May 3, 2017 // World Press Freedom Day // Posted By Scoop Trooley
In Search Of Freedom, He Fled Communist Yugoslavia
Mr. Ilija Letica is the owner of a large amount of land here in Deer Lodge County. I am sure many of my readers are familiar with the Modesty Creek Road dispute the county has initiated against Mr. Letica. In my humble observations, it seems as if the county and many of its citizens have started a territorial war with Mr. Letica, and Letica is simply standing his ground, as is his right. For those of you not familiar with the Modesty Creek Road issue, please do a GOOGLE search of that subject and educate yourselves.
For everyone else, read on! Mr. Letica, in my opinion, is being unfairly labeled as a villain. The county has dragged him into these court proceedings by cutting a lock off a gate to his property, and I cannot blame the man for standing his ground and fighting for his constitutional rights. If ever there was a man who exemplifies the very values and work ethic that built America in the first place, that man is Ilija Letica. I fear Deer Lodge County has shot itself in the foot by picking a fight with Mr. Letica. Please read this excerpt from an article in the Valdosta Daily Times. The Letica Corporation has a manufacturing plant in Valdosta, Georgia:
VALDOSTA, GA — The story of Letica Corporation starts in Yugoslavia where Letica’s founder, Ilija Letica, was living when he decided to leave the country by foot at the age of 17.
“My dad basically has a Horatio Alger story,” said Mara Letica, executive vice president for Letica. “He was very poor under the communist regime and always had dreams of the United States as being a land of liberty and opportunity.”
Ilija ended up in Germany, studying metallurgy.
He met his wife, Gudrun, and immigrated to Canada in 1955, then to the United States in 1959.
Ilija worked as a tool-and-die maker, running his business focusing on tool and die before starting up Letica Corporation in 1967 to make five-gallon plastic industrial shipping containers, the kind used to transport everything from paint and joint compounds to chemicals and food products.
The first major account for the company came from pickles, as Ilija went around to Michigan pickle producers, convincing some of them to switch over from their metal containers to a bright green plastic pickle container.
“The pickle farmers loved it,” said Mara. “It took off and replaced the metal containers that had been popular. … There was a point where my dad basically almost made us have pickles with (every) dinner.”
After getting a boost from the pickle industry, Letica Corporation grew throughout the next five decades, opening facilities across the United States.
“I remember my dad taking me in his car to deliver things to customers,” said Mara. “I was able to watch him. It was a way of us spending time together. It was 100 percent dedication to realizing his dream of owning his own business and making it work.”
Why Would He Buy Land In Deer Lodge County?
So, after Mr. Letica became a very rich and successful man, he came out to Montana to buy land and then local people began to begrudge his property and his wealth. WHY on earth would he pick a place like Deer Lodge County when he has enough money to buy land anywhere in Montana? Maybe at one point Mr. Letica considered building a manufacturing plant in Anaconda. We may never know for sure. The only thing I know for sure is that Deer Lodge County would not even exist today, if not for the vision of another well-known rags-to-riches immigrant named Marcus Daly, the founder of Anaconda.
As a Copper King, Marcus Daly helped to electrify America. In fact, Butte and Anaconda were two of the first cities in America to have electricity. Nowadays, we would have a hard time living without electricity. We would also have a hard time living without five-gallon plastic buckets! Think about it! We take five-gallon plastic buckets for granted nowadays. Those buckets hold everything from pickles to cake frosting to paint. And we can thank Mr. Ilija Letica for those buckets; indeed he was the pioneer of five-gallon plastic buckets. Let’s remember that!
Letica’s Pioneering Pickle Bucket
Quit Trashing Mr. Letica On “Uniquely Anaconda” !
I am truly embarrassed for those of you who trash others on Facebook, just for sport. For the past year I have been able to view this Uniquely Anaconda site without having to sign in to Facebook. I refuse to get a Facebook account, but anybody with an internet connection can see what folks talk about on Uniquely Anaconda. Below, I have copied and pasted what Mr. Ken Schmidt, the incredibly boorish and woefully clueless administrator of Uniquely Anaconda, has to say about Mr. Ilija Letica and the Modesty Creek Road access issue.
Mr. Schmidt’s statements are so off-base. untrue, mean and ignorant I would say it’s actually SLANDER against Mr. Letica:
That Letica feller is at it again. Back in 2015, he convinced the Montana Supreme Court to allow him to cut off all access to public lands by declaring a public road private since we didn’t complain earlier when he stole it from the public. Now he wants money from the county to pay him for damage done to his personal road. First off, he is the main problem, secondly, the Supreme Court is to blame for allowing this guy to deny us access to our lands, and thirdly, we’ve given up the fight and will never visit that high country again. One would think there would be a legal way to condemn certain sections of private lands to re-establish an access road, but apparently not.
My personal opinion of Letica is tempered to some extent: I don’t know his parents, so can’t call him an S.O.B. or a bastard, have no idea about other proclivities that may suggest aberrant sexual behavior. Without proper ordination in any church, I can’t damn him. What I can say is that he’s not a person we want in our community, that he’s bought our rights to land that we once thought was ours.
~Ken Schmidt, Administrator of the ‘Uniquely Anaconda’ Facebook group
These comments are mean, nasty and way out of bounds, folks. The Supreme Court was simply following the Montana Code when they ruled in favor of Mr. Letica’s obviously legal prescriptive easement. In simple terms, we are dealing with time-honored LEGAL “squatter’s rights” here. The county government itself didn’t do squat about that locked gate on the Modesty Creek Road for thirty years, so they really can’t complain all these years later. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, as they say. The statute of limitations for contesting adverse possession of land in Montana is only five years; the county government waited another 25 years before they illegally cut the lock off that gate on the Modesty Creek Road.
