Robert Sam Gilluly


Robert (“Bob”) Gilluly passed away of natural causes in Anaconda, Montana on February 14, 2018 at the age of 84.  Bob was survived by his loving wife of 47 years, Mary Ann Gilluly; his four children, Tom Gilluly (Kristy Eib-Gilluly) of Chandler, Arizona and Karen Gilluly Snow of Missoula, Montana (both from Bob’s first marriage to Sarah Pollard, whose son, Micheal Ayers ((Rosie Seitz Ayers)) was also dear to Bob), Lori Gilluly of Los Angeles, California, and Donna Mikel (Ryan Bonanno) of Chattanooga, Tennessee; brother, Jack Charles Gilluly of Anaconda, Montana; and nine grandchildren, Madison, Cameron, Kate, Joseph, Jesse, Amber, James, Riley, and Finley. Bob was preceded in death by his Father, Sam Gilluly, Mother, Esther Hart Gilluly, and brother, Dick Gilluly.  A celebration of life will be held for Bob in late of June of 2018 in the Bitterroot Valley.  For more details, please email [email protected].

Born in Glasgow in 1933, Bob graduated from Glasgow High School in 1951.  He then attended the University of Montana from 1951-1952 before he was drafted in the United States Army in February of 1953.  Bob served at Ft. Lewis, in Washington, and Ft. Ord, in California before his honorable discharge in December of 1954.  Bob then returned to and graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in 1957.

In graduating from the J school and pursuing a career as a writer, Bob joined a long line of Gillulys who devoted their lives to Montana journalism.  Bob began his career with the University of Montana (1958-1961) as the sports information director, then worked for the Great Falls Tribune (1961-1963).  After that, Bob moved to Hamilton and worked for the Ravalli Republic (1963-1976) until he landed at the Great Falls Tribune in 1976.  Following his return to the Tribune, he forged a successful career there as sports editor, editorial page editor, and columnist until his retirement in 1997.  Following his retirement, he moved with his wife Mary Ann to Anaconda. While in retirement, he was a contributing writer for the Anaconda Leader, served as vice chairman of the Anaconda Railroad and Mining Museum, and was a member of the American Legion.

During his distinguished career, Bob served as the President of the Montana Newspaper Association from 1993-1994 and was named a Master Publisher/Editor by the MNA.  Bob published two books during his life, The Grizzly Gridiron (1960) and One Man’s Montana (1999).  Bob’s writing focused on what he loved most—Montana and its rich, colorful history.  His captivating and simple style of storytelling was his signature.

Bob was a loving husband, father, and family man.  He loved all things sports—from baseball to his beloved Montana Grizzlies.  He had the gift of gab and relished his time in retirement having daily coffee with the “boys” in Anaconda.  He took great delight in helping to raise his four children (and to encourage his many adored nieces, nephews, and grandchildren) to be independent thinkers and hard workers.

Bob learned in the summer of 2017 that he was suffering from end-stage renal failure.  In his typical fashion, Bob decided to put pen to paper and write part of his own obituary.  It follows:

I’ve always wanted to read my own obituary.  Now it appears I will be able to do just that.  My doctors say I have from six to twelve months until my kidneys fail.

This, friends, is not an appeal for sympathy.  I’ve accepted the fact that my life is limited at the age of nearly 85.  This letter, instead, is to put everyone on notice the grim reaper is ending my 70-year newspaper career.

I think the 70-year stint is possibly a modern record.  It all started when I was in junior high school.  My dad, also a newspaper editor, sent me out to cover a garage fire one day.  It got me four paragraphs in the next edition of the Glasgow Courier.  I was thrilled.  My classmates were not similarly impressed.

From there I became a sports writer for the Courier and later a student writer for the Montana Kaimin at UM.  Then I was editor of the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, followed by 22 years as a writer and editor at the Great Falls Tribune.

I’m not vain enough to label my career as “distinguished.”  It was interesting, however.

Actually, I’ve been living on borrowed time for nearly 60 years.

To explain:  In 1960 I was working at the UM when I had a phone call from Donald Nutter, a Republican candidate for governor.  He needed a press aide and wondered if I was interested.  I thought the offer over and then declined because I did not have much interest in a political career.  Nutter won the election, then in 1962 was killed in an airplane crash near Wolf Creed.  Six people died, including the governor and his press secretary.  Thus I missed my first date with destiny, Whew!

So, what’s next for this scribe?  Well, I’m working on a bucket list, fully aware that time is short.  Here’s an example—I’d like to visit Ekalaka, the only county seat in Montana I haven’t seen.  Also, I’d like to return to Westby, another out-of-the-way place east of Plentywood.  Originally, Westby was in North Dakota, but when the railroad was built a century ago, the depot was located across the line in Montana.  So Westby folks moved the entire town to Montana.

I’ve never been atop Granite Peak, Montana’s tallest mountain.  But I have been to Grinnell Glacier, a healthy hike in Glacier National Park.  I’d like to see and hear the Ringing Rocks near Whitehall.  And Yaak would also be worth a visit.  My favorite hamlet is Sula, south of Hamilton.  It’s on the Lewis & Clark Trail.  Even if I lived another 20 years, there would always be new places to explore in the Treasure State.

Epilogue:  My Dad always loved his Montana.  Nothing delighted him more than its geography.  As much as Dad wanted to spend his final days seeing these last sights in Montana, we know that his new geography must be just as grandeur. We imagine the heaven he now occupies looks a lot like the Monty Dolack print that hangs at the front door of his home.  It likely mirrors the most breathtaking sights in the Big Sky.  We take comfort knowing that he will rest in such splendor.  Special thanks to Anaconda Pintler Hospice.  —Donna Mikel