Richard Joseph Gruber Sr.


Richard Joseph Gruber Sr.


Richard Gruber

Richard Joseph Gruber was born on Oct. 4, 1925. He passed away peacefully at his home in Billings on Jan. 31, 2020, at the age of 94.

He grew up in the mining town of Acme, Wyoming. His high school years were spent in nearby Sheridan. During his high school years, he was the sports editor for the Sheridan Press. His father was a miner for 40 years and his parents encouraged their children to seek an education.

Richard’s own educational pursuits had to be put on hold after graduation from Sheridan High School. At the age of 18, he entered the Army Air Force and flew on B24s as a tail-gunner in the New Guinea and China Campaigns. He was with the 328th bomber group in 1944 to 1945.

After his discharge, he enrolled at the University of Wyoming in the fall of 1946. He graduated in 1950 with a double major in Physical Education and Mathematics. In that same year, he married Ann Moore in Oak Park, Illinois, and then returned to Wyoming for Richard’s first teaching job in Dayton. They stayed in Dayton until 1956, where he taught and coached all the high school sports: football, basketball and track. Richard also served as Superintendent in addition to his teaching and coaching duties. Richard returned to the University of Wyoming and earned his master’s degree in 1958 and was awarded his doctorate degree in 1966.

While attending the University of Wyoming, Richard taught Math in the Laramie Public Schools and at the University Prep School. He also had a graduate assistantship during this time.

His love of sports and working with young athletes led him to officiating for 62 years. Prior to officiating, Richard played football for the Wyoming Cowboys in 1946 and ’47, was the team manager and also spent three years on the University hockey team.

Richard spent 45 years in teaching, 12 in the public schools and 33 at the university level. Richard’s career at Eastern Montana College began in 1962. He said, “the best part about being on the  Eastern/MSU-Billings campus was the opportunity to work with a real great bunch of kids.” He also served for several years as the director of teacher certification for the campus. In addition to his involvement with young people through their sports activities, Richard was also a scoutmaster.

Richard was a caring provider for his family. He was very interested in the activities of his children and his many grandchildren. He had a perfect record of remembering everyone’s birthday and always sending just the right card. He was mindful of the needs of others and always put other people’s interests ahead of his own. Richard could always remember the smallest details about the people in his life.

Richard was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph Gruber and Susanna Sperl; wife Ann; his sisters, Josephine Benz, Theresa Watson; brothers Frank and Siegfried Gruber. Also by his daughter Cheryl and son Richard Jr.

He is survived by his brother Edward and wife Deloras; niece Tracy Jo Watson; daughters Paula Courtney and husband Ryan, Cindy Chambers, Kim Mork and husband David; son-in-law Ken Hart and wife Carola; 10 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; four nephews; and special friend Mary Gwen Brayton and family.

With great appreciation, the family sends a special thank you to the team of Stillwater Hospice.

A vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. Memorial mass will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at St. Pius X Church, 717 18th St. West.

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  1. I started officiating when Dick was still officiating in his 60s. He worked almost exclusively with Alex Kaiser. He was always great to me and always had a positive, kind word. I watched him work a junior high boys basketball game in about 1990 and wondered “I wonder if I’ll still be doing basketball when I’m his age?” No, but I often wish I could. RIP, Dick. Tom Mellor

  2. I was blessed to meet this fine man a few years ago. He always spoke words of kindness and was very interesting to talk with; he had so many great experiences! Doctor Gruber and his sweet daughter Cindy have enriched my life tremendously. I will always treasure my memories of him.

  3. I worked with Dick at Eastern Montana College for many years. It later became MSUB, but we always remember it as Eastern. He and I were in the same dept. and taught similar classes in Tests and Measurements. We shared a lot of good times together at many Eastern events. Dick never missed anything. Always at commencement or anything to do with Eastern. He was very loyal.
    Lowell Dunlop

  4. I was fortunate to take a couple of classes from Doctor Gruber at MSUBillings in the 1980’s. He was an excellent professor and a kind and generous human being. E. Meyer

  5. One summer day I received a phone call from Dr. Gruber about the possibility of a teaching job he thought I might be interested in. He said he had a superintendent in his office, who was interested in hiring a young teacher with an interest in athletics to be an assistant principal and an athletic director. I reminded Doc that I had not done my student teaching, he assured me I could complete my student teaching and then fill the open position if my interview with the superintendent worked out. The next day I interviewed and was offered the job. Doctor Gruber came out to the school a couple of times to evaluate my student teaching performance and to make sure I completed all the requirements needed. I am now completing my 44th year in public education and I am thankful for Dr. Gruber for believing in me and pushing me to finish my degree. Dr. Gruber was a very dedicated educator who helped many students become successful at Eastern. Thank you Dr. Gruber. Steve Bradshaw

  6. Sandra Weaver Mammenga

    One day Dr. Gruber called me into his office at Eastern Montana College. He told me to sit down because he needed to talk me. He went on to say he thought I should get my certification in administration while finishing my masters. I said I didn’t want to be an administrator so why get the certification.. He smiled and said “Don’t forget what I told you,” as I left his office. Years later I often thought of Dr. Gruber as I did become a school administrator for 22 years. I loved being a Principal. He knew me better than I knew myself. Thank you, Dr. Gruber.

  7. After I finished my B.A. in English at another university, I was taking a few classes at Eastern to obtain my teaching certificate. At Dr. Gruber’s suggestion, I took a few extra classes and earned a B.S. in education. He went out of his way to know my educational background, and I am thankful that he did.

  8. Suzanne McCandless

    Dr. Gruber stands out in my memory as one of the best at EMC. I was just amazed by his energy level as he reffed so many ballgames at the surrounding small town schools! RIP Dr. Gruber.
    Suzanne McCandless

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