Robert “Bob” Levon Montgomery, 89, went to be with the Lord, and the love of his life Phyllis on April 18, 2021 in Yankton, South Dakota.
Robert was born in the Ewing, NE hospital to George and Joyce Montgomery. He grew up on a Tree Claim Farmstead in a Montgomery Ward’s house. The family planted apple, ash, elm, plum, and other trees to claim the land. Raised during the Depression, it was his job to take care of every year’s new crop of 500 chickens as a result he was not fond of chicken at mealtime! Robert was very intelligent and an 8th grade Valedictorian. Robert graduated from Ewing High School. Always willing to help others, he took Latin in High School to have enough students for the class as another student wanted to be a doctor. He played guard in football # 68, a number which his son, grandson, and great-grandson also wore. Never a large man, his football wisdom was “you don’t have to be big; you just need to hit harder.”
Robert graduated from Ewing High School in 1949. He was struck by lightning twice, once in an open basement and again when baling hay on a tractor, “Something you never forget!” He won a NE centennial beard contest and kept a beard for 45 years.
Robert served in the Chemical Corp during the Korean War, humorously noting “Uncle Sam paid for his only boat ride”. A gentle man, he was not to be trifled with. When in charge of barracks, on a rowdy night, he said lights out in 5 minutes. Someone yelled “If you do I’ll stab you tonight”. Robert calmly turned the lights out and went to sleep, his Good Lord was in charge. While managing campgrounds and the bar he kept order without raising his voice or fighting even when threatened.
Robert was very active in the VFW and American Legion. He became Nebraska’s State VFW Commander. He increased the VFW membership and traveled across the United States for meetings. He was honored to be part of the Color Guard, and proud of the fact he could always fit into his Army uniform. After being discharged from the Army, Robert and 3 friends drove around the country selling vacuum cleaners from a LaSalle hearse. Always one to see the bright side, he spent a weekend in jail in Green River Wyoming due to the Green Ordinance which did not allow door to door sales. He said he was the lucky one since he got 3 squares and a room; the rest of the crew had to pay for a hotel and meals waiting for his release because he had the car keys.
Robert met Phyllis at a local dance, telling a friend “I’m going to marry that girl” even before he knew her name. True to his word they were married on September 4th, 1955. No matter what he was doing or where he was, he thought of Phyllis. Almost daily picking the 1st flower of the morning for her, purchasing rose bushes, finding flowers at a flea market stall and purchasing food she would enjoy but he would never eat. He frequently stated, “We had 64 good years, no regrets”. At his granddaughter’s wedding they were the last couple standing on the dance floor symbolizing the longest marriage. When he was asked the secret to their long marriage he answered with a grin: “Yes, dear”. Robert farmed for 30 years near Neligh, Nebraska. In addition to growing crops and animals, he and Phyllis raised 4 children.
Not one to express emotions, he showed his love through actions. When a bulldozer was to add an irrigation line, he had a swimming pool dug in the side of a hill for the kids “because it seemed like the thing to do”. Before the oven timers existed, he frequently ate “burnt offerings” of chocolate chip cookies and meals, saying they were best that way. He was a conservationist and had articles written in the Neligh New and Leader regarding his efforts. Robert worked years at Asmussen’s as a mechanic and truck driver. Almost 50 years later a co-worker remembered him immediately during an information call. He was a builder helping build the Catholic Church and water storage unit in Neligh. He created beautiful vases, baby rattles, bowls, treasure boxes, and rocking chairs for grandbabies. He saw any unused item with the potential to be repurposed. Surviving the blizzards was a yearly adventure. In the winter of ’69 when the snow was higher than the barns, Robert rigged up the car vacuum to run the milking machines. After selling the farm, Robert and Phyllis traveled the United States in a converted Frito Lay van and later a converted Folsom Prison Bus. Their livelihood was unconventional and varied, but created a lifetime of memories. They had a concession stand called Cable Car Goodies, where patrons clamored for their special ice cream. They also owned a bar in California. They worked as attendants and gatekeepers in California, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas. An item he was especially fond of were the five Yamaha “QT’s”. He would ride these little motorcycles all over the campgrounds to clean litter, restock, or talk with campers. During his time at the flea market his goal was show-and-tell more often than show-and -sell, occasionally pricing items too high so he could show them off longer. His business was sought after by those looking for antique, unusual tools and the stories of how he acquired them. With his wife Phyllis, they operated RainbowBadges. Making name tags, signs, and friendship cards for RV parks in the Rio Grande Valley. Trips across the Mexican border were times of delight, frequently sharing shopping and dining with friends and family.
His faith was trusting and steadfast. Robert remarked at various times when items were stolen “They needed it worse than I did”. He believed his Good Lord would take care of him and his family. He had an insatiable quest for knowledge. Reading the papers, visiting museums, and forever talking and questioning others. He knew and had an opinion on all current events. He never had a bucket list. His philosophy was “Do or see what you want in the moment.” He often commented ‘his was a life well lived, without regrets’. He would doze off and wake up stating he had been dreaming of somewhere they had been or something they had done. Most any sight would trigger a memory and a story of times enjoyed.
Robert was a re-user and recycler before the word existed. He saw many unused items with the potential to be repurposed, such as a cowboy boot fashioned into a piggy bank. Saving and fixing before even considering the purchase of a new item. At the age 87 he planned to cut down tree limbs by tying a chainsaw to a pole instead of hiring someone, until saner minds prevailed. Work was his hobby, never work. Robert was a naturalist and conservationist. While in Nebraska articles were written tin the Neligh News and Leader regarding his conservation efforts. In South Texas flowers and hummingbirds were among his favorites. A herb or oil was always considered before medicine, much to the chagrin of his doctors. A daily walk and observation of the beautiful world was routine and considered the best medicine. Robert never met a stranger. Whether at church, an area flea market or the local Walmart, he was well known by his red vest, quick wit, and stories to tell. He greeted everyone he met with a warm hello.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Phyllis; parents George and Joyce Montgomery; son, Patrick; and brother Lorraine.
He is survived by children Roberta “Bobbie” Kleinschmit (Joseph) of Yankton, SD, Dr. Robin Treptow (Dr. Craig) of Great Falls, MT, Phillip Montgomery (Charlotte) of Colorado Springs, CO, sister Beverly Taminga, North Carolina, fourteen grandchildren, twenty great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Always a lover of children, contributions in Robert’s honor can be made to:
VFW National Home for Children
3573 S. Waverly Rd
Eaton Rapids, Michigan 48827