Ken Schmidt, Please SHUT UP !!!
Mr. Schmidt wrongly assumes it was Mr. Letica himself who locked the gate to the Modesty Creek Road in 1980. In reality, the road was already closed to the public long before Mr. Letica bought that property in 1989. Mr. Letica had no idea that people would claim, some twenty-odd years after he purchased his land, that his road was all of a sudden a county road again and the county wanted it back. If he had thought there was a cloud of that sort on the title to that property, I doubt he would have purchased the property in the first place. Letica is not a stupid man.
By the time Mr. Letica purchased the property, he absolutely had a legal right to keep his gate LOCKED and to keep the litterbugs, vandals and unethical “sportsmen” like County Attorney Krakowka OFF of his private property. And indeed, NO ONE at the county questioned the fact that the road across Letica’s private property was off-limits to the public until 2012, when the Deer Lodge County government barged in at the request of a neighboring land owner.
Now, I realize that most hunters and sportsmen are ethical and follow the law, but it only takes a few bad apples to make everyone smell rotten. Speaking of which… in an unrelated incident, an Anaconda citizen complained to the county about an in-town property dispute with a neighbor. The county did nothing about those complaints except to retaliate, and the citizen was harassed relentlessly by local thugs, including County Attorney Krakowka himself. Krakowka is the one who most likely placed a bloody severed deer leg behind the rear bumper of this citizen’s truck in retaliation for a LEGITIMATE complaint the citizen made.
Bad Sportsmen NOT Welcome, Especially Krakowka!
The scene pictured in the photos below is within sight of the Deer Lodge County courthouse. Can you imagine what so-called “sportsmen” like Ben Krakowka would do out in the boonies to retaliate against somebody who had dared complain about a property dispute? The incident pictured below happened during hunting season, a couple of blocks away from County Attorney Krakowka’s office on a well-traveled city street in a residential area, within sight of the Anaconda Police Station, and Krakowka later admitted he had been standing in the same spot on the same morning the deer leg appeared! This is the type of tactic County Attorney Krakowka (allegedly) uses to harass and intimidate complaining citizens into submission.
County Attorney Krakowka (allegedly and almost certainly) DID THIS TO A CITIZEN:
Why do you suppose the cops and County Attorney Krakowka ignored this deer leg crime, even as violent crime and vandalism escalated within the city limits? It is absolutely WRONG to accuse Mr. Letica of stealing from the public when in fact he was simply exercising his rights as a landowner. I can imagine scenes WAY worse than this happening on Mr. Letica’s rural property if that road was left open for the public to use, and I applaud Mr. Letica for taking this case to court and not backing down. The Montana Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Letica because Mr. Letica was RIGHT. Ken Schmidt apparently thinks Deer Lodge County is above the law, as does County Attorney Krakowka.
Ken Schmidt, Do You Know What A “TRAIL” Is?
Definition of: trail / trāl 1.) a beaten path through rough country such as a forest or moor.
Ignorant Locals Trashing Mr. Letica On Facebook:
Here are some other nasty comments from Uniquely Anaconda, spawned on Ken Schmidt’s ignorant Facebook post:
He is pond scum!
~ Laureen Hensley, Anaconda
Is he a good neighbor who shares our values ? I think not.
~ Eg Leipheimer, Anaconda
He is a total asshole.
~ Lenny Hoscheid, Anaconda
Is this the A-hole that won’t let me visit the sight where my Dad died at Gold Bar Basin? He needs some karma and fast!
~ Mona Clark, Anaconda
First, the public needs to take back our access through his land by a hostile prescriptive right. Who has the balls to join me?? Can I get at least 50 likes!!
~ Dale Schafer, Anaconda
The county could go up there… make their old road impassable!? Just an idea. Boulders and trees. ~ Frank Allen, Anaconda
This Is How Violence And Vandalism Start!
It’s the “Anaconda Mob Mentality” at work, yet again. These people sound like bullies, just like County Attorney Krakowka. Folks should take the time to educate themselves about WHO Ilija Letica really is. As a child, this man lived in poverty, in a communist country. He dreamed about living in freedom, in America. He walked out of Communist Yugoslavia as a teenager, and finally realized his dream of coming to the United States. He worked very hard and became highly successful and he obviously has strong family values. I cannot blame this man for suing the county and standing his ground on Modesty Creek. He has a legal right to own land in Montana, whether the locals like it or not. And the National Forest belongs to ALL of us, Mr. Letica included.
Letica Is Much Smarter Than Krakowka.
I personally am quite happy that vehicles wider than 50 inches are NOT allowed in the upper forest via the Modesty Creek Road, and I am sure most conservation-minded individuals agree with me. Motorized vehicles wider than 50 inches are usually the ones causing the most damage to our forest lands.
Thank you, Mr. Letica, for keeping JEEPS out of the forest above your property!
Perhaps Mr. Letica thinks the people of Anaconda are assholes too at this point, but I am betting Mr. Letica would rather file lawsuits against the county than call people assholes online. I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to run Mr. Letica off his property just because folks think they shouldn’t like him. Calling Mr. Letica cuss words on Facebook is really unnecessary, and so are Ken Schmidt’s ignorant, inflammatory comments. Facebook sucks. It seriously does. And I do believe the county government has got itself into a major pickle with Mr. Letica!