MISSOULA — William A. Babcock died on January 27, 2019, at his home surrounded by his family. He was born in Seattle, the son of William A. and Frances M. Babcock, on Oct. 9, 1940. In 1947, his family moved to Portland and later Beaverton, Oregon, where he attended high school. He ran track in both high school and college and was a life long fan of the sport.
He received bachelor and master's degrees in history from the University of Oregon. In 1967 he married Waleen (Sue) Babcock and moved to Boise, Idaho, teaching history at Boise State College. In 1970, he began work on a Ph.D. in history at the University of Montana.
After passing his written and oral exams, he began working as a research historian in Missoula for Historical Research Associates, Inc. and later at the Heritage Research Center. His work included cultural resource inventories and surveys assessing the impacts of federal and state projects on sites and districts, including structures, mines, and trails, potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. He worked on environmental litigation support for the case of U.S. vs. ARCO, which included the upper Clark Fork River watershed, the largest CERCLA (Superfund) project to date.
For two years, he served as Missoula’s first historic preservation officer preparing a historic preservation plan and a walking tour brochure for the city and securing nominations of the East Pine Street Historic District and several downtown properties to the National Register of Historic Places.
As an independent historian, he contracted with the cities of Roundup, Phillipsburg, Glendive, and Wibaux to prepare their cultural resource inventories. He also contracted with the tribes of Mescalero Apache, Nez Perce, Navajo, Warm Springs, Yakama, Spokane, and Umatilla Reservations to write their forest management histories. He prepared National Register nominations for the Hecla mine in Burke, Idaho, and worked on the Travelers’ Rest verification analysis.
Mr. Babcock was an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction, especially history. He enjoyed listening to classical music, opera, and jazz, going to lectures and cultural events at UM, and fly fishing. He was keenly interested in politics often writing letters to the editor; most were never submitted. He cared deeply about political, social, and environmental issues and for those who suffered from war, violence, and poverty.
He loved spending time with his family at the coast in Oregon, cross-country skiing in Montana, and especially time at the Babcock family cabin near Ketchum, Idaho, frequently leading his family on hiking and backpacking trips in the area, particularly in the Sawtooths. He enjoyed attending his children’s soccer games, track meets, and music recitals.
His family misses his educational stories and stimulating conversations. His children will always remember his encouragement, understanding, and support as well as the pride he took in their academic, professional, and personal achievements. Also, they will never forget the many years he spent carefully preparing the family dinners and his quirky sense of humor.
He was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Jerry Ann Babcock Schuh. He is survived by his wife of 51 years; his son, Michael and daughters Catherine (Matt) Gualtieri and Lindsey (Bryant) Bourgeau, and his four grandchildren: Grace, Jack, Marcel and Joe.
At Mr. Babcock’s request, a memorial service will not be held.