Cover photo for Robert Bruce Stone's Obituary
Robert Bruce Stone Profile Photo
1937 Robert 2024

Robert Bruce Stone

March 3, 1937 — March 15, 2024

Detroit Lakes

I was kind of terrified upon receiving this assignment from my sister and had no idea what to write but needed to pitch in to help at a time like this. I believe my dad would have liked his/this obituary. Hopefully, this can put a smile on your face or spark a happy memory of Bruce. Thanks to Michael T. and Fox for providing some inspiration and clarity. My apologies to Chuck at West-Kjos because you took some time to provide instructions on how to write an obituary and I pretty much ignored your work. I think it is a genetic disorder. For the record, this is non-fiction and written by Pete if you are curious who is responsible for all of this. Here it goes…

On March 15, 2024, Robert Bruce Stone was laid to rest and welcomed into the mansions of the Lord after what turned out to be an onerous battle with Parkinson’s Disease along with other ailments. Bruce was beloved by his family and many friends. (If you don’t have a current health directive Bruce’s last days have made clear, at least to me, why they are necessary. I’m totally serious).


Some may know over the last many years Bruce’s short-term memory at times was sub-optimal, to say the least, so you may have had the experience of having the same conversation a few times with him. I guess if you couldn’t think of something to say you could wait a minute and just say the same thing again. Many knew that Bruce liked to laugh, tease, and have fun. His memories of all things past were vivid to the end.


Bruce was the first of two sons born to Maurice “Morrie” and Eunice Stone in Fort Dodge, Iowa March 3, 1937. Later, around 1948, the family moved to Moorhead, Minnesota where Morrie started a farm and fleet store called A&T Supply. That name was chosen so it would appear in the front of the phone book (Google would not be invented for another 50 years!).


While in the fourth grade, Bruce sold newspapers and saved his money, becoming the proud owner of a used one-and-one-half horsepower one-lunger Doodlebug scooter. He became the envy of the neighborhood as he occasionally rode it to school. With a chuckle, he told us the Doodlebug was almost fast enough to catch his friends running on foot. The Doodlebug was an accomplishment because a new one was over one hundred dollars and teenagers back then only made like thirty cents per hour.


Bruce graduated from Moorhead High School, where he played football. He was also a member of the Civil Air Patrol, and at the age of 18 was able to travel to Greece because he would eat whatever food that was served, who knew?


Bruce attended Concordia College in 1955 and then later transferred to North Dakota University of Agriculture and Applied Science, which he affectionately called Moo-U. The transfer added a year to his collegiate career, making Bruce one of the first students to take five years to graduate from a four-year program. The five-year plan is kind of thing these days, making him sort of a pioneer? Prior to Bruce’s graduation in 1960, the state legislature had voted by a 2-1 margin to change the name to North Dakota State University (NDSU). He still often, with a chuckle, called his Alma mater Moo-U. In 1960 he graduated a year behind schedule with his business degree and was in the very first graduating class from NDSU. Planned? Probably not. Perhaps the reason he referred to NDSU as Moo-U was the cow barns that may have once been located near the dorms. If you know for sure you could let us know. Later, his daughter Cheryl and granddaughter Sidney would go on to graduate from Moo-U too in 1985 and 2020 respectively, where both met their husband and future husband.


Fond memories were made during Bruce’s time as a member of the “Happy Hooligans” fighter wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard where he was not a pilot. He snapped photos but did fly in some of the aircraft. In addition to being a hooligan, Bruce was a member of the “Happy Hooligans” for eight memorable years, ending his service in 1963. During the big tornado of 1957, Bruce was famously shown in all the national newspapers in his military uniform and helmet keeping the peace during the aftermath of the tornado. Perhaps he was moving debris from the road instead. Later, Bruce would earn his private pilot certificate and fly to Canada, Mexico, and all points between. Speaking of flying, there were two forced landings which he said were really “controlled crashes”, once in Fargo in an Aero Commander when the right landing gear would not go down his sons Peter and David were along and made the newspapers. The other “crash” happened in a Piper Arrow III when the engine “conked out” just off runway 31 in Detroit Lakes where he landed on Highway 10, this also made the newspaper. Many times, with a chuckle he would say there are two kinds of pilots, those who have crashed and those who will. He had a lifelong fascination with aviation. Bruce was also on the Detroit Lakes Airport Commission. As a hooligan and a “Happy Hooligan”, Bruce wore his Happy Hooligans cap until his second to last day on this earth.


