Colonel Robert C. ‘Bob’ Laliberte, United States Air Force (Retired), made his last flight on July 6, 2017. He was born Aug. 11, 1921, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the oldest of four children, to Cyril Victor and Kathryn Rita Healy Laliberte. When he was 12 years old, his mother passed away and his father relocated the family to Massachusetts, where he continued his education. On May 31, 1941, he was united in marriage to Catherine Mary Clifford and, together, they had seven children.
Colonel Laliberte enlisted in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program in July 1942, and graduated as a pilot and Second Lieutenant Aug. 30, 1943. He attended B-24 bomber training and was assigned to the Central Pacific Theater of Operations in December 1943, where he completed a 30-mission combat tour. Returning to the United States in August 1944, he was assigned as an instructor in B-24 training for the duration of the war and reverted to Reserve Status in November 1945. Following the designation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate military service in 1947, he was recalled to active duty and assigned to service in Japan. He returned to the United States just prior to the Korean conflict for duty as a Flight Instructor in the Air Force Pilot Training Program. He served in that capacity until August 1955, when he was transferred to England, where he was a pilot and Operations Officer of a Fighter Bomber Squadron. Returning to the United States in July 1958, he attended the Air Force Command and Staff College. Graduating from that institution in July 1959, he was assigned to the Air Force Inspector General staff for a four-year tour as a Tactical Operations Inspector examining the Readiness Status of Air Force tactical forces worldwide. In August 1963, he returned to England as Commander of a Tactical Fighter Squadron. In July of 1966, he was assigned to the Pentagon in the Air Force Operational Requirements Directorate, where he also served on a NATO Armaments Sub-Committee as the U.S. Air Force representative for the development of a VSTOL fighter aircraft. In July 1968, he was selected to attend the Naval War College, from which he graduated in June 1969 and was assigned as Vice Commander of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Viet Nam. There, he flew 245 combat missions in F-100 and A-37 fighter aircraft. Returning to the United States in September 1970, he served as Director of Operations of Air Force Flying Training Wing for a year before assuming the Vice Commander position of Air Force Recruiting Service. He retired from active service to Billings in June 1973. His military decorations include: The Legion of Merit with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster; Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Medal with 3 Silver Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; Purple Heart; Airforce Ready Medal; and various other campaign and service awards. He was a life member of the Air Force Association, the Military Officers’ Association and the Order of Dadalians, an association of military pilots.
Following his retirement from the Air Force, he joined Yellowstone Electrical Company as an Estimator and Project Manager until retirement from this position in 1979. He then began active participation in the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, the Airstream Travel Trailer Club. He served successive terms as President of the Montana Unit and the Northwest Region of the club before being elected to its International President position in 1988. As such, he was instrumental in bringing the club’s annual International Rally to Bozeman for the fourth time in June 1989. This event contributed greatly to the state’s tourism success that year by the attendance of 3,461 travel trailers and motor homes at the rally, which took place on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman. He and his wife Catherine traveled for 30 years throughout North America with their Airstream Travel trailers. They also enjoyed several overseas travel adventures to Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia, where they utilized the various recreational travel media in those countries. Between these travels, Bob also enjoyed his many years of volunteer service with St. Vincent Hospital, where he could be found at the Patient Information Desk.
Colonel Laliberte is survived by Catherine of Billings, his wife of 76 years; and six children, all of whom accompanied him on his assignments throughout the United States and the world. They are: Catherine (Bryan) Hay of Prairie City, KS; Margaret (Jon) Kerner of Los Gatos, CA; Sally of Chapel Hill, NC; Robert C. Jr. (Lisa) of Roundup; Susan (Greg) Vincent of Sebastopol, CA; and William (Beni) of Juneau, AK; 14 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a sister, Joan Draper of Pendleton, SC. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, William; his sister, Mary; and his daughter, Luan.
A memorial mass will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 12, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 2055 Woody Drive. Interment will be in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date with full military honors.
Remembrances should be directed to the American Cancer Society or St. Jude Children’s Home.