Robert Allison Ellerd Jr. always said that when his time came, he would wander up into the mountains and never come down. His time did come on Feb. 27, 2012. He was not in the mountains, but in bed in his apartment on Oak Street with the heat cranked up nice and high. He died of a coronary event while sleeping, which, despite what he said, was probably preferable to letting a grizzly awakening from hibernation or the merciless alpine weather do the job.
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Rob was many things throughout his life: a carpenter, a theatrical set builder, an apartment building manager and a line cook. But it was none of these things that defined him. Everyone who knew him did so for his razor-sharp intellect and deeply ruminous mind. Above all, he was a philosopher and a poet, a man who looked to every source he could find, from the veins in a leaf to the physics of the cosmos or the lyrics of Neil Diamond – to explain the madness he saw in the world around him.
Born in Sioux City, Iowa on Aug. 21, 1947 to Julia Ellerd (née Hilgers) and Robert Ellerd Sr., Rob moved to Bozeman, where his family's roots were, in 1951, where he grew up working for his father at the Bozeman Stockyards. He attended Bozeman Senior High School and enlisted in the army at age 18.
In the fall of 1968, he met Charlyn Eikrem through a friend in Jackson Hole, Wyo. She volunteered to give him a ride to Denver and they were married in 1970. They moved back to Bozeman, where Rob went to Montana State University and got his degree in Art History. Charlyn gave birth to their daughter, Cody, in Bozeman in 1978 and they moved to Seattle two years later.
The 13 years Rob spent in Seattle were not kind. He divorced, remarried and divorced again, and worked various jobs before returning to the simpler life in Bozeman that he craved. He got a job working the grill in the cafeteria at MSU, where he spent a decade serving up burgers along with sides of philosophical musings to students, whose searching, curious minds formed an automatic kinship with his own. He took great pleasure in walks and bicycle rides, reading at the library and taking photographs in the nearby wilderness he so loved.
"I am blessed with being able to live in the last, best place where even on my bike I can be out in the country in ten minutes, in the mountains in thirty," he once wrote in a letter. "I'm still cooking for the darlings of the university every day. As they get their educations they are themselves ongoing education for me."
Rob is survived by his daughter, Cody Allison Ellerd Bay of Seattle; daughter, Cyndi Tucker of Walla Walla, Wash.; brother, Richard Ellerd of Powell Butte, Ore.; brother, Michael Ellerd of Bozeman; granddaughters, Kate Tucker and Emily Tucker of Walla Walla; and numerous nieces and nephews, cousins, and in-laws.
A celebration of Rob's life will be held at 11 a.m. March 24 at the Story Mansion in Bozeman. Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service www.dokkennelson.com.
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Mar. 9, 2012