While Bruce attended Concordia College, so did Jené. But he had no idea who she was then, even though he went to school there. So how did they meet? While attending Moo-U, Bruce and a Fargo friend he knew, named Bob, were apparently driving around late at night, cruisin’ for chicks. The pair happened upon two girls in front of St. Luke’s Hospital at that late hour. Turns out Bruce’s friend Bob knew one of the chicks, who turned out to be Jené Shaw. You would think this may have started the romance, but it did not, as the girls were dropped off and Bruce didn’t call on Jené. Remember that deal about the tornado in June of 1957? Turns out Bruce was stationed on the corner of 4th street in Fargo, where Jené lived with her parents Harold and Vi. While protecting the neighborhood in the aftermath of the tornado, Bruce began to call on Jené. While Bruce was at Moo-U, he would “cross the river” to see Jené on dates. Oddly, they both grew up “across the river” from each other since Jené was from Fargo. Early on Bruce and Jené were sometimes requested to watch after Bruce’s younger brother Roger, who was 7 years junior to Bruce, to keep him from eating two dozen chocolate chip cookies for dinner. Eventually, Bruce’s individual charm, independence, personal perseverance, and good looks won her over and they married June 19, 1959, in Fargo, ND.


For a short time, he was employed with Gould National Battery and traveled away from home some nights. Eventually, he and his family moved to Detroit Lakes, MN. Bruce would occasionally ride along in an ambulance for a time early on in Detroit Lakes and had many stories from this experience. Most people knew Bruce from owning and operating A&T Supply for 40 years. A&T Supply had stores in Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, Miles City, Jamestown, and Litchfield. Bruce, alongside his father and brother, owned and operated A&T Supply and A.F.T. Associates, selling private-label batteries, private-label oil, and distributing products to 44 other member stores across seven states.


Some may have known Bruce was Becker County Sheriff Special Deputy because he may have on a few occasions flashed his badge. Meanwhile, we assume he was a duly sworn deputy, probably by some power vested in the sheriff from the back in the 1850s. Nonetheless, he had many memorable adventures with the Sheriff. Sometimes, unbeknownst to Bruce, the Sheriff told the perp that Bruce was the “heavy”, or this guy here is gonna kick your #*s (arse). During this time as a “special deputy”, somehow, a live pig made it into the Sheriff’s locked office one night. It turns out that the Sheriff and Bruce had something in common, they both crashed airplanes.


Detroit Lakes School Board was graced with Bruce’s presence as a member two times. He may have been the one that was a pain in the arse, as he often wanted to rein in the spending. He made long-time friendships there as well, and of course, took those friends fishing to Pipette. Many times.


Bruce was a member of the Masonic Lodge and Shrine Club in Detroit Lakes and made many friends there as well. Bruce played the bass drum when the Shriners marched in parades. After parades, it was customary to have a “get-together” after the parade. At one of these “get-togethers”, a Brand new Ramcharger somehow ended up in Long Lake. Bruce and several of his long-time Shrine buddies spent 4 or 5 evenings crumpling up newspapers into small balls and filling the newspaper publisher’s bedroom from wall to wall and up to the ceiling with them while he was on vacation.


In retirement, Bruce and Jené had the opportunity to travel to places both far and wide, where he always made friends along the way. While spending winters as a snowbird in Florida, he worked as a porter at the Marriott on Marco Island and met lots of people including Jon McEnroe who was “not a nice person”. He once picked up a nameless NHL referee who had flown to Fort Meyers after a Minnesota Wild game the night before. Bruce knew his granddaughters Sidney & Jewel attended that very game and he got the game puck for them from the referee. In his Florida days, he also sold shrimp at the bait shop part-time, possibly for the knowledge of where the fish were and discounts on shrimp. Summers were spent fishing, cutting grass for the parks department, and in fall hauling sugar beets for the Zurn Brothers Farms of Callaway. Bruce used his skills and walked away yet again from another crash; this time it was a tri-axel Mack truck full of sugar beets.


Other than being a husband, father, and especially grandfather, Bruce’s main occupation over the last eight decades was really hunting and fishing. Those activities were passed down by his father Morrie, who took Bruce and Roger hunting, but mostly fishing, as children and adults. They fished from the arctic Canadian lakes to Florida, and Bruce went on to hunt and fish everywhere from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. The Stone men and friends also fished the Arctic Circle on Mosquito Lake, where 40+ pound lake trout were caught that only grew about ¼ pound a year because of the cold water.


