Remembering my Grizzly Neighbor, Boss and Friend

In college sports, there are few things more cherished than a strong, bitter rivalry. From Cat-Griz, to Ohio State-Michigan, to Auburn-Alabama, the rivalry game plays a role in bringing exposure to a program from people who otherwise wouldn’t care. Games are remembered fondly and bitterly, and often significant games and plays are given names to enhance the lore of the moment, such as “The Kick” and “The Streak” for Cat-Griz. Rivalries bring a sort of intensity unseen in any other game, but despite that, these games are meant to be enjoyed in good fun.

Sadly we can all recall that one Grizzly or Bobcat fan who went too far. Rivalry games are not immune from the whims of those who take their passion too far to cause actual tangible damage. A casual outsider might look at these instances and wonder if such games are worth it.

As a Bobcat fan who was born and raised during “The Streak,” I would definitely say yes, these games are worth it. While at a young age I would get the occasional pointed comment about my team, by and large the game was a way for me to bond with other fans who held a similar passion as I did, regardless of the side. This I think is best exemplified with my relationship with my former boss but eternal friend of anyone who met him, Robert Nordstrom.

Bob Nordstrom was born on May 25, 1943 in Chester, Montana. He was the only child of Bert and Anna Nordstrom, who held a hope that their son would one day run the family business “Roosevelt Service”, a gas station and car shop in Chester. After attending college at Northern Montana College (now MSU-Northern) and the University of Montana, he married his soulmate Barbara Anderson, in 1966. Afterwards he returned home and took over the family business, where he and his business became a town mainstay over the next 50 years.

Growing up, Mr. Nordstrom was always a friend. As a baby I knew him as the father of my babysitters. He and Barb had three daughters, at least one of whom changed a number of my diapers. I also knew him as the friendly gas station boss and neighbor. Whenever we stopped at his gas station he’d always give my brother and I free candy, which is something he did for all the children of customers. As a neighbor, he had these apple trees in his back yard that produced the smallest, sour apples you’d ever eat, but they were delicious and he didn’t mind if when walking by we picked one for the road.

As a college student I knew him as my boss. Coming into the summer 2011 I was in desperate need of employment. I called up Mr. Nordstrom, asked if he had an opening, and he accepted me on the spot. Easiest job interview ever.

Looking back I’m still surprised he hired me, mainly because I was the least qualified person for the job. I had very little experience with cars, and people who know me know I’m by no means mechanical. This did not faze him, as he and his fellow coworker Duane Aitken were more kind and patient with me than I deserved. I must have fixed and replaced hundreds of truck tires that summer, which was a big part of Roosevelt Service’s business and something I had never done, but he had faith in people, and that faith had an effect on those who knew him.

But this brings me to my main point; Mr. Nordstrom was a huge Grizzly fan. His red pickup with Grizzly plates may have been as synonymous with him as his business. More often than not whenever we talked football would inevitably be brought up, and a causal one minute conversation would turn into a spirited ten minute conversation. Then we’d laugh and he’d tell me to get back to work.

Cat-Griz was not insignificant in the role it played in our friendship. While anyone will tell you that Mr. Nordstrom could be friends with anyone, the intensity and importance of the rivalry gave us more than simple conversation. It was a way to bond, a common language. This is a truth that is not exclusive to us.

Last year I got a call that Mr. Nordstrom had passed away. I was shocked, even though I knew he was having medical problems, mainly because he had been such a constant part of my life and the lives of others in Chester.

This was four days before last year’s Cat Griz game. When the game finally came and the Griz built their insurmountable 34-0 lead, I couldn’t help but smile, because I knew that ol’ Mr. Nordstrom would have never let me hear the end of it. I could imagine him smiling and saying, “Boy, we got you good this year.” Then he’d give me a candy to cheer me up.

So here’s to you Mr. Nordstrom. While you and I probably would have been friends no matter what, I’ll always feel that Cat-Griz played a major part in friendship, and I’m thankful it was there to help solidify that. And hopefully, we’ll get you back this year.