Rollie Grunstead, longtime resident of Billings, met Jesus on Nov. 10, 2016, after a courageous battle with cancer. All of his life, Rollie faced seemingly insurmountable odds with courage and honor. He looked forward to heaven with thoughts of the Apostle Paul in 2 Tim 4:7 — “I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.”
Rollie was born on July 25, 1924, the son of Edward E. and Susie Wyatt Grunstead. He grew up on a farm in Hettinger, N.D., one of seven children. Early on, Rollie learned to act honorably, work hard and serve God and others — first, as his dad’s right-hand man, and then as the second oldest in a family devastated by the early death of their father.
The unexpected death of his father and the eventual loss of the farm gave Rollie a heart for children, especially those without a father or those in need. As a result, Rollie became a faithful, livelong supporter of The Boys and Girls Club.
Upon graduation from high school, he was drafted into the US Army 418th Squad of the 8th Air Force and served in “The Bloody Hundredth” as a ball turret gunner in a B-17 Bomber out of England. When he arrived at the Registrars, they couldn’t believe this baby-faced 19-year-old claimed five dependents (mother and siblings). Despite of overwhelming odds, he survived 35 missions and came home safely. He was honorably discharged with several medals after serving with the crew of “Andy’s Dandy’s.”
Upon arriving home from the war, he was offered and played football on a scholarship at Dickinson State Teacher’s College (DSU) and Macalester College in Minnesota. Rollie married Millie Solem in 1949, prior to graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in business/accounting demonstrating his fortitude early on. From this union, four children were born.
Using his skills of hard work and integrity, and demonstrating his ability to be a team player, he worked his way up in the Continental Oil Company (Conoco). When they offered him a high position in the company, he opted to stay in Montana to raise his family. He grew to be an astute businessman who grew a small start into a large, successful business (GM Petroleum).
Rollie remained an honorable, hardworking, compassionate, kind, generous man of integrity. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather who spent many hours attending the sporting events of his many children and grandchildren.
Upon the death of his first wife, Millie, he courted Joy Kilby Rech, who was a family friend and business associate. They were married in 1993 in Killingworth, Conn. His family was then enriched with four additional children.
Because he loved and desired to bless people as he had been blessed, he helped many people get a new start in life. Thus, he was involved in many organizations, including the following service clubs: Served as director of The Boys and Girls Club of Billings; served on the Board of the Rotary Club in which he was a lifetime member; served as a lifetime member of the Elk’s Lodge; was an IDEA sponsor for deaf children in the Philippines; was a member of the Western Petroleum Marketers Association; was a member of the Montana Petroleum Marketers Association; was on the advisory board for Conoco.
Rollie was an avid golfer who was a charter member of the Laurel Golf Club, as well as a member of Hilands Golf Club. He also enjoyed hunting, fishing, traveling and all sports.
Rollie is survived by his loving wife, Joy; and their children, Bill (Anita) Grunstead, Shelley (Chuck) Robbins, Laurie (Jim) Murphy, Sue (Gary) Lucas, Mitch (Doreen) Rech, Craig (Patsy) Rech, Clint (Callie) Rech, Stacey (Stewart) Grady; 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Rollie is also survived by his siblings: brother Don, sisters Lorraine, Ruth and Blanche. He is preceded in death by his parents, brother Leo and sister Alice.
The family would like to thank the RiverStone Health Hospice Home for the excellent, loving care of a very special man. The family requests, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to the Boys and Girls Club of Billings, RiverStone Health Hospice Home, the Montana Rescue Mission of Billings, or a charity of your choice.
Memorial services will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, at Faith Chapel, 517 S. Shiloh Road.