Bruce had an extensive collection of fishing gear, including every fresh-water lure ever made. Despite having such an impressive tackle collection, he almost exclusively used homemade Lindy rigs: simply a minnow on a hook, swivel, and slip sinker. Most certainly, there must be at least a thousand of these rigs at the bottom of Big Detroit Lake and Pipette Lake near Perrault Falls, Ontario, Canada.
Countless trips were made to his happy place, Pipette Lake, over the last 50+ years to catch Walleyes with his family, friends, and whoever else was available to join. There was also an opening day crew that gathered at Pipette every year in May, often with very elaborate dinners. Each year, a different member had to plan and execute the dinner. One dinner made mention of was a seven-course formal affair including linens and candelabras, prepared by a radiologist friend who was referred to (again with a chuckle) as a guy who “fixed radios”.
Those who made trips with Bruce to Pipette, with or without him, were always given tasks to complete, from adding on to the cabin to hauling out garbage. This was how rent was paid. Two of his buddies who often accompanied Bruce to Pipette were given the task of taking the old stove out to the dump in Ear Falls. If you have ever been to Pipette you know about the steep embankment you need to conquer to ingress or egress the river that takes you across the lake to reach the cabin. If you were assigned the task of disposing of the stove (whose name was “Harwick”), you would be faced with moving something very heavy, as they made stoves out of genuine steel back then. It’s hard to say how old Harwick was (this is also kind of Harwick’s obit, by the way). Nobody with a brain would want to lug Harwick up the steep hill, so the duo assigned to deal with Harwick went around the corner and buried Harwick in the middle of the lake where Bruce could not see them do it. Upon learning of their ingenuity, Bruce got extremely mad, and of course, his eyes bulged out to the maximum. He was upset because he thought the DNR would find out, order it removed, and assess a big fat fine too. After all, the DNR could figure out if you dumped fish entrails into the lake. On top of that, the water in Pipette is usually so clear that Harwick could be seen in his watery grave from the air if you knew where to look, even though his grave is quite deep. The other giveaway to the location of Harwick’s unmarked grave was the oil slick that rose to the surface of the lake (lots of grease from years of frying bacon and frying fish, right?). It was difficult to recall Harwick’s name at first, given the number of years since his burial. Michael T (who fished with Bruce for decades at Pipette), was contacted, as we knew Mike had fond memories of Harwick and would remind us of his name. Thanks, Mike.
Weeks went by, and another group arrived, some of whom may have been responsible for Harwick’s burial and were assigned a similar task. The task was to dispose of a nameless, non-functioning propane refrigerator at the dump in Ear Falls. We assume a lecture, discussion, or a direct order was given not to repeat Harwick’s burial for the same reason: Bruce’s concern with the DNR who are fanatical about their jobs. Well, the same strategy was used to dispose of the unnamed refrigerator. Only, there was a problem this time. Despite adding weight to bury the nameless refrigerator alongside Harwick in his watery grave, it would not sink to the bottom. Unfortunately, the manufacturer of the nameless refrigerator used cork to insulate the box, so it simply floated to the top. So, the refrigerator had to be towed back to the cabin and was actually hauled to the dump in Ear Falls as instructed.


After Bruce and some of his cohorts mostly stopped hunting, they formed the S'more Brothers. This group would make stops, seeking s'more beer and s'more snacks, going from deer camp to deer camp. Stops were made at multiple camps, strategically ending at a pre-determined camp. Most of the camps were empty during the day as the hunters were out hunting. The S'more Brothers stopped to “inspect the camp” and to ask how the hunting was going. They ate what they found, drank their beverages (even if it was the last beer), and left a note reprimanding the hunting party for not providing proper hospitality. Usually, the note was written on whatever they could find since they were at a deer camp which were usually quite “rustic”… think tents or a crappy little trailer. The paper was usually provided by three-fourths of the side of a full shopping bag of snacks, rendering the bag useless. You may recall the S'mores Brothers trip ended at a strategic place. The S'more Brothers expected dinner and always stopped at the “Gucci Camp” where fine “vittles” were prepared. Members of the Gucci Camp normally didn’t buy hunting licenses. They simply put on their blaze orange, took a rifle, and left for the weekend to have fun at the camp, rather than hunt for deer. Good lord, if you made a mistake and shot one you would have to clean it, drag it out, and then process it. That my friend, is work. If someone had the unmitigated gall to shoot a deer, it was only good if it cost more than $200.00 per pound. Any fish or game was only good if it worked out to cost more than a few hundred a pound. According to Bruce, that made it “tasty”.


You may be wondering after reading this novella if Bruce had time for his family. He did. There was skiing to be done, snowmobiles to be ridden, kids who must learn the skill of water skiing, sailboats to be swamped or sunk, or somewhere to fly for pizza or cheeseburgers. There was hunting to be done in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and even Mexico. Now, how many kids get to do that?


