ENNIS Native son David Richardson, 97, died in Ennis Monday, March 4, at the Madison Valley Manor.
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A graveside service is 1 p.m. Sunday in Geyser for friends, neighbors and family, where Dad will be buried with military honors beside Mom. And there in the shadows of the Little Belts and Rocky Ridge, where they were raised and lived, together they will become a part of this land they loved forever. A celebration of Dad's life will follow at 2 p.m. at the Community Hall. We look forward to sharing a meal and hearing your favorite Bus stories!
He was born during a raging blizzard in Great Falls on Feb. 21, 1916, the second of four children to John and Flora (Gervais) Richardson. When he was two weeks old, his ma took him by train to Armington, where his pappy met them with a cutter and four. It took them several hours to travel the remaining 12 miles to the family homestead at the head of Cora Creek in the Highwood Mountains, bundled under buffalo robes to keep from freezing. His Papa Gervais lived with them and was the one who christened him Buster. The shortened version of Bus stuck for the rest of his life.
Dad grew up doing chores, running a trap line, riding and breaking horses, which resulted in many broken bones, hunting and learning to fish with a willow. He went to grade school in Raynesford and high school in Belt. He attended Billings Polytechnic Institute (later Rocky Mountain College) for one semester until his dad called him back to help on the ranch. It proved to be one of his luckiest disappointments for it was then he met Fannie Taskila, his future wife, at a community dance and box social. He ended up with the winning bid on her supper basket. Finally on Jan. 16, 1942, declaring "It's now or never!" they were married in Lewistown and began their long life together.
Dad had enlisted in the Navy, so they only had a week before he shipped out for active duty in World War II. He was a signalman and achieved the rank of first class petty officer, serving in both the Atlantic and South Pacific. His commander on the destroyer escort U.S.S. Willmarth noticed Dad was a "Dead-eye Dick" during gunnery practice, so he had twin fifties mounted on the flying bridge, which Dad manned during battle stations. He was mighty glad to have them while under kamikaze attacks. A radioman used to play "Don't Fence Me In" over the PA for Montana Dave at night when the fleet was idle. At the end of the war, he was eligible for honorable discharge. The folks were grateful that he survived, ever cognizant that so many area sons and husbands did not.
Dad returned to meet his son Terry, 18 months old, and the young family settled in Great Falls. Karen was born in 1946 before they moved to a place on the Fairfield Bench, and Marilyn a year later. Then on Christmas Eve 1949, they bought the ranch in the Little Belts south of Geyser that became their home. Here they raised Angus cattle and black baldies, large gardens and tons of hay. Come branding time, they always had some of the heaviest calves in the county. Dad missed the livestock after he retired from active ranching; he always had special pets he could hand feed, even out on the range. The three of us can still hear his calls echoing down the coulees when it was time to move the herd to another pasture. We will also never forget him belting out "Bringing in the Sheaves" while bucking hay into the stack
Dad lived by a firm set of convictions, starting with the Golden Rule and the following ones of no less importance to him: A man's handshake is his bond; Good fences make good neighbors; Make hay while the sun shines; Don't shoot it if you can't eat it; Waste not, want not; Help those less fortunate than you; Use it up, wear it out, make it do or go without.
He was a lifelong student and believed you were never too old to learn, spending many winter evenings reading their set of encyclopedias. Dad was a raconteur par excellence with a story for every occasion, and he liked nothing better than a good visit. He employed a sharp wit, a keen sense of humor and an endless supply of jokes. Fly fishing was a passion before his old knees gave out, making it impossible to wade his favorite trout streams. However, most of his fish stories were true, and he had the pictures to prove them! He was a sports buff and liked baseball, boxing and football, often being called upon to arbitrate arguments about stats and records.
Like any rancher, Dad was a man of the land. He knew its seasons and its rhythms and was always trying to one-up ole mother nature, becoming a creditable weather prognosticator in the process. Dad believed that the land carried with it an obligation to tend it well and be a good steward. The lush native grasses in Jackson Coulee are still as high as an elk's rump and his pastures were never overgrazed. He would always pick a bouquet of wild flowers for Mamma when he was out fencing or checking the cattle; he knew when the wild raspberries and chokecherries were ripe and was thankful for all of these gifts.
Dad and Mom enjoyed working the ranch together. They liked to play cards and board games, read, work crossword puzzles, take camping and fishing trips and visit with friends and family. They were fancy roller skate partners in their courting days and loved to dance. They were wonderful parents and grandparents, actively involved in our lives. Going to stay at "El Rancho Grande" with them was always a special treat for all of us, as was heating up the old sauna. We enjoyed Dad's surprise jaunts to watch the beavers or spy on the coyote pups in their dens. The grandkids called him the Terminator due to his ongoing fight to wipe out gophers with his trusty twenty-two: one shell, one dead varmint!
After Mom retired from teaching, they started a new venture. In 1971, they opened their first card/gift store in Kalispell with Terry, Lois, Karen and Eddie. Over the next 15 years, they bought or began seven more there, in Missoula and Butte. They enjoyed their four-year sojourn in the Flathead running the business and attending gift shows, making new friends, picking huckleberries and cherries and fishing the rivers. Customers came in and asked for them long after their return to the ranch.
Dad had music in his soul and enthusiastically enjoyed singing and playing his squeeze box accordion with the kids clapping and singing along A self-taught musician, he also played harmonica, always ready for jam sessions with neighbors Carlo Hill and Lois Wirtala in Geyser or with Karen at home while Mom taught the kids to dance, singing and romping all around the house.
They hired grandson Dan Jenkins to build a winter home for them by Marilyn and Terry's at McAllister in 2002. They treasured the time spent there by family the last years they lived. Dad especially appreciated not having to cut wood nor worry about keeping the roads plowed. He fell and broke his hip two years ago last August and resided at Madison Valley Manor until his death. We are grateful for their loving care and patience and imagine they will miss Buster's impromptu performances and stories.
The light went out of Dad's life when Mom died in September of 2007 after more than 65 years together. He was also preceded in death by his older brother, Bob, younger sisters, baby Donna and Marjory Summerhays, her husband, Jack, their son, David and son-in-law Eddie McElroy.
He is survived by his three children and their families (13 grandchildren and 25, soon 26, great-grandkids): son Terry and Lois, Missoula, and their five children-Rusty and Sandi (River, Fisher and Finn) Liisa and Emmanuel Demblans-Dechans (Evelyn and Remi) Kris and Ben Cory (Wylie, Maddy, Lizzie and Bella) Renee Richardson-Archibald (Bradoc and Tydan) Robyn and Joe Radtke: daughter Karen McElroy, Missoula, and her four children-Jeff (Peyton and Jackson) Laurie, Julie and Pete Salinas (Ariella, Isabella and Gabriella) Mark and Ilona (Oscar); daughter Marilyn and Terry Jenkins, Ennis, and their four children-Kelley and Steve Knack (Jacob and Megan) Dan and Tami (Josie, Jarrett and Jaylyn) Jamie and Brian Lovett (Shae and Caden) Kristen and Chris Retherford (Addison) and niece-by-marriage Vicki Summerhays, Great Falls.
Dad liked poetry and often recited verses, even remembering ones he memorized in school. It is fitting to close with one of his favorites by Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson:
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig my grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
'Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.'
Condolences may be posted online at www.gftribune.com/obituaries.
Published in Great Falls Tribune on Mar. 7, 2013