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Douglas A. Saarel

“In frenzied excitement, he eats up the ground. He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength and charges into the fray, afraid of nothing, when the trumpet sounds.” (Excerpt from Job 39: 21-25).

Douglas Andrew Saarel of Livingston, MT, made his heavenly journey on Wednesday, April, 17, 2024 surrounded by his devoted family at home. He was 84 years old.

Doug was born to Aulis Michael Saarel, a Finnish immigrant and Gladys Silvia (Muller), a descendant of two Mayflower passengers, on November 11, 1939 in Lynbrook, Long Island, NY. He was named after the U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) who his parents deeply respected and admired. During WWII, Gladys and young Doug moved to St. Petersburg, FL, while Aulis served in the U.S. Army. Following the war, the family settled in Midland Park, N.J.

In 1957, Doug graduated from Pompton Lakes High School in NJ, where he was known for his quick amusing sayings, being a wonderful tenor and top-notch track man who was often found tickling the ivories or plucking guitar strings. He then graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where he received Army ROTC training and education by The Scarlet Knight Battalion. He would go on to graduate from the School of Law at Loyola University Chicago, simply to broaden his horizons.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Doug began his U.S. Army service at the age of 21 and served over 4 years, ultimately achieving the rank of Captain. During his service, he was awarded the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Parachutist Badge, and the Army Commendation Medal for distinctive meritorious achievement and service. A major highlight of his service was the 1963 reenactment of the famed 400-mile march of the World War I U.S Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, also known as the “Rock of the Marne,” when Doug as First Lieutenant, led his men from Würzburg, Germany to Chateau-Thierry, France. Another highlight for Doug, then Captain Saarel, was escorting the famous German actress, Elke Sommer, through Leighton Barracks upon her visit in 1964.

A born leader, Doug enjoyed a long and illustrious career. He was a Senior Fellow at The Wharton Graduate School of Business’ SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management and former Chairman of the Board of Overseers of The Aspen Institute and a moderator of its executive programs for world leaders. For twenty-five years, Doug was an executive with Johnson & Johnson, the Cleveland Clinic, PepsiCo, Squibb, and a corporate senior vice-president of The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, where he was dubbed “The White Tornado” for the way he whooshed through the halls with purpose, and who he proudly represented running in the New York Marathon while carrying an enormous, waving American flag atop a pole all 26.2 miles with a smile upon his face. Upon retiring from Coke, he began his own consulting business.

In 1996, Doug met the love of his life, Susann, in Marina del Rey, CA., the moment at which his truest dreams were unveiled. For many years, Doug’s parents talked about homesteading in Montana, but never achieved their goal. Yet this dream lived on in Doug, who then in his mid-50’s, longed to fish the Yellowstone, read books from high on a mountain-top, and never be far from the soul of a horse. They married June 1, 1997 at Sky Ranch. Their twins were born in December 1999 and for many years, the family lived a blissful life, sharing their home during their Christmastime “Elegant Holiday Affairs” with charismatic Doug charming guests, competing in community ski races with his twins at Bridger Bowl, and fly-fishing the banks of the mighty Yellowstone, just as he had dreamed.

In 2011, Doug was kicked in the face by a horse suffering 104 fractures to his face to include a severe break of the jaw. He was put together quite nicely, but then began to suffer TIA’s and later, a debilitating stroke in February 2014. It was during this time the family moved into town ensuring quick and easy access to a hospital. The following years were marked by frequent hospitalizations and rehab visits. Suffering more than 30 strokes resulted in multi-infarct dementia for Doug. Believing life does not stop when things get tough, the family continued to travel on their Spring Break road trips with their beloved Doug in tow (walker and wheelchair) from the Grand Canyon, AZ to Badlands, SD, and everywhere in between.

In 2021, Doug lost his ability to walk and was given less than a year to live. He went on to live three more years with his devoted wife as his caregiver. During these years, his deepest love for family was revealed. Defying odds and cheating death multiple times, his twins referred to him as “Miracle Man” and often drew back to the Finnish term, Sisu, which Doug instilled in them, meaning to exhibit unwavering perseverance in the face of adversity. Doug would always light up when he saw them.

Doug was the constant heartbeat of the household. On his bed in the living room, he was rarely found without the company of a trustworthy dog or loving friend. He enjoyed listening to music, reading magazines, and watching his favorite movies, always asking for his cowboy hat when watching the Lone Ranger, calling out “Hi, Ho, Silver!!!...Away!!” Often, he would simply announce, “I’m happy!!”

Doug is survived by his wife, Susann, their twins, Larissa Sage and Samuel Sky Saarel, and his children from his first marriage, Douglas Jr. (Tess) Saarel and Edward (Ted) Saarel, as well as his grandchildren, Emma and Ben Saarel.


A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, August 11th at 4 pm along the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley. Please visit the “Celebration of Life” website at for more details and to RSVP.

To offer condolences please visit


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