DEER LODGE – Richard Frank “Dick” Labbe Sr. passed away Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, after a long battle with congestive heart failure. Dick was brought in to this world July 4, 1928, in Missoula, the son of Edmund and Regina Stoll Labbe. While still a young boy, he lived in Missoula, Bonner and Anaconda before finally settling in Deer Lodge, a community he dearly loved and lived in for most of the rest of his life. A few years after graduating from Powell County High School, Dick married Ruth Lorraine Trask and together they raised their five children: Richard, Allan, Margaret, John and Nancy. They enjoyed 50 years together until Ruth’s untimely passing in 2001.
While still in high school, Dick started working for the Milwaukee Railroad, a career that spanned nearly 40 years giving birth to countless tales of friends, adventures and memories that still endure as part of his legacy. During his days on the Milwaukee, the family moved for short periods of time to Harlowton and later Miles City. He greatly treasured the challenges of his days on the Milwaukee. Anyone who spent any time with him (sometimes only five minutes) would be regaled with tales of derailments, bad weather and worse food, and memorable co-workers who made an otherwise dangerous profession an absolute joy.
From the earliest days, Dick had an undying devotion to his family and the community of Deer Lodge. In the 1950s as president of the Jaycees, he was instrumental in the development of the Jaycee Park in Deer Lodge as well as countless other projects that were part of what made for a vibrant family oriented community. Dick also served as scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 33 for more years than can be counted, taking three generations of young men on countless camping, fishing and backpacking excursions.
Civic duty and leadership were important to Dick. He served on the Deer Lodge City Council in some capacity for over four decades. After retiring from the railroad in 1982, he served as the city judge for several years before becoming mayor, a position he occupied for 12 years. He served as chairman of the Red Cross Blood Drive for 20 years, was past president of the Deer Lodge Country Club and served as a member of several organizations including the Elks, Kiwanis and Rotary Club. Dick was especially proud of his time working on the Upper Clark Fork Confluence Board helping restore the waters of the river and the watershed itself. It is also worth noting his participation and past presidency of the Rusty Zipper Coffee Club, a title one gets when one gets stuck for paying the tab more often than the rest! The friendships that Dick enjoyed over the years will endure in our hearts and memories forever.
An avid outdoorsman, Dick enjoyed the hunting and fishing opportunities that abound in Montana. He especially enjoyed fishing the waters and tributaries of Rock Creek Lake, where he spent as much time as possible at his beloved cabin. Dick’s hobbies included tying flies and building custom-made fly rods which he gave as gifts to friends, family and especially grandchildren. He greatly loved fishing, whether it be from the bank, the boat or through the ice. Amazingly, most Labbe family vacations and outings had some type of fishing or hunting activity involved! Hunting as well was a passion for Dick and he hunted well into the twilight of his life. His family and friends fondly remember hunting trips up and down the mountains surrounding the Deer Lodge Valley.
Dick was preceded in death by his wife Ruth, sister Genevieve Collings, brother Raymond Labbe, granddaughter Taylor Cearley, and numerous brothers and sisters-in law. He is survived by his brothers, Don Labbe of California and Jim (Josephine) Labbe of Turah; son, Richard Jr. of Helena; son, Allan (Kari) of Superior; daughter, Margaret (Tom) McGillvray of Billings; son, John (Nancy) of Meridian, Idaho; and daughter, Nancy (Jim) Cearley of Lolo. Additional survivors include 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren as well as countless nephews, nieces and other relatives scattered around the planet.
A celebration of Dick’s life will be held at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Deer Lodge at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 27. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Powell County Community Foundation, P.O. Box 834, Deer Lodge, MT, 59722.