’d have coffee together and he'd show me his artwork and one time he actually gave me a couple of paintings and they're hanging in my office, and because I run a hotel on the back they’re like a couple of faces and on the back he wrote, 'Mollie’s guests.'"

Billy McWilliams: "He had to do art. He was compelled to do art that’s his entire…know this, he gave up his family, his career, his health, and his life for art."

Reverend Connie Campbell-Pearson: "He had a life, it was definitely not a life I could have lived or many of us could have lived, but he never lost hope or faith in the goodness of people."

This was the table at Wild Joe’s where Buzzard would paint almost every day. His artwork is on display there this week and some is being sold in a silent auction.
Olivia Weitz
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
This was the table at Wild Joe’s where Buzzard would paint almost every day. His artwork is on display there this week and some is being sold in a silent auction.

Jessica Stillman: "Bozeman needs to not forget Buzzard and the legacy he started because that’s the special Bozeman that I grew up with and that I really hope we don’t lose."

Ernie Noble: "It’s a metallic sound that sounds like a bird almost the chirp, it’s a chink, chink, chink. He would just chip ice with that metal ice chipper, chink, chink chink, chink. I named it the ‘Chirp of the Buzzard.’ I’d hear it every morning. Makes me happy."

Kelly McCrady: "I’d go tell him, like, what I was excited about or what I was sad about or what I was mad about and usually he was on my side. I was just struggling because I was 18, and he’d leave me his drink vouchers and his food vouchers outside my apartment or in my mailbox."

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.