Bruce flew Cheryl and her friends to summer camp in Rapid City, as it was faster than driving. Bruce also flew to Mazatlán Mexico with Jené, Peter, and David which was a great adventure. How else are you going to see a genuine tarantula walking across the tarmac? And, while skiing with Geof, age 7, at Sugar Hills, Geof broke his leg while using the rope tow. Bruce and Jené didn’t realize right away that their first son had a broken leg until hours later when Geof was in the swimming pool. Apparently, Bruce didn’t learn much from riding along with the ambulance drivers.
During hockey games, or anything else for that matter, if something was described as “close” like a shot on net or whatever he would say “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”. Anyone who knew Bruce could tell when he was mad, since both his eyes would bug out at you. Cheryl explained she was able to see this many times for various reasons, especially if you were late for dinner (surely after the Harwick incident he bugged out his eyes). Dinner was always on time, even at Pipette where you would think close enough was fine. Close enough was definitely not fine. We suspect this was because he was hungry by dinnertime and had probably planned out the meal hours and days ahead. When he was hungry, he would say “I’m hungry enough to eat the southbound end of a northbound mule”. Lesson learned, don’t be late for dinner or you get bulging eyes, no matter if you were family, fishing family, or a friend. Bruce was an equal-opportunity bulgy-eye guy. There was one time when the twins had a spray paint fight when they were very little, and Bruce may have bugged some eyeballs there too. Once, Bruce brought a golden retriever home under the guise that “Rocky Stone” was for the kids. This was only partially true. Jené was not pleased, but secretly liked the dog.


Grandpa Bruce occasionally *may* have largely ignored his sons, daughter, and daughters-in-law's wishes when it came to his grandchildren, whom he loved dearly. What is a grandfather for anyway? He bought them fireworks (somebody must lead the way, right?), candy, and some got beers for their high school senior spring break trip at a beachfront Florida restaurant. There was also a 50-round banana clip fitting a .22 rifle. Subsequently, there was a lot of plinking of “stuff” because shooting is fun. Bruce also took his oldest grandchild on a cruise with Jené and had a wonderful time. Of course, if there was water nearby, there were fish to be caught with Grandpa, be it Sunfish or bottom lounging Walleyes. It is worth mentioning that to Bruce, the only freshwater fish worth catching were Walleyes, not hammer handles (Northern Pike), nor Rubber Bass (Bullheads)… good thing there aren’t any Rubber Bass in Pipette Lake. Many who fished with Bruce may have thought they snagged on the bottom of the lake until he would point out “your snag is moving”. All the grandchildren who were lucky enough to spend any amount of time with Bruce will have memories for the rest of their lives. That is pure gold.


Yes, Bruce had a pension for shenanigans right until the end. After Jené could no longer care for him, moved to a different room. This took some adjustment as he just wanted to be with Jené. So, to that end, some shenanigans of course ensued. It started with calls to 911 to get him out, which resulted in losing his telephone privileges. Bruce had ingenuity, so of course more attempts were made. When Bruce was not able to walk anymore, he needed a wheelchair to get around but was able to shuffle his feet just enough to move it. He was mobile, or in a sense, he was “hell on wheels”. Bruce was trying to set off the fire extinguisher in the building to get someone to wheel him out to get back to Jene’. Eventually the wheelchair was parked out of reach so he can’t use it without assistance. So, Bruce found an item within his reach to use as a lasso and was able to use his extensive casting experience from fishing to lasso the unlocked wheelchair.
Not long after the fire alarm incident, and still determined, the next attempt was made by reeling in his wheelchair as if it were a lunker Walleye. Bruce sort of succeeded in his next attempt by successfully setting off the fire extinguisher located next to his room in the hallway. This didn’t help him get out either. There was just an extensive mess to be cleaned. He also tried bribing his way out by offering cruises to some caregivers. Good thing he couldn’t access any funds. Eventually he adjusted and cracked jokes to his caregivers to the end.

Bruce was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, and his faith helped him cope with his last days. He is preceded in death by his father, Morrie Stone, his mother Eunice, and his brother Roger. He is survived by his wife Jené, son Geof (Gail) of Amboy, WA, daughter Cheryl Brust (Eric) of Chelsea, MI, son Peter (LoAnn) of Duluth, MN, son David (Rhonda) of Blaine, MN, his grandchildren, Courtney (Aaron), Tucker (Alexandra), Mika, Zane, Sidney (Rudy), Jewel, Laurel, Noah, Piper, great-grandchildren Easton and Skylar, and grand-dogs Hazel and Tron.

The family would like to thank everyone who helped Bruce along the way including his friends and brother Shriners who were there to the end. Thank you. Thank you for being his friend and helping when it was needed, from performing Harwick’s burial to driving Bruce to the doctor’s office, airport, or where needed. It truly means a lot, we all loved him. If it isn’t obvious by now, Bruce always had to be doing something. He really did love life and lived life to the fullest. Dona nobis pacem.

A visitation and memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 23, 2024, with visitation at 1 p.m. and service at 2 p.m. at West-Kjos funeral home, Detroit Lakes, MN.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Robert Bruce Stone, please visit our flower store.

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Visitation

Saturday, March 23, 2024

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Central time)

West Kjos Funeral Home Cremation Services

900 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes, MN 56501

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Memorial Service

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

West Kjos Funeral Home Cremation Services

900 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes, MN 56501

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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