Robert Kenneth Burns died at home April 14, 2019 with family by his side. Bob was born September 5, 1937 in Helena to Kenneth R. and Dorothy (Gonser) Burns. He grew up in Wolf Creek working with his family running the Wolf Creek store and on their chicken farm supplying eggs and fryers to the Helena Valley.
When not helping his folks, he was exploring the Wolf Creek canyon with friends; camping, fishing, and even trying to swim a horse across the Missouri River. The horse survived, and Bob went on to graduate from Cascade High School.
Life really began in January 1961 when he met Bobcat cheerleader and future bride Billie Jean Applegate while attending Montana State University. They were engaged April 12 and married September 16 the same year. Bob graduated with a degree in Industrial Arts in 1962.
The pair then moved to Helena and were blessed with three children as spirited as their dad. Bob and BJ raised Rowdy, Brad, and Jodi on a place off Glass Drive. They kept dogs, horses, sheep, hogs, and cows and spent summers irrigating, haying, and sharing their home with family and friends. Many good times were also had at Seeley Lake.
After working 17 years at Mountain Bell, Bob changed careers so he could take time off to watch his kids participate in various activities. Football, gymnastics, track, rodeo, it didn’t matter, he never missed an event. He was very proud of his children and grandchildren.
Bob worked at Farm Bureau Insurance and Insurance Inc. before starting his own agency, Bob Burns Insurance. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, Muzzle Loading Club, noxious weed boards of Lewis and Clark and Powell counties, and Bobcat Athletic Advisory Board. He also served 40 years on the Livestock Fair Committee.
Bob belonged to Masonic Lodge No. 3 in Helena and later joined Lincoln Lodge No. 157. He was a member of Algeria Shrine and rode his faithful sorrel horse, Spud Chip, in many parades with the mounted patrol.
Bob’s contributions to the community are enduring. He was instrumental in getting the all-weather track at Vigilante Stadium, establishing Agra Forum, and bringing the National High School Rodeo to Helena for the first time. He may be best known for working with kids as a Lewis & Clark County 4-H leader, including camping year-after-year onsite during fair week to be available to help the kids.
Some of Bob’s favorite times were hunting, fishing, haying, and helping neighbors work cattle. He also loved cooking at hunting camp, which meant serving up full meals cooked on an old wood stove.
After 40 years on Glass Drive, Bob and BJ retired to the mountains near Elliston. In retirement he enjoyed wood working and time with family. Nearly weekly, he was treated to BJ’s apple pie. He would wonder out loud how she could make such delicious pie with so little practice and would tell everyone, “Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.”
Bob was gradually lost to dementia, but even in his last days he knew the prettiest girl in the room and his children.
Bob leaves behind that prettiest girl, his wife of nearly 58 years, Billie Jean; son Rowdy (Tami) and grandsons Challis Nace and Dakota Singh; son Brad (Charity Watt) and granddaughters Misty (Casey Stevens) and Lindsay (Isaac Clark); daughter Jodi (Mike Roberts) and granddaughters Amanda (Jack Evans) and Allie; great grandchildren Rhys and Ava Clark, Avery Jo Stevens, and Carson Evans; brother-in-law Joe Applegate (Sharon); and a close circle of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Bob is preceded in death by his parents; infant sister, Georgia Lynn; and father- and mother-in-law William and May Applegate.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to Lewis & Clark County 4-H, 100 W Custer Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds Helena, MT 59602, Powell County 4-H, 409 Missouri Ave., Suite 102 Deer Lodge, MT 59722, or Shriner’s Hospital for Children, c/o Algeria Shrine Temple, PO Box 4879, Helena, MT 59604. They also suggest enjoying some apple pie with a slice of cheese.
A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at the First Presbyterian Church, 535 N. Ewing Street, in Helena. A reception will follow the service in the fellowship hall of the church. Please below to offer the family a condolence or share a memory of Bob.