Rocky (Ellis D) was born on September 24, 1929, in Corvallis, Montana to Richard Samuel and Ruth Adelaide (Moore) Rockafellow. On February 10, 2024, Dad was welcomed into the open arms of Jesus and loving arms of his wife, Petie.
Dad’s dad died when he was five and his mom got a job with the government to help with the war effort and support herself and two boys. She eventually had to move to Helena for her job. Dad lived with a few relatives but mostly with close friends - the Fields’. At an early age he delivered papers with his dog, Rex, and tried to contribute to the expenses of another mouth to feed. In high school he continued to deliver papers with his sidekick and worked a little for the newspaper in Hamilton. After graduation he attended a couple of quarters at the University of Montana. He found it much too difficult to hold a full-time job at the local tire shop and carry a full load of classes. So, in February 1949 he enlisted in the Navy, after being a member of the Navy Reserve in high school. He fondly referred to the Navy as registering for summer camp. He said many times, “It was good I got room and board. It saved my bacon. I’d have starved if I’d have had to chase my own rabbits.” He was honorably discharged in July 1951 and hopped in his ‘42 Mercury, 5 passenger coupe and took off from Maryland headed for the blue skies of Montana - home. He worked the summer for the Forest Service, then at the Smelter in East Helena.
After a few months he got a job as an apprentice lineman for Mountain Bell. He was on a 4-man line crew working construction on the high line and then the Bitterroot Valley, in St. Regis. He regularly reminded us that he climbed every 4th pole from there to the Idaho border. His crew worked out of Bozeman where a blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty worked as an operator for the phone company. She caught his eye, and the love story began. He married Petie (Teresa) Kathleen Koerber on June 30, 1956. They discussed having a family and decided it was not for them. But the babies came anyway - seven of them over 17 years. Joe (Michelle) of Livingston, son Dave (Rachel) of Bozeman, daughter Ruth Shellenberg (Jeff) of Bozeman, son Darrin (Dina) of Livingston, daughter Diane Coffman (Lynn) of Livingston, son Bob (Dalonda) of Livingston, daughter Suzy (Karen) of Madison, WI. He is also survived by his 15 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. He retired from Mountain Bell—Us West after a 33-year career in 1985. But he turned right around and opened his own business, Rocky’s Telecom. He retired permanently in 1992.
Dad had a 1972 Winnebago and a boat. He washed and waxed his motor home and set his sights for Canyon Ferry. He and mom spent many summers on the lake with family and met new friends as well. Fishing and water sports were on the agenda, and NO ONE was a stranger up there. Dad was a lover of the mountains, nature and the animals that lived there. Many days of his youth he tied his own flies, fished, and hiked in the Bitterroot—Blodgett Canyon. He enjoyed many overnight trips with his boys, hunting to put food on our table so yes, he was a brave and courageous man as well—wink wink. He was also an avid walker - 5 miles a day, 6 days a week. Woodworking turned out to be a great hobby. He built an addition to his garage, and it became his woodshop. He turned out many beautiful pieces that he generously shared with his family. He put a TV and a furnace out there, so it turned out to be quite a cozy spot.
Dad had a collection of books. History was a passion for dad, especially Montana history and anything related to Lewis and Clark. He studied his history books with vigor and enthusiasm until his macular degeneration made it impossible to read. He listened to his favorite music channels on tv along with his prized RFD programs on Friday and Saturday. He enjoyed a wide variety of music and was eclectic in his choices. Seems as if music had filled gaps in his life and he took great comfort in it. He listened to the commentary on the rodeo channel and enjoyed keeping up with the cowboys he liked.
He was preceded in death by his dad and mom, a brother, Howard Douglas (Dick), and great granddaughter, Virginia and his loving wife, Petie who passed nearly 3 years ago, preparing a special place for him. To know our dad is to remember his robust laugh and ‘rocky’ gravelly voice. Look at all the people breathing air because of you Dad. His parting words to us were always, “Be careful, there’s a lot of nuts out there.”
A memorial service is planned for February 15, 2024, at 1:00 PM at the Christian Center, 1400 Mount Baldy Dr, Livingston. If so desired charities can be made to the Salvation Army.