Bruce Lincoln Trew Watkins, 71, died of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Saturday Nov. 10, 2007, at his property on the Smith River.
Viewing was from Wednesday through 2 p. m. today at Croxford and Sons in Great Falls. The funeral service will be at the Great Falls Heritage Inn at 4 p.m. on Friday, reception following. Bruce was born Feb. 12, 1936, to Clara and Harry Watkins of Sweetgrass, the youngest of seven children He spent his childhood years in Sweetgrass, Great Falls, and in Havre, where he graduated from high school. While working as a brakeman for the Great Northern Railroad, he attended one year at Northern Montana College, then obtained his bachelor’s degree in business at the University of Montana. His first flying lesson was in Shelby, and he followed that passion by first getting his fixed wing and then helicopter license through the Army National Guard. He received his instructor license and in Texas trained helicopter pilots for Vietnam. Later his love of flying led him to be instrumental in the first air ambulance service for Great Falls. Bruce married Ardelle Iverson in 1964, and they purchased Gusto Distributing in 1965. Under their leadership, the beverage wholesale company grew from a small enterprise to its present size of 76 employees and a territory that covers one fourth of the state. Bruce was recently honored with both the prestigious Miller Legends and Miller High Life Achievement awards. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother Stanley. Bruce is survived by his wife Ardelle, children Len and LeeAnne, grandchildren Madison and Shyam. Also survived by brothers Wilber (Bunts), Ted, Gwynn, and Wallace, and sister Rosemary Teel. Memorials requested to the ALS Association of Minnesota (www.alsmn.org); the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation (PO Box 3046, Great Falls MT, 59403); and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (1895 Laurel Avenue, St Paul MN 55104).