Clarence (C.B.): March 6, 1919 – Oct. 12, 1996
Helen Calhoun Rich: June 3, 1921 – June 16, 200
Clarence Barron “C.B.” Rich was born at the family home in Dean, Montana, on March 6, 1919. There, in the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains, C.B.’s pioneer parents taught him the values of life and love he lived by.
A fourth-generation Montanan, C.B. demonstrated a love of horses and the heritage they represent from an early age. He learned to drive team and ride horses as soon as he could walk. He even broke his pet dog and sheep to drive as a team on a little buckboard wagon his Grandpa Frank built.
His parents Clarence Gallatin Rich and Anna Margaurite Barron Rich called him “Bud” and knew him as a man with a strong shoulder and tender heart who often surprised those he loved with a bouquet of “wild flowers.”
Helen Betty, a third-generation Montanan, was born in Columbus to Gertrude Harris Calhoun and John Clarence Calhoun on June 3, 1921. As a freshman at Columbus High School, Helen met and started dating a handsome senior “country boy”—C.B., who became her partner and soul mate for the next 60 years.
C.B. pursued a degree in electrical engineering from Montana State University in Bozeman while Helen finished high school. He spent summers packing into the Beartooth Mountains for the Bureau of Mines and taught dance for spare money during the school year. In later years, he would pass on those skills to the small feet of his children and grandchildren. Watching C.B. and Helen dance was truly something to behold. They found true joy and love in one another’s arms.
After graduating from Columbus High School, Helen went on to pursue further education in Billings, where she became a registered nurse. Throughout her life, she gave healing of the heart as well as the body to anyone who came to her in need of it.
C.B. and Helen married at the Rich Ranch homestead on September 3, 1942. Shortly thereafter C.B. was deployed to Europe to serve in World War II with the Army Air Corps; what followed is a lesson in faith and love.
As an Air Observer Navigator First Lieutenant, C.B. led 12 successful bombing raids over France and Germany, including the D-Day Invasion. On his 13th raid, C.B.’s B-24 bomber was shot down over enemy-occupied territory. He was reported missing in action on June 23, 1944.
Of the 11 soldiers on the plane, five were killed and five were captured. C.B. evaded capture by wading into a muddy swamp. German dogs could smell him in the swamp but didn’t follow after him. Thus began his journey to American lines and back home, to Helen.
Though no one had received word of C.B.’s fate, when there was a knock on the door on September 3, 1944, Helen swore it was from him. She said he wouldn’t forget their special day, their second wedding anniversary. At the door was a telegram telling her that C.B. was alive after spending 60 days hiding and traveling through the French Underground.
C.B. was awarded the Purple Heart, Air Medal and Walking Boot for his service, and is a member of the Caterpillar Club, meaning he successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft. He finished out his military duty in Great Falls, where Marry Anna, the first of the Rich’s five children, was born.
In 1945, C.B. and Helen returned to the Stillwater Valley and purchased the original Rich Family Ranch. They settled in to raise a family, crops and cattle. Mary Anna was joined by siblings Betty, Peggy, Sharon and Jack. Helen always said spring was her favorite time of year on the ranch, as it was the best time to witness the rebirth of animals, crops, faith and the human spirit.
Back in the mountains he loved, cattle and roping became C.B.’s life. He also broke and shoed horses and ran a fine pack string, skills he’d learned earlier in life. Along with raising a family and all that ranch life entailed, Helen was Dean’s postmistress and enjoyed frequent visits from her extended family in Columbus.
Following the growth of their family, C.B. and Helen decided to buy a guest ranch. In 1958, they purchased the Double Arrow in Seeley Lake, where they began sharing the beauty of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Leota Park.
Helen put her nursing skills to work at the Well Child clinics and started a volunteer ambulance service to Missoula. She and C.B. also spent many days lobbying state and local governments to allow a high school to be built in Seeley Lake, further deepening their shared commitment to education. They were so proud when the school doors finally opened in 1964. That same year, Helen began her tenure as a substitute teacher, a role she took on with enthusiasm through the remainder of her life. She was not only a teacher, but a counselor, mother, grandmother and “Nonie” who offered guidance and inspiration to countless students and others who passed through the halls of Seeley-Swan.
In 1964, C.B. was a proud member of the Montana Centennial Train. He pulled his stagecoach with a four-horse hitch of matched pintos. He hauled the Governor and Miss Montana on the parade routes and even delivered the pitcher to the pitcher’s mound in New York’s Yankee Stadium.
Although they remained involved for another 28 years, the sale of the Double Arrow in 1966 left C.B. to concentrate on outfitting and later, real estate. He earned people’s trust with his honesty and his philosophy that a man’s handshake is his word.
C.B. served as the president for the Montana Outfitter and Guide’s Association, and even travelled to Washington D.C., to meet with the Forest Service representatives about the fate of outfitting and wilderness.
Whether at home, at the lodge, or on a pack trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Helen developed a reputation as a talented cook who could fix a meal for many out of what seemed to be nothing at all. She never turned anyone away from a seat at the table, and her recipes were always asked for but hard to repeat.
C.B. had a gift for poetry and a talent for illuminating his experiences through prose. He shared it in two published books, something his family is forever grateful for.
C.B. slowed down some in his final years, but he was happy to be back in the saddle again when he took his black and white paint “Teton” on a pack trip at age 77. He stopped once more in Leota Park with his family and lifelong friend Milt, who’d been with him on that B-52 as his bombardier so many decades before.
On Oct. 12, 1996, God called home one of his best. A memorial service for C.B. Rich was held in Seeley Lake on Oct. 19 and he was buried alongside his parents at the Mountain View Cemetery in Columbus on Oct. 21.
After waiting patiently for her since that time, C.B. was reunited with Helen on June 16, 2005.
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