Richard Joseph Gruber was born on Oct. 4, 1925. He passed away peacefully at his home in Billings on Jan. 31, 2020, at the age of 94.
He grew up in the mining town of Acme, Wyoming. His high school years were spent in nearby Sheridan. During his high school years, he was the sports editor for the Sheridan Press. His father was a miner for 40 years and his parents encouraged their children to seek an education.
Richard’s own educational pursuits had to be put on hold after graduation from Sheridan High School. At the age of 18, he entered the Army Air Force and flew on B24s as a tail-gunner in the New Guinea and China Campaigns. He was with the 328th bomber group in 1944 to 1945.
After his discharge, he enrolled at the University of Wyoming in the fall of 1946. He graduated in 1950 with a double major in Physical Education and Mathematics. In that same year, he married Ann Moore in Oak Park, Illinois, and then returned to Wyoming for Richard’s first teaching job in Dayton. They stayed in Dayton until 1956, where he taught and coached all the high school sports: football, basketball and track. Richard also served as Superintendent in addition to his teaching and coaching duties. Richard returned to the University of Wyoming and earned his master’s degree in 1958 and was awarded his doctorate degree in 1966.
While attending the University of Wyoming, Richard taught Math in the Laramie Public Schools and at the University Prep School. He also had a graduate assistantship during this time.
His love of sports and working with young athletes led him to officiating for 62 years. Prior to officiating, Richard played football for the Wyoming Cowboys in 1946 and ’47, was the team manager and also spent three years on the University hockey team.
Richard spent 45 years in teaching, 12 in the public schools and 33 at the university level. Richard’s career at Eastern Montana College began in 1962. He said, “the best part about being on the Eastern/MSU-Billings campus was the opportunity to work with a real great bunch of kids.” He also served for several years as the director of teacher certification for the campus. In addition to his involvement with young people through their sports activities, Richard was also a scoutmaster.
Richard was a caring provider for his family. He was very interested in the activities of his children and his many grandchildren. He had a perfect record of remembering everyone’s birthday and always sending just the right card. He was mindful of the needs of others and always put other people’s interests ahead of his own. Richard could always remember the smallest details about the people in his life.
Richard was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph Gruber and Susanna Sperl; wife Ann; his sisters, Josephine Benz, Theresa Watson; brothers Frank and Siegfried Gruber. Also by his daughter Cheryl and son Richard Jr.
He is survived by his brother Edward and wife Deloras; niece Tracy Jo Watson; daughters Paula Courtney and husband Ryan, Cindy Chambers, Kim Mork and husband David; son-in-law Ken Hart and wife Carola; 10 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; four nephews; and special friend Mary Gwen Brayton and family.
With great appreciation, the family sends a special thank you to the team of Stillwater Hospice.
A vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. Memorial mass will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at St. Pius X Church, 717 18th St. West.