A Loving Tribute
Robert O. Strong
November 27, 1925 – January 12, 2023
Submitted by Leslie Mussetter
Longtime Montrose resident Robert O. Strong, born November 27, 1925, passed on January 12, 2023, at the age of ninety-seven, at home with his wife Phyllis by his side. Bob was born in Lamar, Colorado, to Giles and Ruth Strong. He graduated from Lamar high school in 1943 and, at age seventeen, joined the Navy to fight in WWII. He served aboard the USS Highlands APA119 and participated in amphibious landings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Philippines’ liberation, and Japan’s occupation. While manning a Higgins landing craft at Iwo Jima, he witnessed the iconic moment captured in the famous photograph of the US Marines raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and returned to Lamar, where he attended Lamar Junior College and met his future wife, Phyllis. She was working as an announcer on the local radio station, and he heard her voice and immediately wanted to meet her. They were married in 1951 and celebrated 71 years together on December 2, 2022. He always teased that they were “happily married for 14 years”, leaving the listener to ponder the math.
He and Phyllis started their life together in Lamar and then lived in several Colorado communities until they finally landed in Montrose in 1969. He owned several businesses, including bulk gas delivery, Gambles Hardware, Baskin Robbin’s ice cream, and the Montrose Sears Catalog store. He was very active in the Montrose community, serving on the Montrose City Council for eight years (two as mayor), Masonic Lodge, American Legion, VFW, Toastmasters, Magic Circle Players, and numerous committees. While mayor, he worked as part of a team to influence the building of the Dallas Creek Project to ensure an ongoing water supply to the Montrose region. He was an avid member of the Lions Club for over 60 years. He could regularly be found hiding Easter Eggs for kids, flipping pancakes at the Pancake Breakfast, or ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at Christmas, with several appearances as Santa Claus thrown in.
Bob loved to tell jokes and kept the Lions Club laughing at his costumes and antics. He was a talented doodler, loving to sketch trucks and cartoon figures for his kids and grandkids. He encouraged his kids to build retirement accounts before it was common; he took up the computer in his 70s and used his iPad daily to research products, keep up with news, and download every grocery coupon. He loved chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, breakfast, and the Denver Broncos. He was a patriotic American, proudly wearing his WWII Veteran hat whenever he left home. He was a lifelong Republican and never hesitated to express his views of current events by sending letters to the editor.
He was gentle, fun, kind, a protector, a provider, and a role model. He always put his family first and was a good friend to many. He was one of the founding members of a group of community-minded friends called the “Montrose Think Tank Bored,” who met over the years at numerous local coffee-drinking spots to solve world problems. Their group continues today with a commitment to keeping the spirit of the “Bored” alive.
He is survived by his wife Phyllis, two daughters, Leslie (Bob) Mussetter and Deanna (Mike) Ballantine of Fort Collins, son Jay of Parker, grandson Scott Ballantine and fiancée Carina of Boston, and grandson Ryan Ballantine of Salida. He is also survived by his sisters Mary Weimer and Virginia Inman of Lamar, and many nieces and nephews. We will deeply miss his guidance, his humor, and his love.
The family wants to thank the wonderful nurses at HopeWest who cared for him in his last few months and the invaluable helpers from Comfort Keepers.
Please join the family for an informal Celebration of Life Open House on Saturday, January 28, from 2-4 p.m. in the Community Room at HopeWest, 725 S. 4th St., Montrose. Memorial contributions can be made to HopeWest.
Honor Bob with a donation to HopeWest
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