A vibrant presence was hushed in Billings when death took Richard L. Stratford on Feb. 3, 2017, at RiverStone Hospice.
Dick was born on Feb. 12, 1927, in Billings, to Harry Haines and Katherine (Denton) Stratford. Dick was raised on the farm his father established in 1910 in the Blue Creek Area in the south hills of Billings. He attended Billings schools and worked after classes at the Safeway Grocery Store to help support the family. Dick lost his beloved mother at the age of 14 and was sent to live with “Uncle Charles” in Kansas City, Mo. He soon returned to Billings to complete high school, while his brothers Harry, John and George served in World War II. This left Herb, Dick and young Chuck to “keep the farm going.” See: Psalms 104:14. This time firmly planted Dick’s lasting love for the land.
It was at this time he met and married Lydia Ostwald, a registered nurse, and to this union were born three children: Linda, Diane and Richard. With super industry, Dick began his entrepreneur pursuits. Humbly buying, reselling and shoveling, he began the R.L. Stratford Coal Company.
After much labor, he acquired the Butler Steel Building Dealership in several nearby states. Soon, steel sheds, granaries, business buildings (some for which he received special awards) were to be seen almost everywhere and his company at times employed nearly 100 employees. Due to the vastness of his territory, he learned to fly and used this fast way to check jobs in progress. Gradually, he bought parcels of land for himself, developed them and leased them. What an example of hard work and astute business skills! And the practice of “Walking with kings; but never losing the common touch” (Kipling). In the mid 1970’s, Dick sold his business to Hanson-Kelly Construction.
In 1977, Dick lost his only son, Richard, to suicide. This loss profoundly affected Dick for the remainder of his life. This is when Dick decided to return to farming and save the family farm from financial ruin.
On Dec. 8, 1984, Dick married Dorothy S. Alexander in Lewistown. Their love and devotion led them to a life filled with work, travel (Concorde crossing the Atlantic with a return crossing on the Q-E II; gliding and submarining in Hawaii; discovering Central America) and spending unforgettable happy days at their Flathead, Red Lodge and Big Timber getaways. Their love also encouraged self-improvements and led them to believe in “Soul Mates.”
Even with normal aging and illness, this dashing and vibrant man never lost his perseverance and loyalty (always the “Rock” for the family) as younger brother Chuck said: kindness, dignity and sense of humor. Dick’s faith grew and he believed in the Lord and the angels hovering over him and he passed peacefully.
Dick was preceded in death by his parents; his son, Richard; his brothers, Herb, Harry, John, George; his only sister, Kay Koch; his stepson, Craig Alexander; and step-grandson, Brian Dean Alexander.
Dick is survived in death by his wife, Dorothy; daughters Linda Larsen and Diane Stratford; his younger brother Chuck (wife Lois); several nieces, nephews; and step-grandson, Trenton Alexander.
Dick is a lifelong member of Billings First Church, The Elks. Petroleum Club> Retired. Highlands C Club> Not Current.
The family extends thanks to Tender Nest, to The Springs at Grand Park for their excellent care and to RiverStone Hospice for their exceptionally compassionate and spiritual tending. Warmest gratitude for support and love go to: Trudy and Alex Smith, The Craig Barthalomew Family, The Nagel Family, Annette Bacheller and Pastor Tonia Fisher.
Memorial services will be held at a later time with the strewing of ashes at the farm’s family cemetery.
In lieu of any flowers, memorials may be made to your charity of choice, Hospice or Alzheimer’s.
“Do not stand at my grave and weep-I am not there. I do not sleep.” I am about my Lord’s work. RLS