USS SLC...USMC...Robert K. West, 1st Lt. USMC
COLUMBIA FALLS - Robert K. West, 89, died of natural causes on Sunday, May 29, 2011, at the Montana Veterans home in Columbia Falls with family at his bedside.
SLC Deck Log Dec. 1943
#11 in picture with Marine Detachment, 1945
Born on Oct. 30, 1921, in Great Falls, the oldest of Mildred and Robert West Sr.'s two children. He attended grade school and high school in Great Falls and graduated as valedictorian in 1939. He spent his summers working on ranches in the Choteau area. In 1941, he worked for the Park Saddle Horse Co. in Glacier National Park as their youngest guide. His family sent him east to college in Wooster, Ohio, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in geology in 1942. He graduated a year early so he could join the Marine Corps. He was in the Marine Corps for four years. He served two years of active combat in the Pacific aboard the heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City. He fought the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Doc received his medical training at the University of Minnesota. He put himself through medical school by taking boys from Camp Lincoln on pack trips in the Bob Marshall Wilderness during the summers. He graduated as valedictorian of his class and served an internship with Minneapolis General Hospital.
Doc returned to Cut Bank to set up a family medical practice in 1952. During that time he served as a consultant at the public health hospital on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning. While in Cut Bank he raised his three children, Lydia, Dulcy and Russell. In 1970, Doc moved from Montana to Fresno, Calif., where he began his career as an emergency room doctor at St. Agnes hospital in the emergency department. He served in that capacity from 1970-1990. He also held a teaching position at Valley Medical Center, affiliated with the University of California-San Francisco (1972- 1999). In 1981, Doc married Billie Fleming, a beautiful woman, who had become the love of his life. She was his constant companion and added style, grace and love to his life. Doc was involved in community service in Fresno and Madera counties. He received the "physician of the year" award in 1994. Doc volunteered many hours with the Salvation Army's Poverello House in Fresno. For his efforts he was awarded the prestigious William Booth Award in 2007.
In addition to skiing and hunting Doc loved to rope. He was a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for 20 years and a gold card holder for 15 of those years. He competed in Canada and the western United States. Later he competed on the National Senior Pro Rodeo circuit qualifying numerous times for the Senior Pro national Finals in Amarillo and Reno. Doc loved to organize and lead pack trips for his grand kids into the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana. Doc's passions were medicine, roping, packing into the Bob Marshall Wilderness and family. He loved a good mule and a good rope horse and would often name his favorites after the people he bought them from. Doc had a genuine interest in people both as a doctor and as a friend.
He is survived by his sister Mary Jane Sargent of Napa, Calif.; daughters Dulcy Zoellner (Dick) of Whitefish and Lydia Fleming (John) of St. Ignatius and son Russ West (Mary) of Imbler, Ore.; 11 step children, Mary (Tom) Weaver of Houston, James Fleming III of Polson, Joan (Bob) Hardie of Seattle, John (Lydia) Fleming of St. Ignatius, Pat (Charlene) Fleming of Pablo, Peg (Mike) Hertz of Missoula, Greg Fleming of Pablo, Neil Fleming of Pablo, Ann Fleming of Ronan, Kate (Greg) Hertz of Polson, Elizabeth (Greg) Collins of Polson; grandchildren Nick West of Corvallis, Ore., Reva West of Imbler, Ore., Ian Fleming of Bozeman, Louis Fleming of Missoula, Will Fleming (Brandi Ellefsen) of Great Falls, Guy Zoellner (Keagan) of Hungry Horse, Carine Schlesinger (Steve) of Lockeford, Calif.,; and great-granddaughter Kinley Schlesinger; and 30 step-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death on May 24, 2011, by his wife of 30 years Billie West.
A memorial service will be held on Sept. 4 at the Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier Park at a time to be announced. Three belt buckles will be awarded in his memory to the team roping and calf roping champions at the Augusta rodeo on June 26. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Poverello House in Fresno, the Bob Marshall Foundation or the charity of your choice.