Raymond Walter "Rib" Gustafson (1925 - 2014)

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  • "On behalf of the United States Submarine Veterans (USSVI),..."
    - Bob Reinisch
  • "When the Gustafson brothers brought those Texas Quarter..."
    - Rick Duncan
  • "Sid and Wylie, My condolences to your family; A great..."
    - Paul Groueff
  • "Twenty years ago, I was waiting tables on the late shift at..."
    - Karla Weiser-Walsh
  • "While I never knew Dr. Gustafson, it's clear to me by..."
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Rib Gustafson peacefully slipped out from Under the Chinook Arch on Oct. 30, 2014, surrounded by his children in the family home. Rib came into the world on May 1, 1925. William Ferdinand and Alice (Klint) Gustafson delivered their seventh child into the family home near Rapelje, where they christened the blue-eyed boy Raymond Walter Gustafson. Rib's Swedish father and mother aspired to ranching and farming in the shadow of the Crazy Woman Mountains, where Rib began school on Big Timber Creek.

The family dream was cut short when his dad died of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in 1933. The family lost their hard-earned, well-watered Brown Ranch as a result. Utilizing the time honored Gustafson tradition of hard-headedness and hard work, their mother Alice began a boarding house for teachers and students in Rapelje. She took the idea and her family to Bozeman in 1935, boarding a generation of college students. In Bozeman, Rib helped his mother and siblings make ends meet, graduated from high school and attended MSU. Not folks to be held back by misfortune, Rib and his brothers Duke and Bill imported the first Texas Quarter Horses to Montana, establishing a Gustafson horse and agriculture legacy that continues to this day.

Rib enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and became a naval aviator before completing college. He was accepted to veterinary school at Colorado A&M, where he became a world-class skier, matriculating in 1951. After becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Rib camped under his beloved Chinook Arch for the rest of his life. He established a veterinary practice in Conrad and in 1953 married Patricia Galt, where they enthusiastically raised their five children Sid, Kris, Erik, Barr and Wylie.

With the help of his wife and children, Rib became a classy powder skier, bulldogger, storyteller, veterinarian and rancher. He was an AQHA judge, state legislator (1961), Conrad school board member, Chairman of the Montana Board of Environmental Health (1994-1998) and humanitarian for all. In 1972, the family purchased the Shoop Ranch on the Two Medicine River, which their son Barr and his wife Colleen and their children operate. His daughter Kristen (John Juras, Great Falls) interrupted her legal career in 2012 to personally care for Rib and Pat on a continuous daily basis in the last years of their lives, allowing both parents to pass in the arms of their family in the comfort of the family home at the edge of the town they knew and loved. Erik, now teaching in New Hampshire, moved back to Conrad in 1988 to teach school and work side by side with Rib. Erik ate lunch with Rib and Pat every Monday for twenty years while tending Rib's Conrad cows, helping his parents through their later years in every way. At the peak of a stellar music career, Wylie moved back to Conrad in 2009, and likewise cared for his parents during their last years. Sid put in his family time in the early years assisting his parents with the younger siblings and helping at the veterinary practice and Two Medicine ranch before moving to Bozeman to write novels and practice veterinary medicine.

Rib and Pat helped all of their children raise all of their grandchildren who carry on the Gustafson family traditions of medicine, ranching, writing, singing, skiing, teaching, horsemanship, engineering and conviviality. Connor (Sid), Ben (Erik), Erika (Erik), Mark (Kris), Luke (Kris) Sinda (Erik), Evan (Kris), Nina (Sid), Greta (Barr) and Owen (Barr) will move through life with all the blessings and knowledge bestowed upon them by their Grandpa Rib and Grandma Pat.

Rib and his extended family are Montana personified. Doctor Gustafson was preceded in death by all of his siblings. Bobby, Gertrude, and Sid died in their youth, while Margaret Mielke, Audrey Roth, Duke and Bill gave Rib the nicest clan of nieces and nephews ever known. Duke's wife Shirley Gustafson of Jeffers, Montana, is the last surviving member of Rib's textured and talented generation.
Rib touched many lives in north central Montana, both human and animal. His spirit to enjoy life and make the world a better place remains with us all. For a complete history of his life please read his books "Under the Chinook Arch" and "Room to Roam." For an even more specific and celebratory rendering of the life and times of Rib Gustafson, plan to attend the memorial service with his friends and family in four weeks on Nov. 29, 2014, at noon at the Country Club in Conrad, Montana, his home sweet home forevermore.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Nov. 2, 2014
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