After four years of military service during the Vietnam War, Robert Montague encountered, as many veterans did, the question of how to live the rest of his life.
The answer would take him to law school, to the Minneapolis law firm Robins Kaplan and to activism with Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
But his time in Vietnam would have a lasting impact. “Even though he didn’t speak about the Navy, he really was very proud that he had gone into the service,” said his wife, Tina Montague.
Montague died March 1 after a long bout with brain cancer. He was 73.
After returning from the military, Montague enrolled in law school back home at the University of Pittsburgh, where he became business editor of the school’s law review. Before long he had a blind date with a Chicago paralegal who was in town to help try an antitrust case, a date that colored in the rest of his story.
The encounter sparked his eventual 40-year marriage to Tina Montague, whom he described in a self-crafted obituary as his “best friend and incomparable caretaker” during his struggle with cancer.
Montague spent the bulk of his legal career practicing securities law and corporate finance at Robins Kaplan after moving the family to the Twin Cities in the mid-1980s and spent much of his career working for Best Buy. That meant a steady diet of late nights and long weekends proofreading corporate filings bound for the Securities and Exchange Commission. But Montague somehow made it stimulating, said Anne Rosenberg, a partner at Robins Kaplan and longtime colleague.
“It wasn’t that I always wanted to be a securities lawyer — I just wanted to work with Bob,” Rosenberg said. “He just made everything fun. It didn’t feel like work — as long as he was around it was enjoyable.”
Montague found an escape from the long hours by sneaking off to fly-fish rivers in Wisconsin, taking care not to refer to Tina’s family’s cottage as a “cabin” out of respect for the vernacular across state lines. After retiring in 2005 and splitting time between their Wayzata home and Amelia Island, Fla., the couple also became regular competitors at yearly tournaments for pétanque, a French version of bocce ball. “In 2014, we actually won our little division,” Tina Montague said.
From 1966 to 1970, Montague served as a lieutenant surface warfare officer and communications officer aboard the guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Chicago and was also a naval gunfire liaison officer for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Though he became an early member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Tina Montague said, her husband kept his memories of the war private. But during the 2004 presidential campaign, Montague helped lead Minnesota Veterans for Kerry to help campaign for the Democratic presidential nominee. “It was a natural inclination for myself and him and others to be involved in something like that,” said Jim Judson, a Minneapolis veteran who met Montague during the campaign.
Tina Montague said her husband’s private experiences were borne out by his bearing: “The service part of him was already there. He was very particular about anything that he found. Nothing askew and everything neat and in place.”
Montague concluded his obituary, which he began writing after his diagnosis, with a Naval hymn and requested that contributions in his memory be made to the Fisher House Foundation, a Maryland-based nonprofit that helps house families near loved ones who are hospitalized.
Montague is survived by his wife; daughter Kate Montague; son Robert T. Montague III, and a grandson. Services have been held.
Stephen Montemayor 612-673-1755