Gordon T. Obie (1917 - 2013)

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On March 11, 2013 at about 11 p.m., Gordon T. Obie went over the great divide. He was born in Hill (now Liberty) County, Montana on May 10, 1917. Place of birth was a Homesteader's shack, in north central Montana, 28 miles north of Joplin and 3 miles south of the Canadian border. His dad Edwin Olaf Obie was Norwegian and mom Ann Rose Yoctorowic, Polish; they were both born to immigrants from the "home country." Northern Montana was cold hardscrabble prairie, settled by those accustomed to hard, hard work and looking for adventure with a better life. Gordon's early education was a one-room schoolhouse that covered grades 1 through 8, all taught at the same time. Transport to school was horses, a buggy or two legs. Entertainment was teasing the teacher, who was only slightly older than the students.

Long cold winters brought the National Geographic and other magazines, from which his desire to be an artist and travel the world was kindled.

Gordon's first business was a trap line that produced weasels, muskrats and the occasional beaver. Prior to becoming a teenager, the only town he had seen was mostly a grain elevator. Saturday night dances were held at schoolhouses and granges; it was at one of these that he met Mildred Lillian Huestis. He worked his way through high school in Joplin, 20 miles from the homestead and went on to Northern Montana State College in Havre, Mont. Mildred was working close by as a housemaid and romance soon blossomed. As a way to express his art, he began to paint signs for campus activities and small businesses around Havre. One day a circus came through town, in need of signs to be painted, they were told of Gordon's ability and low prices, so they immediately hired him for the work. While it was only a few days work, the circus saw his value and zest for life, and suggested he join them. He quickly saw the merit in the idea and told Mildred he would write her along the way. Her response was "If you're going-I'm going" and away they went with the circus. He became the snake charmer from Borneo, she a seller of tickets, a few days later, Aug. 6, 1937 they were married by a $2 Justice of Peace, in East Helena Montana. He was 20 years old, she won't say.

As a married couple, they decided to settle in Bozeman, and their first child, Gary, currently of Springfield, Ore., was born a year later. Gordon adopted sign painting as a trade and opened his shop, in the back end of a hardware store, in downtown Bozeman. A second son, former Eugene Mayor Brian Obie, was born in the fall of 1941.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the sign shop was quickly closed and the family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, as Gordon went to work in the wartime effort at the Naval Supply Depot there. While there, a third child, Florene, was born to complete the family.

Gordon continued to work in war industries as a pattern maker in the shipyards in Long Beach, Calif. and then Van Port when wartime shipbuilding came to the Northwest in Vancouver, Wash. Each fall the family would return to their roots in northern Montana to help with harvest, as that was also a wartime priority. Gordon was in the line with other draftees, receiving his medical check up, the day Japan surrendered, they were all told to go home.

Following the war, the family returned to Bozeman and Gordon reopened his business "The Obie Sign Company." Gordon was a very driven and creative entrepreneur and for the next decade, that business grew, to the point of owning, selling and maintaining signs throughout Montana. The business was sold in 1960, the same year Gordon acquired with his brother-in-law, Marion Streeter, two outdoor advertising companies – one in Salem, Ore. the other in Eugene. Two years later Gordon and Marion expanded the business and asked family members to join them.

With Gordon's leadership and a dedicated family effort, the company rapidly grew into a multi-state operation. In the late sixties, he became the Chairman of the Board and decided to at last pursue his interest in Travel and Art. Throughout the next 30 years, he circled the globe six times and studied many cultures. From his residence in Sun City, Ariz., he became immersed in Mexican history and culture, living and painting in villages throughout that country.

Gordon was an accomplished artist, businessman and explorer. An advocate of the power of positive thinking, he held leadership positions in many industry activities, charitable organizations and pursued with zest his many hobbies.

He is survived by his wife, Mildred of 76 years; sons, Gary and Brian; brother, Laurence Obie, Eugene, Ore. and sister, Gillette Ritter, Bozeman. He has nine grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, six great-great-grandchildren. His daughter, Florene, an accomplished artist in her own right preceded him in death.

Many thanks to our wonderful caregivers for their care and love they gave him.

A private family service was held and burial at Lane Memorial Gardens in Eugene.

In lieu of flowers please send memorial contributions to Parkinson's Disease Association.

Arrangements by Musgrove Family Mortuary.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on July 4, 2013