Obituary: Robert Murdoch Macdonald

Posted at 1:38 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 15:38:03-04

Son of a Montana pioneering family, Bob “Bird” Macdonald passed away on April 13, 2022, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born on September 15, 1956, in Billings where he spent his formative years with his father and mother, Don and Peggy (Grimes), older sister Jocelyn and younger brother Angus. When Bob was nine years old, he came across a book titled “Hawks in the Hand” which would forever change his life and inspire his lifelong passion for falconry. He began to train and work with birds of prey from that time on, even flying a Prairie Falcon in both chambers of the Montana State Legislature at the age of 13 while lobbying to change falconry regulations. Through falconry, Bob would meet many lifelong friends, including Sam Newville of Belgrade, who he referred to as “a brother from another mother”. He received a degree in History and Political Science at the University of Montana. Although Bob was a voracious reader and lover of American history, especially the Civil War, he was rarely found in the classroom as Bob's twenties were filled with adventure. He was described as someone who was so carefree you couldn’t help but like him.

On November 8, 1986, he married Joan Grable, the only woman he’d dated who didn’t say “it’s me or those birds.” In 1988, they welcomed their daughter Kaitlin into the world and their son Ian in 1989. Of all his roles, his family will remember him best as an amazing father. Early in his children’s lives, he introduced them to his passion for falconry by carrying them together in a baby backpack on early morning hawking expeditions. He spent countless hours supporting the interests of his children, whether it was playing catch until it was too dark to see the ball, volunteering his time to ice the outdoor skating rink at Wilson School, or sharing his love of the outdoors with hiking trips into the Bridger mountains.

Many people from Bozeman would recognize Bob from his numerous jobs in sales throughout his life. First with Avitel, then Bozeman TV, Ressler Motors, Sears, and Fred's Appliance.

He was known by many as one of the best austringers in Montana and through the years he trained and hunted with many birds of prey, being especially fond of Northern Goshawks. He was happiest with a bird in hand, working the fields of Montana with his hunting partner, an English pointer named Gracie.

He and Joan enjoyed traveling, especially their trip to his ancestral home on the Isle of Skye and the UK with his sister and brother-in-law.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Joan; children, Kaitlin and Ian Macdonald; sister, Jocelyn (Mike) Barker; and brother, Angus Macdonald, all of Bozeman. Bob is preceded in death by his parents, Don and Peggy Macdonald.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, April 23 at 3 P.M. at the Dokken-Nelson chapel in Bozeman. Bob requested that remembrances be made in the form of contributions to the American Prairie Reserve.

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