Richard “Dick” Best passed away on February 4th at his home on Flathead Lake at the age of 93. His battle with Covid-19 ended peacefully as he was surrounded by his loving wife and family. Dr. Best was considered by everyone who knew him as kind, compassionate, generous, and intelligent. He had a keen wit and a wonderful sense of humor. He remained true to his virtues, even as he knew his death was imminent; he was strong and at peace with his life and his love of God. He was concerned more about his family than himself. Richard’s death is preceded by his parents, Howard and Ruth Best, his daughter, Kathleen O’Farrell, and granddaughter, Elanna Markland. He leaves behind his wife Merylann, his daughters, Kimberly Cooney (Patrick Cooney), Cindy O’Dell, (Sean O’Dell) and Christine Markland (Ronald Markland), thirteen grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren who will all miss him dearly.
Richard or Doc, as his friends and family called him, or Papa as he was fondly referred to by his grandchildren, was remarkable in so many ways. He was born in South Dakota during the Depression and later grew up in Cranford, New Jersey. In April of 1945, he enlisted and served as Seaman 1st Class in the Navy during World War II. After the Navy, he received a track scholarship and started his college career attending Dartmouth College. After three years, in 1950 he graduated with honors as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Just before graduating, he met the love of his life, Merylann, on a blind date in Colorado. They were married in August, and this summer they celebrated 70 wonderful years together. Richard attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania where he studied thoracic and general surgery and became a member of the Fellow, American College of Surgeons.
Richard moved to Butte in 1959 and began his medical practice. He really was Dr. Best. Not only was he invested in his medical practice and his patients but he was involved in his community and served at the local level, as well as on an international level. He served as president of the St. James Community Hospital, and for 27 years he volunteered as the Butte High School football physician, as well as the physician for the Butte Rodeo Club. In the winters, he was active on the Beef Trail and Z Bar T Ski Patrol.
Richard’s patients were overwhelmingly sad when he retired from his practice to move to Flathead Lake where he lived his dream of growing the “best” cherries. His fruit stand was more than just a place to sell fruit; it was a place for him to meet and serve people and an opportunity for his family to work together. Even in his “retirement” Dick remained busy and loved to work outdoors. He volunteered during the summer in the Glacier Bible Camp kitchen, putting his slicing skills to use on the vegetables for the salad bar. Richard served on three missionary trips, once to Brazil and twice to Togo, Africa.
Dick especially enjoyed driving his Gator through the orchard down to the lake with his faithful golden retrievers riding in the back, stopping on the way home to pick one of juiciest peaches or plums. His legacy of farming lives on through the passion he inspired and the knowledge he shared, not just with his family and neighbors, but also through his service as president of the Flathead Cherry Growers Association. However, no one will ever grow a rose garden as beautiful as the one he grew for his true love.
Richard will be honored at a graveside service with military honors on Saturday February 13, 2021 at noon at the Bigfork Cemetery. A service will follow at the Bigfork Chapel Assembly of God. The family requests that in lieu of gifts or flowers, donations be made to Doctors Without Borders or the Gideon’s International Society.
Darlington Cremation and Burial Service is caring for the Best family.
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