Final resting place for Roger Clawson

roger clawson

Roger Clawson

From Sharie Pyke comes word of a fundraising effort to pay for a headstone for the grave of Roger Clawson, a longtime Billings Gazette reporter, columnist and editor and a columnist for the Billings Outpost for 15 years.

Clawson’s ashes were buried March 29 at Custer Cemetery in his hometown of Custer. Sharie was his longtime friend, partner and caretaker.

Ed and I were both great admirers of Roger’s prose and of his often contrarian take on life and humanity. When he died last year, each of us wrote an in memoriam column.

For the last couple of weeks I have been cleaning out old boxes of Billings Outpost files, and I occasionally run across copies of the paper. Since reading is much more pleasant than cleaning house, I frequently stop to read parts of those old papers.

Yesterday I ran across a Clawson column that appeared in the Oct. 25, 2000, issue. The piece was a characteristically counter-intuitive take on downtown renovations. “There’s no magic,” he wrote, “in opening a sushi parlor in a building that was once a bait shop.”

Clawson argued that “restorationists” were robbing downtown Billings of its character, or perhaps I should say characters. He mourned the passing of such figures as Calamity Jane, the original Billings character; a blind newsboy who sold papers from a stand at First Avenue North and 27th Street; a pencil vendor who lost both legs trying to hop a freight train during the Great Depression; downtown roller skater Kerry Brekke, whose “tutu was too much for a few”; and the Rev. Amos Mosely, whose Saturday night sermons on Minnesota Avenue were often accompanied by Billings’ original rock star, Chan Romero.

There was plenty in the column for me—and Outpost advertisers—to disagree with, but the fourth paragraph contained this gem of a sentence: “Restorationists transformed chili parlors, pawnshops and skidrow gin joints into glass and brass fern bars, knickknackeries, bric-a-brackeries, art galleries and boutiques.”

The man had an ear.

Sharie says that $110 has been raised toward a goal of $500 to purchase and install a headstone designed by Mike Turley, a Billings artist and stone carver. Donations can be made to the Sharie Pyke/headstone for Roger Clawson account at Altana Federal Credit Union.

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