Iconic People: Austin Darkenwald
Austin Darkenwald was important to me, and to a lot of other people as well. He and I met in the mid-1970’s when a mutual friend arranged for him to take me to a Young Life meeting. He was a successful business person, prominent in the community, and I was little more than a thirty-something wannabe. I was in awe.
Austin was what my Father used to call “a real person”; no pretense, if he was standing in it he called it by its name. One day in the late ‘70’s I was sitting in his office bemoaning the sad state of my affairs when he abruptly stood and unceremoniously ushered me out of his office, saying “You are just sitting there feeling sorry for yourself! I don’t have time for this!” I swore I would never speak to him again, and didn’t, for, nearly three weeks. In time I came to depend on that, on his honesty.
In 1981 when I started MasterLube I asked him and a few of his friends to serve as a sort of unofficial “board” and I can say with certainty that MasterLube would not exist as it does today without them.
But none of that gets to the heart of what made Austin special to people. When I was around him, it was as if I were on tip-toes, I stood a little taller; I strained to think at a higher level, and to see the landscape unobstructed. I am less now that he is gone, but I am more because he was here.
That is a legacy that would make any of us proud.
– Bill Simmons
Austin passed away in June, 2016. Read his obituary in the Billings Gazette.