“It was a dark and stormy night” — when Richard M. “Dick” Davidson came into the world that Jan. 25, 1930. A blizzard was raging and kerosene lanterns had to be hung from the fence posts for the doctor to find his find his way through the fields and across the irrigation ditches to a little log cabin on Poverty Flat east of Joliet. Born to hardworking, God-loving immigrants from Sweden, Carl and Minnie Davidson, Dick learned early in life the importance of these qualities. He remembered well the lessons learned growing up on an irrigated farm during the Depression years of the ’30s. His father’s advice was to always strive to do just a little more than was expected and Dick strived to adhere to this advice throughout his life.
Shortly after his 1st birthday, the family moved to an irrigated farm they had purchased, in 1929, west of Edgar. At this point, there is an ironic twist. The doctor, Theodore Benson, who traveled through the fields to deliver Dick, would be the one to loan the money to the family to buy this property where Dick was to spend his early years. This is where he grew up, attending grade school in Edgar. He always cherished the close ties with neighbors and how they assisted each other in the harvesting of the crops and the way they came to the aid of anyone in need in the community. He attended high school in Fromberg because they offered a Vo-Ag course, and he was very active in the FFA. He was also very active in sports, especially basketball. Again, it is ironic that it was Dr. Benson who sutured Dick’s finger after a laceration during a basketball game when he cut his finger hitting the rim during a game. Small-town dynamics! The love for the game continued throughout his life. Through the involvement in the FFA, Dick was essentially beginning a career in farming, as he was in partnership with his father in this venture when he graduated from high school. Because of this, Dick was awarded the achievement of American Farmer in the FFA in 1950.
Dick served in the Air Force during the Korean conflict from 1951 to 1955, was honorably discharged with the rank of staff sergeant. He returned to the farm for two years before making the decision to attend college at the age of 27. He attended Montana State University in Bozeman and graduated with a BS in animal science. He continued studies at MSU, earning an MS a year later. Dick’s first position was with a feed manufacturing firm (Midland Feed) in Billings as an animal nutritionist. It was during this time that he met his very best friend, life companion and truest love, Martha, and they were married in Billings on May 29, 1966. Dick suddenly found himself with not only a new bride, but three children, whom he soon adopted and cherished throughout his life.
Dick’s business career was varied and extremely interesting, starting with a small company and then working into management with a conglomerate, WR Grace & Co. This was followed by becoming a small business entrepreneur in various business ventures, including a commercial cattle feeding operation west of Park City. During this time, he helped organize and was the first president of the Montana Cattle Feeders Association. Through his career, he also consulted for many agri-business companies large and small throughout the U.S. This consulting for large companies later expanded to Canada and also to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in South America. Dick made many trips to these countries and traveled extensively in each. Dick served on the board of the NILE (Northern International Livestock Exposition) for several years and was also active on the Agricultural Committee of the Billings Chamber of Commerce. Dick was a 60-plus year member of the Masonic Lodge, and had also been involved in the Scottish Rite and Al Bedoo Shrine and was also a member of the Royal Order of Jesters. He was also a member of the Black Horse Patrol for several years and rode in many rodeos and parades in the western U.S. and Canada. Dick was also a scoutmaster of the Boy Scouts of America and was so proud that both of his sons were Eagle Scouts. He was also proud to see one of his grandsons become an Eagle Scout. He served on the board of the Montana Rescue Mission for many years and twice served as the president of the board. He had also been a member of Rotary International. He later became involved in Billings Golden K Kiwanis and enjoyed the association of many longtime friends. Dick served for several years on the Advisory board of Senior Life Partners at Billings Clinic.
Dick was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and was involved in starting a new church in Red Lodge. He was the first elder to be commissioned as a lay pastor in the Yellowstone Presbytery and served the Red Lodge church in this capacity. Dick was also active in SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), serving as chapter chair of the Billings chapter for two years and the district director for the state of Montana for four years. He also served on National Boards for SCORE, making several trips to Washington, D.C., in this capacity.
Dick loved to downhill ski with Martha and continued to do this as they advanced in years. They also enjoyed bicycling, frequently riding to breakfast on Saturday mornings. Dick also enjoyed golf in later years and belonged to the Yellowstone Country Club for a number of years. Dick and Martha traveled extensively through their years together, both in the U.S. and abroad. Dick was a million mile flier on the airlines, and traveled much more than this by land. One of the high points of travel was to visit the homes of his parents in Sweden. He also felt so privileged to have had the opportunity to visit every state in the U.S. but one. Another highlight was the opportunity to visit the Holy Land and walk in many places where the Lord Jesus walked.
Dick’s manner was sometimes challenging, but he was not afraid to take a stand for what he believed was right. There were times when this was not the popular thing to do, but with Dick, there were few grey areas. It was mostly black and white.
Dick was preceded in death by his parents, Carl and Minnie Davidson; a sister, Eva Hardie; and a brother, Dean. He is survived by his wife, Martha; his three children, Melinda (Bill) Dale of Willow, Alaska, Robert (Grace) Davidson of Fort Collins, Colorado, and David (Cindy) Davidson of Billings; cousin David (Sherry) Davidson of Joliet; nephew Pet Hardie of Macon, Georgia; niece Vicki Hinson of Macon; many more nieces and nephews; eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
Memorials may be made to the Intermountain Children’s Home Foundation, 500 S. Lamborn St., Helena, MT 59601; Montana Rescue Mission Building Fund, 2822 Minnesota Ave., Billings, MT 59101; First Presbyterian Church, 2420 13th St. W., Billings, MT 59102; or Special K. Ranch, Columbus, MT 59019.