Obituary: Kurt Bushnell

Posted at 10:31 AM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 12:31:39-05

Kurt Bushnell, born April 23, 1962, to LaNora “Mike” and Robin Bushnell, passed away December 28, 2021, after a decade-long battle with an auto-immune disorder and other health issues.

Although constantly challenged with medical problems Kurt never once complained. His lifetime motto was always the same, “Cowboy Up.” And if you asked him how he was feeling, it was always the same answer, “Enough about me, how are YOU doing?”

Originally from Billings, his mother, “Mike,” and her five children (Kurt being the fourth) moved to West Yellowstone in 1964. West Yellowstone was very different back then and Kurt’s mom liked to share the story of three-year-old Kurt running around in the back yard chasing after a bear cub calling, “Here puppy, puppy.” Needless to say, she ran out and hustled him back into the house before Mama Bear figured out what was going on.

In 1967 Kurt’s mom married Wallace Diteman who had three boys and a girl of his own and they soon moved to Bozeman where they merged the families together and had one more child—making it a family of ten. Kurt had to toughen up fast with all these new older brothers, and the stories he has shared over the years are funny, amazing, and sometimes downright scary.

Kurt always had a love for horses and rodeo and began riding bareback broncs and bulls in high school. He soon decided that rodeo was too risky for injuries, and he did not want to jeopardize his football career, which was his true passion, so he left his rodeo days behind.

Kurt attended Bozeman High School and was a star linebacker—earning him the title of Hawk of the Year in 1980, his senior year, and an offer to play at both MSU and U of M. Kurt would never play for “those stinking Grizzlies” so it was on to MSU. Unfortunately, life took one of those unintended turns and Kurt was injured that summer in a car accident and broke his hip, so football was now out.

His continued love of horses and the western life brought him to his coach Tom LeProwse’s ranch up on East Baseline Road where he and his best buddies, Scott & Stacey LeProwse, broke horses and worked the ranch with Tom. Kurt loved being at the ranch and continued to help out up at Tom’s for many years until his health prevented it.

Not to be deterred by his injury, Kurt looked for his next life beyond football when a DJ friend suggested he had a voice for radio—so off Kurt went to broadcasting school in Billings. He became the morning show host for KXXL Country in 1981 and then Cat Country through 1987 and amused many Bozemanites with his own unique style of announcing.

During his radio career, Kurt went on to announce the Bobcat games at the MSU Football Stadium for two seasons—unfortunately it ended sooner than he had planned as they found him “a little too honest” in his announcing style. But that was Kurt. He wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything.

Kurt married his lifelong wife, Rikki (Valos) Bushnell, in May of 1987. They met when he was just 17 and she 22 and they became good friends first. (Kurt’s big black mustache gave him that older look advantage that fooled everyone).

Over the next few years, Kurt and Rikki often ran into each other when they were out and would dance together. (Small town Bozeman was so much fun back then!) Kurt swept Rikki off her feet with his dancing and cowboy charm. And one fateful night, at a wedding reception in Norris, while dancing the night away, they realized they were dating the wrong people and belonged together.

After they were married, Kurt was offered a job at Channel 7 TV to be their sports anchor and Kurt readily accepted. Some of his favorite stories about those days were from covering the Bobcat Celebrity Classic Golf Tournament for ESPN and the Yellowstone Fire for NBC. Kurt also covered the CNFR rodeo at MSU before it left Bozeman. He provided radio coverage and interviews with the cowboys and cowgirls and really enjoyed it.

Kurt grew up hunting with his dad, brothers, and buddies and wanted to pass his love of the sport on to the younger generation, so he joined his buddy, Scott LeProwse, teaching hunters safety and received the FWP (Fish, Wildlife & Parks) 20 Years of Service Award.

Although Kurt really enjoyed being a sports anchor, there was no future in it if he was not willing to leave his beloved Montana for a bigger market, so he had to leave his TV career behind. During this time Kurt had joined Belgrade Fire as a Volunteer Firefighter and found another new passion—wild land firefighting. Kurt became an EMT and went to work for Halls Ambulance Service, working to get one step closer to a full-time paid firefighter position with Bozeman Fire. He tried out and was accepted to the department in 1993 and loved it more than anything he had ever done in his life—and from that day forward the stories were endless.

In 1999, while at BFD he served the Montana State Firemen's Association, a position he held until he was elected to President of the Association from 2005-2009. Although he had retired from Bozeman Fire in 2014, due to health issues, Kurt remained an active member for the MSFA and the Montana State Council of Professional Firefighters, advocating for firefighter issues until 2016.

In 2014 Rikki’s father and mother started to show signs of Alzheimer’s. Kurt immediately brought them out to live with them and converted his shop/barn into a guest house. Although it was very challenging at times, he always stood by his decision to bring them out as, “It was the right thing to do.” He got a kick out of Bill and they shared a lot of laughs before Bill’s decline. He also spent many visits golfing with his mother-in-law, Valerie, and teased her incessantly about toughening up, “You’re from Butte! There are no princesses from Butte!” Kurt never wavered in his devotion to them. He was such an honorable man when it came to his sense of duty.

Throughout his life, Kurt was asked to emcee many charity events and fundraisers and always accepted. He was always willing to help out. “Too busy” wasn’t even in his vocabulary. That was Kurt. And although Kurt left us sooner than planned, he led a very, very Big Life that will stay with many of us for the rest of OUR lives.

To honor Kurt’s wishes, there will be no services at this time, however Kurt had written a book last year to share some of the more interesting stories from his life, and if you would like a copy just email and we will let you know where/when you can obtain a copy.

There will be a celebration of Kurt’s life this summer for friends and family.

Kurt is survived by his wife, Rikki; mom, Mike; father, Wallace Diteman; brothers, Dennis (Debbie) Diteman, Dusty (Beth) Diteman, Robin “Butch” (Peggy) Bushnell, D. Frank (Sandy) Bushnell; sisters, Kathy (Ken) Piccoli, Kristi Bushnell-Woten, Danielle (Rick) Baldwin, Michelle (Todd) France; mother-in-law, Valerie; and many, many nieces and nephews.

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. []