Robin Gail Hensley Blazer, child of God, beloved mother and wife, daughter, sister, businesswoman, cousin and friend to hundreds, passed away peacefully at home, early in the morning of January 27th.
Setting aside Robin’s striking physical beauty, this woman was as adept as the Madison River in slowly and decisively changing her environment for the better.
Born the third of four children on a working farm in the Crow Creek Valley of Broadwater County, Montana to Robert and Susan Hensley, Robin’s curly toe-head never once lagged behind her older sisters’ long steps. In very short order, she was making strides of her own, surpassing all of us. A proud Townsend Bulldog, Robin set an example as a leader in cheerleading, band, National Honor Society, cross-country, track, and speech and debate.
Upon graduation from high school in 1994, Robin knew she wasn’t quite ready to leave the nest and surprised us all by taking a pause for six months before starting college. This thoughtful and deliberate approach to big life changes would continue to serve her throughout her life.
Robin attended the University of Montana in Missoula where her corkscrew curls traveled around the campus as co-director of the UM Advocates. While studying English literature and philosophy, Robin met her future husband, a red-headed forestry student and Grizzly lineman named Willie. One of their first “dates” was ice fishing with her dad. They would travel as a team around the country, marrying in December of 2000. Twin Falls, ID; FT Bragg, NC; and Washington were all stops before settling for a few years in the Bitterroot Valley while Willie was away for extended periods serving his country as a Special Forces Medic, government security contractor, Hot Shot and Smokejumper. Robin and Willie completely remodeled their Stevensville home, transforming it into a welcoming nest with gardens, dogs, and bright airy rooms.
Robin and Willie had two daughters - Josey Fern, and 16 months later, Ruby Willow. For as strong and no-nonsense as Robin was, never once did she pass up an opportunity to kneel down and delight in the tiny marvels of this world with her girls. In January of 2007, this family of four along with their hound dog Boone settled in the town of Ennis for its access to Montana’s open spaces, mountains and rivers, and a rural community with a strong work ethic and no limit to it’s generosity and support.
It was in these first years in Ennis that Robin’s true tenacity and resolve became apparent as she and Willie raised their two remarkable daughters, built their Lower Ennis Proper home, and kept finding ways to slowly and decisively change this community forever. Working with Madison County’s Economic Development Council, Robin brought the trout-themed Fish Out of Water art installations you still see around Madison County, as well as the Madison Marathon. Today, ask any serious runner in the Rocky Mountain West about the race, the highest road marathon in the United States, and they’ll tell you that it is one of the most challenging, rewarding, and scenic races in existence. Thank you, Robin.
It was the passion project of Willie’s Distillery where Robin’s dogged persistence truly shone. Every day, every evening, for years, Robin researched the industry, the feasibility studies, the business strategies. Marketing, production, social media, distribution – no stone was left unturned. When she and Willie finally opened their doors in 2012, with her family’s revised cattle brand as the logo, she’d anticipated hundreds of different scenarios, and was ready with a plan for each one of them. She would be the first to tell you that not all plans were successful, but as she was fond of saying, “You cannot wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” Suffice it to say that Robin didn’t wring her hands.
Robin was a certified personal trainer, owned her own gym, a CrossFit instructor, and showed up for herself on the trail or at the gym without fail. Her local CrossFit box will attest that even with a chemotherapy pack attached to her body actively infusing her, she would tie her shoes at the 6:30 am class three days per week. If you happened to be a guest at her house, no excuse could keep you from attending with her.
Robin was honored to be selected as one of the Top Twenty under Forty by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle Business Journal. When addressing the audience at the award ceremony, she repeated a favorite quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Robin chose her company carefully.
In her precious free time, you could find Robin on a quest with her family, friends, and dirty dogs - on top of a mountain, camping, or on a lake while reading a book. A true travel bug, she loved nothing more than adventuring around the world.
We could fill libraries of books with her witticisms, wisdom, inspiration, and example. Words aren’t sufficient to describe the glow she brought to any situation. Robin didn’t walk through this world to make people comfortable. That is your own responsibility. She would tell you the truth, speak up with praise, and give feedback in private. She also had absolute confidence in the brilliance of her daughters and their peers. “I want my girls to grow up and know they can do utterly anything they set out to do. The future leadership of the world critically depends on young people knowing how to organize their passions and how to take action in a way that makes an impact.”
Robin is survived by her husband Willie, daughters Josey and Ruby, her mother Susan Hensley, her siblings, Carol Larson (Lonnie), Jennifer Hensley, and Thomas Hensley (Kaila Tamcke), numerous beloved nieces and nephews, and a tight-knit extended family. She is preceded in death by her father, Robert Hensley, and her grandparents, Helen and Woodrow Hensley and Lillian and Philip Duncan. A celebration of her remarkable but too-short life will be held for friends, family, and community on Saturday, February 5th, at noon at the Ennis High School. A meal and reception will follow; locals may bring a side or dessert to share. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Robin Hensley Blazer Memorial Fund at Madison Valley Bank of Ennis, MT. We will never stop missing her, and she will always be with us.