Heaven’s pastures must have been looking a little brown, the irrigation crews up there in need of a leader who knew how to get the water down the field and how to enjoy life between sets. And so, Friday evening, God took Robert “Bob” Michael home. He was 82.
Bob was born in a log cabin on July 6, 1931 to William and Evelyn Michael. He spent his early years near Laurel along with brother, William, and sister, Jan, before the family moved to the farm east of Billings where he would spend the rest of his life.
Bob went to work after finishing his education, but he never stopped learning. He was a faithful follower of all the news of the day, an independent thinker who could see a problem from all sides and argue – always argue – the most logical point as he saw it. Bob loved an underdog, and he was comfortable standing alone from the crowd.
On Jan. 20, 1952, Bob married the love of his life, Marguerite Scheafer. They started out with nothing but love for each other, and that was always enough. They raised four children, Debra, Robin, Terry and Jeff, on the farm, and together they led the close-knit, crazy bunch of misfits who are lucky enough to be their family.
Bob put his talents for leadership to use as he served on the Pioneer School Board for nine years, the Billings Bench Water Association board for 34 years, most of those years as president, and the Midway Drain Board for many years. He won the respect of anyone he met, not because he demanded it, but because he gave it in return. Bob didn’t have to look for the good in others, because the good was all he ever saw.
Bob took great pride in his progeny, most of whom inherited his mischievous streak, his stubborn streak and his love of family. His grandchildren – and especially his great grandchildren – could do no wrong in his eyes, nor he in theirs. He was Grandpa Bob to everyone, including the extra grandkids he picked up over the years, through marriage and through luck.
From morning to night, Bob worked, first with his father then with his daughters until his son was old enough to work by his side. His grandchildren also worked alongside their Grandpa. Together they transitioned the operation from a dairy farm to a registered Angus ranch, and they moved away from the sugar beets he loved to irrigate. The whole family, in one way or another, worked alongside him. When the work was done, most occasions became a party, with Bob at the helm.
Bob had his first heart attack in 1978, went through bypass surgery in 1990 and got a pacemaker in 2009. But he cruised past each obstacle, not slowing down until the end. His heart gave out while he was doing one of his favorite things, working alongside his son.
Under the care of Dr. Robert Terry and the nurses at the St. Vincent’s ICU, Bob hung on until his whole family could say goodbye, his one last time to be in charge of the group. At approximately the moment he died, his son, grandson and grandson-in-law heard a clap of thunder over the farm he loved, a triumphant signal that he had arrived in heaven.
Bob leaves behind a legacy of love and laughter, strength and integrity. No one who knew him will ever forget him. The stories of his life – the real ones and the far-fetched ones he made up for his grandchildren – can never die.
His family wants to thank Dr. Terry for his many years of caring for Bob, as well as all the nurses who crossed his path.
Bob leaves behind his wife of 62 years, Marguerite; his daughters, Debra DeWitt, Moorcroft, Wyo., Robin (Jim) DeVerniero and Terry (Steve) Edwards, both of Billings; his son, Jeff (Marilyn) Michael, Billings; his brother, William (Shirley) Michael, Billings; his sister, Jan Amen, Billings; his grandchildren, Jason Ostermiller, Billings, E.B. (Kirbie) DeWitt, Ranchester, Wyo., Stacie Edwards, Billings, Justin (Darcy) Ostermiller, Billings, Steven (Mallory) Edwards, Bowman, N.D., Travis DeWitt, Laramie, Wyo., Jennifer (Brandon) Schlecht, Medina, N.D., Zachary DeWitt, Sheridan, Wyo., Michael (Bonnie) DeVerniero, Saco, Robert (Madison) Michael, Townsend, Christopher (Ashley) DeVerniero, Helena, Mont., and Kasie DeVerniero, Butte, Mont.; his honorary grandson Ross (Dorothy) McElvain of Worden; his great-grandchildren Kobe, Kyler, Boyd, Tegan, Austin, Brooklyn, Rylee, Tasia, Grant, Christian, Reanna, Khloe, Gavin, Monroe and Mason.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents, his in laws, his nephew, Timmy; his niece, Kristy; and many other loved ones.
The casket will be open for visitation on Monday from 8 a.m.-5p.m. at the funeral home, and prior to services at the church. Funeral Services will be held at 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, April 22, at First Congregational Church, Downtown Billings. Burial will follow at Mountview Cemetery. Michelotti-Sawyers is assisting with arrangements and remembrances may be shared online at www.michelottisawyers.com.
Instead of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the American Heart Association, 2812 1st Ave. N., Billings, MT, 59101. Or, if you’d prefer, buy yourself a beer and say it was on Bob. He’d have liked that.