Robert Couth Mathis, 88, died peacefully, surrounded by family, on April 27, 2016, in Billings, Montana.
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Bob was born July 3, 1927, in Eagle Pass, Texas, the son of Harry P. Mathis and Marjorie C. Mathis. He accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, just prior to his 17th birthday. He graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as second lieutenant. Later in his career he received a Master's of Science from the University of Illinois, a PhD from the University of Texas, and an honorary doctorate from Montana State University.
In November 1949 he was assigned to the 51st Fighter Group on Okinawa. During the Korean War, Bob served as an F-80 fighter pilot and a forward air controller. In addition to the Purple Heart, he also received the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross for his combat tour in Korea.
Upon returning to the United States, Robert met the love of his life, Greta Gay, while both attended the University of Illinois. They would recount that it was love at first sight, and they married on April 13, 1952, at the First Presbyterian Church of Bozeman.
Together they made the Air Force their career.
In August of 1967, Bob was assigned as the senior U.S. adviser to the Vietnamese Air Force with IV Corps in the Mekong Delta. During his tour in Vietnam, he flew more than 200 combat missions, including an air strike in the A-1 Skyraider for which he received his second Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bob had a distinguished military career that included instructing at the United States Naval Academy, development of the Ballistic Missile Warning System, System Program Director for the General Dynamics F-111 and the F-15, Deputy Chief of Staff (Systems) at Air Force Systems Command headquarters (Andrews Air Force Base), Vice Commander of Air Force Systems Command, Vice Commander of Tactical Air Command (Langley Air Force Base), Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, and United States Military Academy at West Point Distinguished Graduate.
He retired June 1, 1982, as a four-star general.
Though he had a distinguished military career, he was most proud of founding Eagle Mount, with his wife Greta. A non-profit organization for therapeutic recreation, Eagle Mount provides services throughout Montana for people of all ages with physical and developmental disabilities.
His commitment to service and his Christian faith guided him throughout his life.
Bob was preceded in death by his beloved wife of nearly 60 years, his parents, his sister, Janne Bowen, and his two brothers, Warren Weissheimer and Harry "Chico" Mathis. He is survived by his five children, Harry (Sherry) Mathis, Gay (Duncan) McBane, Robert (Jan) Mathis, Donald Mathis, and Christi (Gregory) Madson. Additionally, a cousin Marilyn Mathis Buffalo, nephew Brick (Jennie) Bowen, and niece Janne "Coco" Bowen. He leaves 17 cherished grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
The family would especially like to thank the loving and dedicated caregivers of St. John's Lutheran Ministries and Rocky Mountain Hospice of Billings.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial service will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, First Presbyterian Church of Bozeman, 26 W. Babcock St.
Inurnment with honor guard will follow immediately after the memorial service at Sunset Hills Cemetery, Bozeman. Reception to follow at Eagle Mount, 6901 Goldenstein Lane, Bozeman.
In Bob's memory, donations may be made in lieu of flowers to Eagle Mount, 6901 Goldenstein Lane, Bozeman, MT 59715.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on May 8, 2016