At 95, Maury Irvine still loves learning and sharing what he’s learned as a Museum of the Rockies volunteer docent.

“The museum gives to me so much more than I give to it,” Irvine said. “I went on five continents with (paleontologist) Jack Horner. How can you do better than that?”

The museum has so many volunteers, as soon as it posts that a tour group needs a docent, it’s taken. So Irvine sometimes just asks the front desk to announce he’s giving a dinosaur tour in five minutes.

“I have so much fun,” he said. “I love showing people the history.”

Irvine can talk about visiting Mongolia, riding camels and Russian Jeeps and hunting for dinosaurs with Horner, or traveling to ancient Roman ruins like Pompeii.

Born in 1924 in San Francisco, he was 8 when his mother moved back to the family’s Montana ranch. He rode a horse five miles to school. The family had no money for college when he graduated from Butte High.

After Pearl Harbor, he signed up as a 19-year-old radio officer with the Merchant Marine, transporting war cargo in Liberty Ships, which the Germans hunted and sank.

Irvine survived the war and enrolled at Montana State College. At a dance he met his wife, Lois Lessley. Married 59 years, they raised three kids.

Irvine earned a Ph.D. from Lehigh University and went to work at Bell Labs, researching radar, computers and secret defense projects.

“It was fun, fun, fun,” he said.

Irvine retired in 1984 and returned to Bozeman. He saw an ad about museum docents and found his niche. An MOR pin on his jacket says “9,000 volunteer hours.”

A widower, Irvine still loves science, history and travel. Asked how he feels about old age, he smiled. “I’m not there yet, so I don’t know.”

Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

Gail Schontzler covers schools and Montana State University for the Chronicle.

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