HELENA - Robert Wayne Stockton, 83, died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family at his home at the Waterford in Helena on Saturday, May 6, 2006.
At his request, he has been cremated and a memorial service will be at Plymouth Congregational Church on May 20 at 10 a.m.
Robert was born at home to Katherine Gertrude Hussey and Glenn Dobbs Stockton on July 7, 1922, in Frederick, Okla. Bob was raised in Wichita Falls, Texas. At 14, he was part of a sailing club that raced on nearby Wichita Lake. His first sailing vessel was a 15-foot snipe and began a lifelong love of sailing.
He applied to the University of Texas, but his acceptance to medical school was received after he had been ordered to report for military duty. He served four years in the Pacific as a Navy corpsman attached to the 6th Marine Corps Division. He was trained as a field surgeon and also also taught field surgery. Discharged as a staff sergeant, he returned to the University of Texas on the GI bill. Feeling that medical school would take too long, he graduated in 1949 with a double major in biology and organic chemistry. During his four years at UT, Bob took up fencing and earned 16 first-place medals.
While attending the university, he met a Delta Gamma sorority member, Dorothy Jane Matchett. They married in 1950. In 1982, they divorced.
Following graduation, he worked for the Frontier Chemical Company in Wichita, Kan., as a chemist. Wanting to live a more peaceful life, he moved his family to the Flathead Valley. Living on Flathead Lake near Somers, his family enjoyed camping, hiking and playing in the snow at home and in Glacier National Park. He moved his family into Kalispell when he began working for the Anaconda Aluminum Company. While working there, he invented a centrifuge machine and several patented formulas that continue to be used today. He joined the Evergreen Lions Club and began working with the local Boy Scout Troop it supported. He was on the committee that formed the first Sea Scout Troop in the state. The Sea Scouts restored an old boat, sewed all their own sails and took the boat to Seattle, Wash., for a Regatta. They brought home first-place honors. He also was a Boy Scout leader for many years for his sons, and later helped his grandsons earn their sailing merit badges.
In 1965, Bob accepted a position with the Office of Public Instruction and later becoming a transportation administrator. He served under five different superintendents. With his remarkable memory, he was known as an excellent interpreter of school law. He received various awards while serving in the Office of Public Instruction. He was instrumental in forming the Montana Association of School Business Officials in Montana and held the first meetings in his home. After serving 24 years with OPI, he retired in 1989. On June 22, 1989, the governor declared Bob Stockton Day in honor of his years of service to the school children of Montana.
In 1972, Bob purchased his first sailboat, a San Juan 21, naming it Oro Fino. He was a founding member of the Canyon Ferry Sailing Association that later changed its name to the Canyon Ferry Yacht Club. In 1988, he bought a Freedom 25 and named it Fiddler's Green - his retirement boat. In honor of Bob's dedication to sailing, the CFYC named a series of races with keel boats the Stockton Cup. Every year the traveling trophy is presented to the fastest keel boat and crew at Canyon Ferry Lake. In 1984, Bob served as commodore and was the longest living, lifetime member. After his health declined and he could no longer sail, he enjoyed continuing in an officiating capacity as long as he was able.
While in retirement, Bob participated in several Grandstreet Theatre productions, including “South Pacific,” “Damn Yankees” and “Mister Rogers.” He participated in the Helena Chorale's production of Handel's Messiah. Bob was a member of the Plymouth Congregational Church since 1966, where he held several positions and sang in the choir.
Bob was known as the walking encyclopedia because he loved to read. He always had a book in his hands. Known as a history buff, his children and grandchildren remember his historical storytelling making dates and names come alive. He could bridge the gap of what happened in the past to what was happening today and its relevance. One of his favorite quotes was “those who don't remember history, are bound to repeat it, and that is not always a good thing.”
He was preceded in death by his parents; two infant brothers; and brother-in-law, Ben Donnell.
Survivors include his children, Lois (Kent) Gilge of Havre, Susan (Greg) Nelson of St. George, Utah, Cliff (Marcia Hughes) Stockton of Hagerman, Idaho, and Tom (Becky) Stockton of Helena; 18 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; sister, Phyllis Jean Donnell; niece, Glenna Donnell, Marble Falls, Texas; and nephew, Ben Donnell III, Austin, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Montana Boy Scouts of America, 820 17th Ave. S., Great Falls, MT 59405, or to a local veterans association.