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C.B. Rich - Seeley Lake, Montana, Outfitter/Poet Dies



Swan Song

Clarence "C.B." Rich
March 6, 1919 - October 12, 1996

(By the Family)

On October 12, 1996 at 5:00 a.m. God called home one of His best.

Clarence Barron "C.B." Rich came to bless the home of his Montana pioneer parents on March 6, 1919 at the family home in Dean, Montana.

After a difficult birth Grandma Lizzie cuddled and loved him to keep him warm and help him make it through the night. He was born to parents Clarence Gallatin Rich and Anna Margaurite Barron Rich, a fourth generation Montanan.

His great-grandparents, Dr. Andrew Jackson Hunter and Susan Murray Hunter, followed a dream and had come west following John Bozeman on the Bozeman Trail in April of 1864. At the time, C.B.'s grandmother was a young girl of four. His grandmother would meet and marry a teamster from Bozeman, Franklin Wilson Rich, who had come west from New York in 1866 at the age of 19. In 1884 at "Hunter's Hot Springs" near Livingston, Montana his dad was born, delivered by his great-grandfather, Dr. Hunter. The family settled in the Dean Valley at the base of the Beartooth Mountains. Here C.B. learned the values of love and life he lived by.

His early years gave him a love and heritage of horses, from the early years when everything was transported, as Grandpa Frank had done by team and wagon, to the later years when he would use a "pack string." He learned to drive team and ride horses as soon as he could walk, even breaking his pet dog and sheep to drive as a team on a little buckboard wagon that Grandpa Frank built. His mom, Anna, gave him her strong Irish values and baby fine black hair that didn't even grey with age.

To his mom and dad he was "Bud," a strong shoulder with a tender heart, a cowboy who often surprised those he loved with a bouquet of "wild flowers." He so loved his Dean Valley family "Rich Ranch" and those breathtaking Beartooth Mountains. Education though, C.B. felt, was an important foundation in every person's life, from his beginnings in a one room school house at Dean to his graduation from Columbus High School in May 1936. He played basketball and football for the Columbus Cougars and, during his senior year, they played for the football state championship in three feet of snow. He felt everyone, through hard work and respect for your teacher, was capable of a good education.

His high school and college summers were spent packing into the Beartooth Mountains for the Bureau of Mines. College years found him in Bozeman to study Electrical Engineering and to play football. He pledged to the SAE fraternity. It also gave him the time to spend with his great aunt Mary Doane. He loved to dance, and while in college taught dance for spare money. In later years he would lovingly teach the small feet of his children and grand-children how to follow his steps in the waltz, and also expressed a love of the music from the Big Band Era. The beauty of C.B. dancing with his lady will forever live in our hearts.

With the outbreak of World War II C.B. enlisted on May 15, 1942 with the Army Air Corps, becoming an Air Observer Navigator First Lieutenant. He was proud to be a navigator and, in life as in war, followed his path guided by the stars. He returned home after basic training to marry his high school school sweetheart, Miss Helen Calhoun, on September 3, 1942.

He was assigned to a crew being sent to England on April 23, 1944 flying a B-24 Liberator J. named "Miss You." His bombardier, Milton Issenberg, became a life-long friend. His service in England led to 12 successful bombing raids over France and Germany, including the D-Day Invasion. On June 23, 1944 on his thirteenth mission flying lead plane with 11 members in the crew, "Miss You" was shot in the hydraulic accumulators at 7:55 p.m. and went down over Laone, France.

Of 11 men, five were killed and five were captured, including Milt. C.B. evaded capture, and with eyes burned and swelling shut, he saw a small swamp and made his way to it. The German dogs could smell him but wouldn't enter the muddy swamp. After three days, C.B. drew the attention of French children who took him to the French Underground. This began his journey back to the American lines and Helen. Officially listed as MIA, he made it back through the lines and called Helen at home on their second wedding anniversary. His love of country and the flag it represents remains in us all.

Discharged on October 7, 1945, he couldn't wait to return to the Montana mountains he loved. For his service he was awarded the Purple Heart, Air Medal, Walking Boot, and was a member of the Caterpillar Club. He returned with his wife to the Rich Ranch in 1945 to raise cattle and horses.
C.B. began roping and pick up at local rodeos and team roping with his partner, Art Monk. Breaking and shoeing horses (an art he'd learned earlier in his life), cattle and roping became his life. Those Beartooth Mountains continued to call and he also started packing again.

The years rolled by and the family grew. In 1957, Helen and C.B. decided to buy a guest ranch. That decision led them to the Double Arrow and Seeley Lake in September, 1958. From the Double Arrow, C.B. began sharing the beauty of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Leota Park. The value of sharing that beauty with family, customers and friends lives on in the hearts of those who have shared a campfire with him.

He worked in his community helping to enlarge the grade school so students didn't have to ride to Missoula. In 1964, he was a proud member of the Montana Centennial Train, pulling his stagecoach with a four horse hitch of matched pintos, hauling the governor and Miss Montana on the parade routes, and even delivering the pitcher to the pitcher's mound in Yankee Stadium in New York.

The sale of the Double Arrow in 1966 left C.B. to concentrate on outfitting and later, real estate. His honesty and philosophy that a man's hand shake is his word made him someone you could trust. Son Jack eventually bought the pack outfit from C.B., but C.B. continued to be a big part of the heart of it, sharing with Jack many happy trails. C.B. served as president for Outfitters and Guides, even travelling to Washington D.C. to meet with Forest Service representatives on the fate of outfitting and the wilderness.

His gift of poetry and ability to share his world through gifted eyes led him to write and publish two books on his life experiences. We are forever grateful to have those. The last few years had slowed him some, but he was so happy to once again be in the saddle on his black and white paint "Teton" in the summer of 1996 to, at 77, take a pack trip, stopping once again in Leota Park with his family and life-long friend, Milt.

Along his trail of life he has managed to touch many, frequently reaching out to those who needed him. In the last years he watched as his dream of the new "Rich Ranch" came to life at Kozy Korner. He celebrated 60 years of marriage of love, life and laughter with his lady Helen, who survives him at the family home in Seeley Lake.

He leaves behind a legacy to be carried on by his family: children Mary Anna Rich and family: Debbie and Brian, Diane and Scott and Greg, Betty and Ron Bergland and family: Sharee and Jestin, Creston, Crystal, Heather, Jamie, Ralph and Cory, Sharon and Phil Pohlman and family; Tammy and Barrie, Pamela and Knut and Kristy, Jack and Belinda Rich and family: Shannon, David and Kelly, Great-grandchildren Travis, Trevor and Trenton Morris, Teila and Jenna Smith, Jacob Bergland, Taylor Bergland, Katelyn Lewis. His family also includes three sisters, Olive Mary and Fred Hovdey and family, Margaret Monk and family, and Susan and Herb Russell and family. He is preceded in death by his parents; two grandsons, Josh and Nate Bergland; and great-grand-daughter Lacey Morris.

Go rest gently on that mountain Dad. We will proudly follow the trail you've blazed until we can all meet and pack our camps across that great divide.

A memorial service was held Saturday, October 19 at 2:00 p.m. at the Seeley Swan High School Gym.

Burial with his parents was at Mountain View Cemetery, Columbus, Montana, on Monday, October 21 at 2:00 p.m.

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