MISSOULA — Richard “Dick” McDowell Boehmler, Ph.D., age 92, died on Thursday, May 30, 2019, due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. He was born Nov. 28, 1926 in Hampton, Iowa, to Eloise Beula Tebay Boehmler and James Herbert Boehmler. The third of four boys, Dick grew up on a dairy farm learning both a strong work ethic, love of animals, and the self-confidence to dive into any project.
After high school graduation in 1945, Dick joined the army and went to McClellan Army base in Alabama. Upon his discharge at the end of 1946, Dick attended Grinnell College in Iowa for 2 ½ years. He then continued his education at the State University of Iowa (SUI, now the U of I) earning his doctorate degree in 1953. Dick remained at SUI for one year doing post-doctoral research on stuttering.
At Grinnell, Dick met Doris Cozzens. After her graduation, they were married on June 25, 1949. Their first child, Bruce, was born in 1952. In 1954, the family moved to Arcata, California, where Dick taught at Humboldt State University. While in Arcata, daughters Sandy and Carla arrived. In 1958, the family moved to Missoula where Dick joined fellow SUI graduate, Charles (Chuck) Parker, Ph.D., in founding the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) at the University of Montana (U of M).
When they moved to Montana, Dick and Doris (also a speech therapist) were two of only about eight speech pathologists in the entire state. Chuck Parker, Dick, and their fellow faculty built a nationally respected CSD Department. Dick had strong opinions and it took a strong-willed person like Chuck to shift Dick’s stance. Dick became an active member, as well as a board member, of the Montana Easter Seals Association, the Council of Exceptional Children, the MT Cleft Palate Association, the MT Rehabilitation Association, and the MT Speech-Language Hearing Association. For nearly 20 years, Dick served on the legislative council of the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association where he was known for his attention to every possible detail of every policy, procedure and document.
As a child, Dick struggled with severe stuttering. The therapy he received at the SUI just made his stuttering worse. Perhaps it were these experiences that developed in Dick a deep compassion for those in need. Through his 20s and 30s, Dick developed a model for effective stuttering therapy, which enabled him to cure his own stuttering. He taught his methods to clients and hundreds of speech therapists in Montana and around the nation. Following his U of M retirement in 1985, Dick continued to see clients and consult with other speech therapists, refining his therapy model into his 80s.
Family was always important to Dick. He supported and nurtured his three children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was there for them in many ways, from homework helper, patient teacher of horse training and riding, money manager, to home repair helper. However, Dick could be impulsive. He expected his family to be available at a moment’s notice to help him on one of his projects. Dick’s strong family commitments included his brothers. Dick and his three brothers often got together to catch-up, give input into the management of their home farm in Iowa, share a drink, and swap stories. Dick’s cousin, Joyce Boehmler Blum, was like a sister to him, and was the only woman ever allowed on his male friends’ annual wilderness horse packing trip.
Dick and Doris enjoyed many leisure pursuits together, from dancing, canoeing, horseback riding and playing bridge, to being out in nature. During their retirement years Dick and Doris enjoyed many fun-filled hours with close friends who called themselves “The Senile Delinquents.” They played word games, had costume parties and scavenger hunts, and let out their wild sides. Dick and Doris also enjoyed traveling in RVs with another group of friends.
Dick was well known for his love of horses. He got his first pony at the age of 2. His last horse died when Dick was 88. Dick took his friends and family on many day-long trail rides; which inevitably involved his insistence on “short-cuts” that added many hours onto the trips. The scenery was beautiful, so most people forgave him. Dick’s idea of paradise was to spend as much time as possible horse packing with friends and family in The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.
Dick was a wilderness and environmental activist. He was a board member for the Montana Sierra Club and the Clark Fork Coalition. He was pleased to have the land where he and his family raised horses put into a conservation easement in 2011 with Five Valleys Land Trust. As his final wish, Dick was laid to rest on May 31, 2019, on this land he loved.
Dick is survived by his younger brother, Robert Hutchins Boehmler (Donna), of Rogers, Alaska; his wife of nearly 70 years Doris Elaine Cozzens Boehmler; son, Bruce Carver Boehmler (aka Vish), of Alberton; daughters Sandra (Sandy) Ione Boehmler and Carla Gail Boehmler of Missoula; grandson Akhilesh Daniel Boehmler and Jamie Carlynn Breidenbach of Missoula; granddaughter, Kelsey Elaine Breidenbach, of Portland, Oregon; and great-grandchildren Chase Atlee Boehmler and Alexander Raphael Boehmler of Missoula. Dick was preceded in death by his older brother, Barton Luke Boehmler, of Hampton, Iowa and his eldest brother, James Herbert Boehmler, 2nd, of Columbus, Indiana who passed 11 hours before Dick on May 30, 2019.
Over the last four years, Dick received heartfelt care from numerous caregivers. The family would like to express our deep appreciation to all of the many people who helped Dick live his life fully up until the end.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations may be made in memory of Dick to Five Valleys Land Trust, the Montana Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ex: for purchase of equipment or assistance for individuals with disabilities), the Montana Sierra Club, or the U of M Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders Clinic.
Note venue change: A Celebration of Dick’s Life will be held on June 29 at 11 a.m. at the Missoula Friends Meeting at 1861 S. 12th St W. in Missoula. Additionally, a joint memorial service for Dick and his brother, Jim, will be held on Aug. 3, 2019, at the Congregational Church in their hometown of Hampton, Iowa.