Robert E. Stephens – 82
January 16, 1941 – January 2, 2024
Robert Eugene “Bob” Stephens was born in Great Falls, Montana to Richeld Burr and Thelma Aurelia Stephens. Being the fourth of seven children, he would often refer to himself as the “mid-kid” or if people asked about his family, being clever, would say that he has two brothers and each of his brothers have four sisters. Bob attended Great Falls public schools and graduated from Great Falls High in 1959. Between his junior and senior years he joined the U.S. Air Force/Montana Air National Guard and after basic training in San Antonio, TX he learned the skills of a Fire Protection Specialist where in 1962 was credited with being the first to respond to an F-89 Scorpion crash on the installation. In 1964, he graduated from Montana State College (now University) where he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and earned his Bachelor's degree in Commerce (“Go Cats Go!”). In his fraternity he often had to memorize ritual for various occasions and one of those involved the subject of “time”. One would have to be careful if you asked Bob what time it was. Where some might quip “time to get a watch”, Bob would launch into ritual by stating “It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that the innerworkings and mechanisms of my chronometer are in a state of disagreement with the great sidereal movements by which we reckon time, that I am unable state with any great degree of certainty, the time, however I can say with reasonable certainty that the current time is three ticks, two tocks, eleven hours past the hour of midnight.” Shortly after college he moved back to Great Falls and went to work for Hesteds Department Store as a manager, where he met the love of his life, Carmel Marie “Candy” Cummings. On their second date, Bob introduced Candy to his best friend Denis and she watched him interact and play with Denis’ little girls. While the adults were talking, Bob would stop, pay attention to the girls and involve them in whatever was going on. It was then that Candy instantly knew that she wanted to marry that man and raise a family with him. Bob and Candy went on to raise three kids and made their home in Missoula as he went on to work for National Cash Register. That career took him away from home frequently and when he’d return, Candy found herself telling the kids to “quiet down; we have company”. Bob knew at that point he needed to find another career and went on to work for Business Machines Company (later called Better Business Systems) where he was blessed with the gift of salesmanship. His father-in-law, Clark, would say that Bob could sell snowballs to eskimos. The company expanded and Bob took his young family to the beautiful mountainous Flathead Valley to open his own store, take out a construction loan and build his dream home with a view of those mountains. Bob later went on to serve a short term as the Flathead County Fairgrounds Manager and then started his own company “Stephens Real Estate Appraisal Services” that he ran for twenty years. Bob was an avid, unabashed, relentless pursuer of anything historic, antiques, trinkets, gadgets, old cars, tractors, books, war history or anything history! His home was safe harbor for any old thing that needed rescuing… as long as it didn’t have a UPC symbol because that meant it wasn’t old enough! He loved to read books, articles, magazines or tell anyone who’d listen, about some article in the paper, how something worked, what it was for and why it was a shame we don’t do it that way any longer. Bob also loved working on and driving his 1942 Dodge fire truck in local parades and especially loved giving rides to all his grandkids and the neighborhood kids while winding up the ‘ol siren. Bob was also extremely active in civic groups including the Mason’s and Lion’s Clubs and the Northwest Antique Power Association as well as antique car clubs but spent 48 years dedicating most of his spare time and talents to the fellowship of mankind in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks which is abbreviated B.P.O.E. However, Bob always said that it stood for the Best People On Earth. Bob & Candy were inseparable in their service to the Elks Club and traveled widely around the state and country together while promoting “Elkdom” including building and driving the “Elk-mobile” in parades. Bob served as Exalted Ruler, Montana State President, District Deputy to the Grand Exalted Ruler, and Grand Lodge Member but his favorite role was a seasonal one as Santa Claus for all the member’s children. Bob always had plenty of room in his enormous heart for critters of all kinds including dogs, cats, deer, turkeys or anything that looked like it needed his care and compassion. They would flock to him for love and attention and Candy would often refer to her husband as “Saint Bob… the patron saint of critters”. In retirement, Bob went to work in visitor services at the Hockaday Art Museum and also doubled as the fix-it guy, and anything else that needed done at the museum. He quickly won over the hearts of countless visitors, especially children with his bowl of dumdum suckers as reward for their masterpieces created in the classroom. He thoroughly appreciated the love and support of the staff and artists when he first fell ill in 2020. Bob was the consummate family man and loved his life with his wife, children and grandchildren and in February was expecting to meet his first great grandchild. Additionally, Bob and Candy were blessed to celebrate 58 years of marriage in December. Bob is survived by his wife Candy, sons Gene (Lisa), Gary (Renee), daughter Gennifer (Scott), grandchildren Lea (Trystin), Alyssa, Nicole, Carson, Camron (Emma), Victoria, Brandon and Melissa and soon to be great granddaughter, little Lainey Jane Stephens. Having lost his next older sister Marge in 2023, he is survived by five of his six siblings, Patricia, Harold (Nancy), Sandy (Billy), Gini, and John (Elaine). He is also survived by numerous other brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and cousins. Services are being hosted by Buffalo Hills Funeral Home where open casket visitation will be Monday, January 8, 2024 from 9:00-10:45AM, with a service to follow from 11:00AM -12:00PM (Live Streamed via facebook at “Buffalo Hill Funeral Home & Crematory” / buffalohillfh.com) and a grave site burial at Conrad Cemetery from 12:45PM – 1:15PM. Reception to follow at the Kalispell Elks Lodge, 139 1st Ave West. In honor of Bob’s personality, the dress is “Montana casual” where flannel, jeans and boots are preferred and MSU Bobcat blue & gold would be a reflection and honor of him. He understood there would be sadness surrounding his passing but wanted everyone to know that he lived a good life and was indeed a happy, happy man. When anyone ever asked how Bob was doing, he would immediately, no matter how he felt, respond “I’m finer than frog’s hair”. If the measure of wealth is defined by love, admiration, family, friends, happiness and fulfillment, Bob could not have been a richer man. Donations in Bob’s honor can be made to the Kalispell Elks Lodge #725, P.O. Box790, Kalispell, MT 59903-0790 or United Veterans of Flathead Valley, P.O. Box 1691, Kalispell, MT 59903 / firstname.lastname@example.orgTo order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Robert Eugene Stephens, please visit our flower store.