Montana Man Still Teaching After Retirement

ABERDEEN, S.D. — Art Buntin retired from Northern State University 25 years ago.

But that doesn’t mean the 93-year-old stopped teaching history.

He’s still doing historical research and presenting at conferences.

Buntin was a longtime history professor at Northern — he got to Aberdeen in 1963 and never moved back to his hometown of Missoula, Mont.

“It’s a long ways back,” Buntin said to Aberdeen American News .

Missoula is a 13-hour drive, or about 875 miles away.

At the request of his daughters, Laurie and Julie, Buntin is working on a book about his time in the military during World War II.

“I call it the ‘Education of a Montana Teenager, 1940 to ’46’ or something like that,” Buntin said. “It’s based on my letters and things. Not my memory quite so much.”

He served in the U.S. Army for two years — the first domestically, the second in Germany at the end of the war.

Buntin returned to Missoula for his first two degrees — earning a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Montana, he said. He earned his doctorate at the University of Washington in Seattle.

He got married in Boise, Idaho, in 1962, to Elva “Dee” Burnett. She died in 2011.

When asked how he got to Aberdeen, Buntin replied, “We drove.”

While he still gives lectures and researches history, he said there was something special about teaching college.

“It’s refreshing to deal with young folks, even if you’re getting older,” Buntin said. “It helps keep you youthful.”

Most recently, he presented research about the local response to the 1918 Armistice at the December meeting of the Aberdeen Area Retired School Personnel.

It was a recycled presentation, he said. He first used it at a history conference in Rapid City earlier this fall.

“I got caught in a snowstorm and my car froze up,” Buntin said. “I had a hard time getting back.”

Now, he’s working on a paper about how the 1918-19 flu epidemic affected Brown County, he said. He’ll present it at the Dakota Conference in Sioux Falls in April at Augustana University.

“We had one person die on campus,” Buntin said of Northern. “There were hundreds of thousands that died all over the world.”

Much of his research comes from archived copies of local newspapers, he said. He heads to either the K.O. Lee Aberdeen Public Library or the Beulah Williams Library at Northern to find sources.

Buntin said he prefers microfiche and physical copies to digital archives.

“Even though I retired from my Northern position, I continued on with the landmark commission and my historic preservation activities until 2007,” Buntin said. “I’m still doing papers and things.”

Knowing he’s spent far more time on this Earth than he has left, Buntin has written his obituary.

“I listed all my talks — it’s an unusual thing, but that was my legacy in some respects,” he said.


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