Robert (Bob) Noble Stutsman “Bear Claws” passed away at age 72 on July 15 surrounded by his loving family. Bear was born on January 15, 1941 in Alton, Illinois. He was married twice; first to Dorothy Stutsman & then Sharon (Cowen) Stutsman. He is survived by Sharon, his wife of 45 years, his three sons (Matt Stutsman of Carson City, Dale Lamborn of Carson City & Chris Henkins of Phoenix, Arizona), one dauther (Lauren “Boogie” VonRekowski of Cleak Lake California), 10 grandchildren (Sean, Branden, Travis, Bearett, Adam, Jared, Christa, Brian, Blake & Alexandrea “Baby”) & three great grandchildren (Landen, Aden & Tatum). He also has three awesome daughter-in-laws, Peggy Stutsman, Leah Lamborn & Stephanie Henkins & one son-in-law, Alex VonRekowski. Bear has been a well-known character in Carson City & the surrounding counties for the past four decades. Numerous newspaper & magazine articles have been written about him.
Bear was someone who stood out in a crowd. He was 6’6’’ tall & weighted 330 pounds, dressed in black pants, a wide-brimmed black hat & a black vest will a silver & gold badge on his chest. In his hands, a grapefruit looked as small as a baseball. Two .44-caliber Magnum pistols were cross-gripped, at his belt line. He had the fierce, drooping mustache of a mountain man & wore a neckleace of 20 bear claws.
The story behind his nickname & necklace began at the age of 15. Working as a forester, he ventures into Arizona’s Sycamore Canyon to chop a felled tree into firewood. He walked around the point of a cliff && met a black bear. Both he & the bear were startled. The bear weighing 455 pounds was only a few feet away. When the bear lunged, he swung the axe at the animal’s head. Bear Claws killed him with what he called “one lucky blow.” Bear’s mother who was half Cherokee made him the necklace. She told him, “When you kill an animal in battle, you take the spirit of the beast.” Bear said, “I guess it is true since I grew to be as big as a bear.”
Bear made a living at being big & tough since he was an overgrown kid in Arizona. He chopped trees & packed horses for the Forest Service, served in the military, owned a truck & tractor repair business, worked in law enforcement & security jobs, was a bush guide & trapper in Alaska, boxed in 22 professional heavyweight prizefights & captured & broke mustangs. But above all, his passion was “cowboying” & being a lawman. He was raised on a ranch near Tombstone, Arizona where he learned the cowboy way of life. He continued to work with horses & wagons on the weekends for much of his life. He even had some Texas long-horn cattle as pets.
Bear began a bailiff career in the Carson City Justice Court in the 1980s for the popular Judge Tom Davis, who gave him the custom-made badge he wore. He was first used as a “hired gun” to keep courtroom peace after a series of Carson City prison riots. He became a permanent part of the courthouse in 1987 as a bailiff. In his first year as bailiff he confiscated approximately 600 weapons, knives & otherwise, that people tried to bring into the courthouse. That number dropped by about 95 percent during his tenure. His imposing image served him well in his mission to keep the peace in Carson City’s courtrooms. Bear spoke quietly about “respect” & “the law” in a tone that left no doubt he believed in what he said.
He had to control death-row inmates who had nothing to lose. In 1994, he made national headlines when, under the presiding Judge’s order used duct tape to seal a rowdy prisoner’s mouth.
Bear grew up on the legends of Tombstone gunslingers & lawmen like Johnny Ringo, Wyatt Earp & Doc Holiday. Bear loved to read about Indian issues, western lore, wagon trains & stories about General George Armstrong Custer. He said, “the old West was a tougher, cleaner time in history. Things were new & honor countted for something.” He got caught up in western history at a very early age & said, “If I had my choice, I would be 100 years dead by now.”
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My Last Ride
The time has come for one last ride,
I’m heaven bound to be by God’s side.
I loved my country, I loved my wife,
I loved my family, I loved my life.
But in my death please shed no tears.
I’m heading for glory, with God I’ll be near.
Your sorrow and sadness please put aside,
I’ve saddled my horse for one last ride.
by Cisslyn Ramdeo’s Poetry