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Robert Spooner McHugh

| March 14, 2007 12:00 AM

Robert Spooner McHugh, 93, died Friday, March 2, 2007, at his home in Missoula with his wife and family at his side.

Robert Spooner was born in Butte on Aug. 2, 1913. He attended Butte public schools and Montana Tech (School of Mines), and graduated from the University of Montana in 1936.

For the rest of the Great Depression and early war years, Spooner worked for the Montana Power Company and the Works Progress Administration in Butte, and at the Stillwater mine complex near Columbus.

In 1943, Spooner was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy and served aboard an LST in the Pacific. He received three Bronze Stars and was discharged from the Navy as a lieutenant in 1947.

In March 1945 Spooner married Helga Adele McArthur, also of Butte, in Carmel, Calif.

After the war Spooner and Helga settled in Missoula and built the family home near the University of Montana campus on Arthur Avenue.

In the 1950s Spooner started the Blackfoot Heating Co., selling and installing natural gas furnaces and appliances to customers in the Blackfoot area. In the 1960s he started the Montana Maintenance Co., which performed custodial and lawn maintenance contracts for the federal government in Montana and the Northwest.

Spooner was also a journeyman pipefitter/steamfitter, member of his UA local for 55 years, and worked on many construction projects in the Northwest and Midwest during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, including the concentrator in Butte, the pulp mill in Missoula, University of Montana housing, Libby Dam, Dworshak Dam, the Hanford nuclear facility near Richland, Wash., and the Minuteman missile silos in north-central Montana.

As a young man Spooner was an excellent tennis player, and he was an avid golfer almost his entire life. He was a member of the Missoula Country Club for 60 years and greatly valued family activities, martinis, and many friendships there.

In 1966 Spooner purchased land on the Yaak River in northwestern Montana. This property gave him enormous pleasure. Spooner and Helga eventually built a summer residence and for many years enjoyed the Yaak's wild solitude, the colorful local characters, and a steady stream of family and guests.

Just a few years ago Spooner and Helga placed their cherished land and riverfront in a conservation easement so that the wilderness value will be forever retained.

Spooner was a loyal, kind, generous and entertaining husband, father, grandfather and friend. He read widely, loved sports, music and doing crossword puzzles.

His family and many friends will always remember his sharp sense of humor. He could be counted on to point out funny things in the Missoulian, which he read daily until the day he died.

He is survived by Helga, his best friend and wife of 62 years; his daughters Alexandra Spooner McHugh, Adele Jo Allegra and husband Richard, and Sally Royce Rappold; son Robin Alexander McHugh and wife Sarah; and seven grandchildren, Anna, Beth and Sally McHugh, and Alexander, Emily, Claire and Meredith Rappold. He is also survived by nephews Brooke Jackson of Denver, Colo., and Kayle Jackson of Bozeman.

A private family burial will be held in Butte at a later date.

The family suggests memorial donations to either Partners in Home Care Hospice, 2687 Palmer St., Suite B, Missoula, MT 59808, or the Montana Land Reliance, 324 Fuller Ave., PO Box 355, Helena, MT 59624-0355.