DUTTON-- Longtime farmer and rancher Bob Fleshman, 89, died of natural causes Thursday, Dec. 29, at Peace Hospice in Great Falls.
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His memorial service is 11 a.m. Thursday at 11 a.m at United Methodist Church in Dutton. Cremation has taken place under the direction of Croxford Funeral Home and Crematory.
Robert Franklin Fleshman was born May 4, 1922, to Helen (Crosby) Fleshman and Robert Thomas Fleshman. Bob's birth was preceded by that of his sister Roberta. Two other sisters, Donna and Barbara, followed.
In his own words, Bob had "a very interesting and enjoyable childhood." By 11 years old, he was given full responsibility for a team of horses and a wagon and hauled grain to Dutton alongside his father. Bob rode his faithful pony Snowball every morning to the Snyder School. He also helped take care of the family's cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys. The hands that built up strength milking cows later aided him as an undefeated boxer in high school. He was a mischievous and loving brother, his dad's respected right hand man, and his "mama's goodest boy."
Bob married Thelma Carolyn Gilje on June 30, 1944, in Great Falls, when Thelma was 17 and Bob came home on leave from the Navy. While Bob was still in the service, Thelma went with him to Chicago, Norfolk, Va.. and New York City. When Bob was discharged in November 1945, they came back to Dutton and Thelma finished high school by correspondence courses.
Thelma and Bob then settled down to a partnership of farming. For 27 years, they lived at the "old" house (originally Bob's folks' home-stead shack with several additions) on their farm six miles southeast of Dutton. They had their "new" house moved from Sun River to the homestead in 1972.
Thelma and Bob had four children: Barry, Bradley, Brian and Robin. Bob was on the Dutton School Board for over 10 years and he was also active in the Masons and a member of the Dutton American Legion. In addition, he served on the governing board for many years at the Dutton United Methodist Church.
He was a devoted father and a remarkable grandfather. He was a man who loved the land and he performed his farming duties with in-tegrity and joy. Bob was an adoring spouse, counting his position as the husband of "the Little Norwegian" as his most cherished role; he and Thelma had an extraordinary marriage and enjoyed 68 wonderful years together.
Bob is survived by his sister, Donna (Lobell) Bennett of Billings; daughter, Robin (Doug) Byrne of Albuquerque, N.M.; sons, Barry (Susan) Fleshman and Bradley (Sandy) Fleshman, all of Dutton; grandchildren Kristy (Steve) Atwood of Miles City, Brooke (Tom) Preston of Fairfield, Logan Fleshman and Reid Fleshman of Dutton, and Joe Byrne, Kelsey Byrne and Dillon Byrne, all of Albuquerque; and four great-grandchildren.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Helen and Robert Fleshman; his sisters Roberta Baldwin and Barbara Suek; his son, Brian Fleshman; his grandson, Nick Fleshman; and his beloved wife, Thelma Fleshman.
Bob led a life of honor; his honesty, courage, humor and capacity for love have left their mark on our hearts.
Condolences may be posted online at www.croxfordfuneralhome.com and/or www.gftribune.com/obituaries.
Published in Great Falls Tribune on January 1, 2012