BIGFORK - Robert "Marc" Bielenberg, age 91, passed away in his sleep at the family's Bigfork farm early on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2011.
Marc was born in Deer Lodge in 1920. Both his parents and other ancestors were Montana pioneers of whom he was always proud; one was Conrad Kohrs of the Kohrs and Bielenberg ranches and mining companies. Many years of his youth were spent researching and prospecting gold properties in western Montana, a process he continued well into his late 80s and early 90s.
He attended the University of Montana and Montana School of Mines.
Marc was a World War II veteran and served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater.
He was married to Mary Brome in Missoula in 1956 and they had two children, Brome and Claudia. The family lived on a lovely lake property near Avon, where Marc made a living with his mining activities, trapping and raising rainbow trout. Some of the family's happiest times were spent at the lake place. Many a winter's day after a huge snowstorm would find Marc snowshoeing out of the property to pick up mail and groceries in Avon.
In the 1960s, the family moved to the Bitterroot and lived in Hamilton. He and his family were owners of two Montana sapphire properties, one on the West Fork of Rock Creek and the other on Dry Cottonwood Creek in the Deer Lodge Valley. His research and promotional efforts in regards to the Montana sapphire earned him recognition from the School of Mines in Butte in 2004. He was also the subject in the book about rubies and sapphires, and was named "Mr. Sapphire" by the authors.
He and his wife were able to travel and visit many places around the world in the company of wonderful, interesting friends. In his later years he enjoyed prospecting with many young, metal-detector friends and was forever looking for the mother lode. During the past summer his helpers enjoyed traveling with him to visit friends and prospect in the mountains. Many a story and laugh were shared on these journeys.
He was fond of his daughter and son-in-law and loved living on the farm with the assistance of three lovely ladies - Kelly Imlay, Cindy Stretch and Jean Laurant. He always maintained a sense of humor and loved to tell stories of his youth. Also in his company was one lovely black cat, Nugget, who was with Marc the night he died.
Preceding him in death were his son by a first marriage, Robbie; son Brome and wife Mary.
He leaves a daughter Claudia (Lloyd) Thorsrud on the farm along with "surrogate" granddaughter Hyasmin, currently in the U.S. Air Force; nephew Danny Bielenberg of Seeley Lake; Solo, Radar, Rocky, Apollo, Honey and Cheval, whom he loved to watch out in the pastures. Also his "grand-dog" Tippy, Cassie and Nugget.
At Marc's request, no services are planned.
Memorial donations may be made to the Mineral Museum at Montana Tech, c/o Richard Berg, Butte, MT; or to the Florence Crittendon Home in Helena, 901 N. Harris St., Helena, MT 59601.
Friends are encouraged to visit our website at www.buffalohillfh.com to leave notes of condolences for the family.