Robert Matthews Anderson

Robert Matthews Anderson

Robert Matthews Anderson passed away Nov. 16 at the age of 100 in his home in Whitefish, surrounded by his wife of 70 years, Mary (Mitzi), and his children, Grant Anderson of Kalispell and daughter Dana (Anderson) Thompson of Bainbridge Island, Wash.

A celebration of life will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 the First Presbyterian Church of Whitefish, with lunch to follow. There will be an internment service at the Crown Hill Cemetery in Cut Bank at 2 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12.

Born in New York City on Sept. 8, 1922, and raised in Glenrock, New Jersey and later Connecticut, Bob graduated from Greenwich High School in 1940, participating in Boy Scouts, track and swimming. An active member of the Greenwich YMCA and an Eagle Sea Scout, Bob spent his youth navigating the waters of New England Sound, developing a love of the sea that came naturally, as he came from a long line of merchant sea captains; he built two sloops, 12 and 14 feet, which he often sailed. His wife Mitzi laughingly attributes her possession of a 21-foot Star when they first met as her primary attraction for him.

Bob was very much a member of what Tom Brokaw called the greatest generation, coming of age during the Great Depression and then, after a year studying at Clemson and two years at the University of Connecticut, leaving college in 1943 to enlist in World War II. Bob spent 1.5 years stationed in the Hawaiian Islands as a demolition specialist and was part of the planned final invasion force sailing toward Japan at the end of the war. His troop was intended to be part of the re-taking of Saipan, but at the last moment was piggybacked by more experienced troops, so instead followed in after the battle, for which Bob always expressed humility and gratitude for having been spared. Later, as his troop ship was heading to Osaka, Japan, in September of 1945, they passed the USS Missouri leaving Tokyo Bay with Gen. MacArthur on board, with the signed Instrument of Surrender ending WWII in the Pacific, which was an emotional and memorable experience for the young soldiers learning they didn’t have to invade. Bob then spent the next 1.5 years with the occupation forces in Japan, where he developed a lifelong respect and interest in the Japanese people and culture.

After earning his honorable discharge at the rank of corporal, Bob returned home in 1946, finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut and then headed west to Stanford to study geology. He spent two summers as a roughneck on drilling rigs in Long Beach, Calif., earning money for school and learning the mechanics of drilling, which would later prove to be valuable experience for his later work in Montana. He eventually transferred to UCLA, earning his master’s degree in geology, spending two summers mapping the canyons of the Los Padres National Forest and the Topatopa Mountains of Ventura County for his thesis. In 1955 the Santa Felicia Dam on Piru Creek was built, creating Lake Piru, thus rendering the area he mapped under water. To this day, Bob’s thesis is the only detailed and recorded geologic information on the area and is still utilized!

In 1952 Bob married the love of his life, Mary (Mitzi) Reichling, and the young couple headed to Great Falls for their honeymoon, where Bob joined in partnership with Virgil Chamberlain, a consulting geologist. For the next three years, Bob started a busy career overseeing the drilling of oil wells all over Montana, after which Bob and Mitzi spent an interesting two-year detour in the four corners area in New Mexico, living on the Navajo Reservation, where Bob prospected for uranium for a group of businessmen in Salt Lake City. They then returned to Montana in 1956 and settled in Cut Bank for the next 15 years as Bob continued his work as a consulting geologist and petroleum engineer. In 1965 he was hired by HiCrest Oil of Calgary, Alberta to watch the drilling of a wildcat well in the Bear Paw Mountains, south of Havre. It was this gas discovery well that ushered in a flurry of drilling in Hill and Blaine counties, and the family eventually relocated to Havre in 1969.

Bob was widely respected as a geologist, known for running a “tight hole,” meaning no whisper of information on the samples retrieved by rig hands ever escaped, and he was known as a man of integrity, competence, thoroughness and fairness, and a mentor to those learning the trade.

While he remained engaged in geology and sat the occasional well, in 1986 Bob and Mitzi became Christmas tree farmers, operating Anderson Evergreens in Creston, Mont., providing trees to various organizations’ tree lots. One of the highlights was when a group of Taiwanese people, organized by the Montana Department of Agriculture, came to tour local farms and purchase trees.

Bob was, to the very end, a consummate gentleman, treating everyone he met with equal courtesy and respect. Bob was a kind man, husband, father, grandfather and uncle − gentle and generous, a true protector, and although he never lost his Yankee reserve, he had a wonderful, wry and warm humor, making sure all in his orbit knew how cherished they were.

Bob was a lifetime member of the AAPG and a member of the American Legion.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Cecelia and George Anderson of Greenwich, Conn.; his sister, Cecelia E. Banks of Avon, Conn.; and his son, Blake Anderson.

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mitzi; son Grant Anderson (Kalispell); daughter Dana and son-in-law Joe Thompson (Bainbridge Island); grandson Will Thompson (Bethesda, Md.); and granddaughter Anna Thompson (San Luis Obispo, Calif.); as well as nephew Tom (Cynthia) Banks (Ga.); nieces Susan (Tom) Bradley (Conn.), Ginny (Matt) Durst (Conn.), Tracy O’Reilly (Mont.) and Ann Reichling (Calif.); and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews.

The family would also like to thank the many caregivers from Comfort Keepers and Committed Care – as well as Enhabit Hospice − who made it possible for us to keep him at home, surrounded by those he loved and who loved him. We are forever grateful.

In lieu of flowers, please kindly make a donation in Bob’s name to: The Flathead Warming Center in Kalispell, Treatment Advocacy Center, in Washington, D.C., or the YMCA of Greenwich, Conn. To send online condolences, please visit www.austinfh.com.