He was a supervisor for Simkins-Hallin. He collected Harley-Davidson motorcycles and loved them so much he named his son Harley. He was as at home with a book in his hand as he was on the seat of that Harley.
Brant Gilbert, 49, died April 22 after a six-year fight with cancer.
Most Belgrade-ites probably knew him as “Rhonda’s husband,” as the two of them ran the Center Ice Cafe in town for almost six years.
Brant was born in Miles City, the descendant of a couple generations of eastern Montana folk who landed between there and Wolf Point.
He met his wife Rhonda through her brother Larry, and they took 13 years to get around to getting married. This marriage would last 14 years, until cancer decided to interrupt the partnership.
The two of them also owned Bubby’s Burger Barn across from Cenex on Jackrabbit.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Rhonda said. Her daughter quit a job to help run the cafe, but the how of running two locations without Brant is an unknown.
Six months ago, fate would finally give Brant something quite extraordinary. From Nashville, Derek Randall’s band was filming a video in the Gallatin Valley and needed a caterer; Rhonda got the job.
“They were doing the shoot at the Heritage Ranch on Love Lane,” she said. “They needed a caterer, and I got the job. Every night we’d sit down to big family-style dinners.”
Turns out, everybody really liked everybody.
“It was like we’d all known each other for years. Soon, a band member wrote a “father and son” song and flew Brant and son Harley to Nashville to film scenes for its hit song video, Monster.
“Brant attracted new friends with the power of his soul and the twinkle in his eye,” Rhonda wrote in his obit.
That video, with its Belgrade stars, is to be released on Father’s Day, June 20. Derek Randall’s band is scheduled to perform with other artists at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds on Aug. 15.
Brant owned three Harley-Davidsons, two Sportsters and a 1958 Ironhead Classic that belonged to his dad.
Both Brant and Rhonda have been known for their community volunteering.
“He had a thing, that each person needs to take care of each person,” Rhonda elaborated. “You never know when you’ll need it reciprocated. You can change one life by doing something for someone. Even a smile pays it forward. It’s what God wants from us.
“There’s so much anger in the world; we’re all brothers and sisters in the end.”
On May 16 – Brant’s 50th birthday – the Center Ice Cafe will hold a combination memorial service for him and a spaghetti feed fund-raiser for the cafe itself, from 5-8 p.m.
Brant was one of seven siblings in an extended and blended family. He is survived by his wife Rhonda, son Harley, daughter Katie Timmer and her wife Taysha; three grandchildren, Jensyn, Kyllian, and Wylder; aunt and uncle Dolly and Troy Ferris; siblings Jolynne Frie, Sheryl, Dawn, Holly, and Robin; and his “adopted” brother and sister-in-law Sean and Chelsea Wentz.
Brant was cremated and “called home to the Halls of Valhalla,” his obit said, in honor of his decades-long following of the Norse Folketro, or Norse religion considered to be the contemporary descendant of historical Norse paganism.
“We plan to have a real Viking funeral this summer,” she said. Services are pending.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Brant Gilbert Memorial Fund at First Security bank of Belgrade.
“People lost a truly bright light in the world,” Rhonda concluded. “We can be bolstered by the example he left behind, but in his honor we will continue to live a life of gratitude and to never quit amazing people.”