Robert Oliver Luoma, 89, passed away in his home on Monday afternoon, April 12, 2021, surrounded by his wife, Barbara, and children.
Bob was born to Finnish immigrants, Samuel and Fannie Luoma, in the small mining community of Sand Coulee, Montana, on July 29,1931. The youngest of 14 children, he learned hard work and commitment to family at a young age. He dedicated any spare time to playing sports, which became his life’s passion. Bob graduated from Centerville High School, then headed to the University of Montana where he played guard for the Grizzlies from 1949 to 1953 and was a member of Army ROTC. Upon graduating, Bob enrolled in the officer training program in Fort Benning, Georgia. He became a First Lieutenant and was deployed to Germany in 1954.
Following his honorable discharge, Bob temporarily went to work for his brother-in-law at Kernaghan’s Service Station in Great Falls, Montana. While repairing a roof, he admired a beautiful young woman mowing her lawn in a neighboring yard. In 1956 he married that woman, Barbara Joyce Petrini, with whom he would enjoy 64 years of marriage. Although he was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis that same year, at the age of 25, his courage, resilience and tenacity of spirit–in a Finnish word, Sisu–never allowed him to yield to discomfort or disability.
In 1958 Bob began his career as teacher and coach in Sidney, Montana. A year later, he accepted his first head coaching position in Denton, Montana. By 1963, Bob and Barb had added three children to their family, Janis, Bruce and Darryl. Bob’s coaching career continued in Great Falls. Never one to sit idle, during summer vacations from teaching, Bob would join the large Luoma-Takala clan during haying season, and also earned his Master’s Degree at Western Montana University in Dillon. Through those years, many summer weekends were reserved for his family and fishing on the streams of Montana, a pastime he enjoyed throughout his life.
In 1968, Bob became head basketball coach at Sentinel High School in Missoula, the joy of his career. There he led teams to success for 19 years, playing in 7 state title games and winning back-to-back championships in 1972 and 1973 and a third in 1986. He was elected Montana Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year in each of those three championship years. Bob loved the game, he loved to compete but, mostly, he loved working with kids. He devoted countless hours to open gyms and summer camps to give kids a place to play ball. He maintained many of those relationships with former players and coaches throughout his life. Bob served a term as President of the Montana Coaches Association. In 1982 he was inducted into the initial class of the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame.
Even after his retirement, when Bob and Barb relocated to the Bitterroot Valley, Bob volunteered as mentor to the coaching staff at Stevensville High School for 16 years, just to continue his relationship with young athletes and coaches. The titles he cherished most, however, were those of husband and father. Through their retirement years, Bob and Barb enjoyed camping,fishing, gardening and landscaping their Bitterroot property, handicapping horses and traveling the U.S. to spend time with their children and grandchildren. Bob was a 20-year member of the Corvallis United Methodist Church.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers and sisters.
Survivors include his daughter Janis Jones (Kenneth), North Haven, Maine; son Bruce (Pam), Lolo; son Darryl (Cindy), Houston, Texas. Grandchildren Kelsey Jones, Dr. Natalie Cheung-Jones, Charlie Jones, Nathan Luoma, Chris Luoma, John Luoma, Meagan Luoma, Isaac Luoma, Mikaela Luoma and Nicholas Luoma; nine great-grandchildren and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
Bob’s family is deeply grateful to Home Health Care of Montana and Marcus Daily Hospice for the kind care they provided, allowing Bob to remain comfortably in his home.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Corvallis United Methodist Church Memorial Fund at CUMC, P.O. Box 37, Corvallis, MT 59828, or the fund of your choice in Bob’s honor.
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