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A tale of two Bobs, and a party for the ages

| August 16, 2020 1:00 AM

Bev Braig called me last week to ask about an article about her husband’s birthday that was published in the Inter Lake 40 years ago when her husband Bob turned 40. This was no regular birthday celebration in 1980. In fact, it was so unusual the Associated Press did a story that was published in newspapers throughout the state.

Bob turned 80 yesterday, and Bev wanted to do something special, since they haven’t been out much due to the pandemic and all. He’s probably still answering phone calls today because Bev placed a front-page ad in Saturday’s Inter Lake asking people to call him on his birthday, Aug. 15.

The escapades that ensued 40 years ago are worth reprising. I couldn’t track down the original AP story, but I found then-Inter Lake Managing Editor Dave Oliveria’s rendition of the event.

“The next time President Carter considers rescuing our hostages in Iran, I would urge strongly that he add Beverly Braig and Marsha Bragg to his list of strategy consultants,” Oliveria’s Aug. 31, 1980, column began.

Turns out there were two Bobs — Robert A. Braig, of Kalispell, and Robert B. Bragg, of Missoula. Both Bobs shared the same birthday, and they were the same age. Bob Braig was born three hours earlier than Bob Bragg, and confusion dogged the two in college, because both attended the University of Montana, took some of the same classes and dated some of the same girls, Oliveria explained.

The similarities followed them after college, too. Both accepted jobs with D.A. Davidson & Co. in Missoula, “where the Missoula Bob assumed the nickname of Ben for the good mental health of all in the office.” And the two looked alike, so much that the Missoula newspaper inadvertently ran the wrong Bob’s name with the other Bob’s photo.

Both Bobs shaped their careers with D.A. Davidson. Braig opened the Missoula office in 1965 and then opened the Kalispell office in 1974 before retiring from the company in 2004. He and Bev now live on the family farm near Whitefish, on Braig Road.

Bragg, sadly, was one of three Davidson executives who died in a 1994 corporate plane crash that also killed the pilot.

The great birthday extravaganza of 1980 started when Braig was escorted by Francis Bitney and Richie Ostrom to McDonald’s for a breakfast party on the first leg of the two wives’ “mission impossible.” In Missoula, Bob Bragg had agreed to take his son to the dentist, but during the trip was stopped by a policeman on a trumped-up traffic violation.

When Bragg went to pull out his license, it was gone, replaced with a note instructing the officer, “Please help me find my party.”

Over the next 13 hours, the two Bobs traveled by police car, bus, taxicab, bicycle, truck, helicopter, airplane, auto, stagecoach, rubber raft and motorboat in search of their party. Every twist and turn had been orchestrated by their clever and fun-loving wives.

“Amazingly, the two Bobs arrived at their party at the Double Arrow Ranch in Seeley Lake only 30 minutes late — a logistical phenomenon!” Oliveria exclaimed.

It seems Bev and Marsha knew their husbands’ curiosity and sense of humor would keep them going. And during that gathering at McDonald’s so long ago, Bev had announced her husband’s instructions to the group: “If you fail to follow directions exactly, we are not responsible for your whereabouts and the party will continue without you.”

Lucky for everyone, the tenacity of the two Bobs won the day, and it would be a birthday party for the ages.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.