Obituary: William (Bill) Hartsog

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Posted at 11:20 AM, Mar 06, 2023

William (Bill) Hartsog passed away peacefully on February 27, 2023.

Bill was born on October 18, 1940, in the same log cabin as his mother deep in the mountains of North Carolina. His father and mother moved the family to Wilmington, Delaware when Bill was a year old, and it was there that he grew up. Whenever asked where he was from, he was quick to say he was from the mountains of North Carolina, not Delaware.

Bill lived a full life, leaving behind his wife of 42 years (Carolyn), four children and their spouses: Heidi (David), Michael (Stephanie), Scott (Jen), and John (Hannah). He and Carolyn were blessed with seven grandchildren, Branton, Taylor, Tristen, Reilly, Carter, Jillian, and Logan. He is also survived by his sister, Theresa (Mike); brother, Rick; brother-in-law, David, and numerous nephews and cousins.

Bill was always the adventurer from the time he was old enough to ride a bike to the swimming pool or to later hitchhike with his best friends all over Delaware to fish in any pond that had bass. Bill and his best friend, Richard, went to Maine and each bought a brand-new wood and canvas Old Town canoe and spent hours fishing the Brandywine River and Trussum’s Pond.

Bill’s ability to learn, repair, build and problem solve were his gifts. He always seemed to come up with a great idea to solve any problem or fix anything. Perhaps his wildest idea was to use the top of a rag-top convertible for a sail when he and his friends ran out of gas so they could get a little further down the road. In 1975 at the age of 35 he started building his beautiful post and beam Montana home in Bozeman, completing it in 1979. Architecture students from MSU would visit often to watch the progress, as it was one of the first post and beam homes in the valley. If a neighbor needed help with anything, Bill never turned down the opportunity to help.

Bill graduated from the University of Delaware in Civil Engineering, earned his master’s degree at Montana State University while working as a Forest Service research engineer, and then earned his PhD while teaching at Montana State University. His areas of study were soil mechanics & foundations and water resources. He was a proficient writer, publishing numerous research studies for the US Forest Service. He was voted Professor of the Year by his students several times, as he always had an open-door policy rather than office hours for his students and encouraged them to call him at home any time if they needed anything. He was a good listener. If he felt a student wasn’t cut out to be an engineer, he would tell them. He truly loved his students and wanted them to succeed at whatever they tried.

After graduating from high school, he worked for Chrysler on the assembly line installing seat covers, giving him hands that could squeeze a bathroom scale to 200 pounds. Dupont was his next stop, working with a group of engineers who saw more potential in Bill, one offering to help pay his tuition if he would study Engineering at the University of Delaware. Despite his father’s disapproval of leaving a “good job with Dupont,” Bill left Dupont and graduated from UD. During this period in his life, he married Ruth Ann, and they had a daughter, Heidi. The three of them left Delaware after Bill graduated and never looked back. After coming to Bozeman, their little family added an 8-week-old black lab named Dixie. Bill never tired of telling stories about Dixie and how smart she was. She was a special part of Bill’s life for 14 years.

Bill’s Forest Service career took him to Cedar City, Utah, Bozeman, Montana and Juneau, Alaska. He worked for Texaco in Houston and was a professor of Engineering at Montana State University. He finally retired after owning his own company and working at the Yellowstone Club and at the mines in Colstrip.

He loved fishing, road biking, basketball, camping and riding his Harley. He loved to travel to southern Utah and Alaska more than any place else, but he also loved the beauty and warmth of Hawaii. He enjoyed being with the kids and grandkids every chance he got and teased them all unmercifully. His wife, Carolyn, was his constant companion after they married in 1980. Bill welcomed Carolyn’s two sons, Mike and Scott, into his life, and then they had a son together, John, in 1982.

Bill and Carolyn remodeled three houses together, and in true Bill Hartsog fashion, he taught Carolyn how to use every hand and power tool he had. He had two, three, or four of every tool Craftsman and DeWalt ever made. Perhaps his favorite “thing” was Old Blue, his ’63 Ford pickup with a stock rack for the horse he once owned. He drove it to work at MSU and would often find notes under the wiper blade with a name and phone number of someone who wanted to buy it. He never sold it.

Bill will be missed by his family and so many friends. The Springs of Bozeman Memory Care community and Stillwater Hospice cared for Bill with the most love, compassion, and respect a family could ask for. Sonny Therapy spent hours with Bill working on his body and mind. The family is forever grateful to all of them: the caregivers, nurses, social workers, pastor, therapists, and the administrative, housekeeping, life enrichment, and food service staff. You all made our family’s journey through this difficult period so much easier, while also enriching our lives.

A celebration of Bill’s life will be held this summer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to Stillwater Hospice of Montana or the Montana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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