Obituary: Insurance advocate Robert Provost, 86

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2011 - 10:30 PM

He earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in the Navy during World War II, had a longtime career in the insurance field and then stayed active in retirement.

Robert Provost, 86, a longtime insurance advocate and decorated naval aviator, died Sept. 16 in New Hope after a long illness.

Provost, of Golden Valley, was born in Keewatin, Minn., and graduated from Drummond (Wis.) High School in 1942. Too young to enlist in the military, he had an apprenticeship building Navy destroyers in Seattle. He later joined the Navy and after training was assigned overseas in October 1944. He flew more than 40 missions and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts during the invasion of Okinawa, said his son Paul, of St. Louis Park.

Robert Provost was hesitant to talk about his military service until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It seemed the importance of defending his country and his gratefulness to have the ability to serve were something he felt compelled to share at that time, his son said.

Provost remained active in the military, serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve until 1969 and retiring as a lieutenant commander.

He graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he was a member of the boxing team. He boxed in the lighter weight divisions and didn't win too many fights, his son said. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Provost married his wife, Mary, in the early 1950s.

He sold insurance in South Dakota but didn't like it, his son said. His time in that state started a passion for pheasant hunting, which he did with a group of friends for 40 years.

In Minnesota, Provost worked for the University of Minnesota's athletic department and helped develop the Williams Scholarship Fund.

He spent most of his working years with the Minnesota Insurance Information Center, which handled public relations for the insurance industry. He frequently lobbied at the Legislature and had a regular show about insurance issues on WCCO-AM radio. He also chaired the Consumer Information Task Force when the state's no-fault insurance law was implemented.

He retired in the early 1990s but was active in the downtown Rotary Club and the Golden Valley Historical Society.

"He was just a great citizen," his son said.

Provost enjoyed cooking holiday dinners and Sunday morning pancake breakfasts.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Mary. Besides his son Paul, he is survived by a daughter, Margaret Provost, of St. Louis Park and another son, Peter, of North St. Paul; three sisters, Patricia Carignan of Burnsville, Elizabeth O'Keefe of St. Paul and Gertrude Provost of Philadelphia, and a brother, Kenneth, of Ashland, Wis.

A private interment will be held at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. A celebration of his life will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Campus Club, 403 Coffman Memorial Union, 300 Washington Av. SE., Minneapolis.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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