Richard Schultz passed away at his home in Big Sky on Friday, Jan. 3,,following a three-year battle with colon cancer. He was surrounded by his immediate and extended family; it was a beautiful and peaceful passing.
Richard was an adventurous soul with a kind and loving heart which always kept him centered on the things that meant the most to him: his wife and two sons, his New York family, and the extended relatives from around the world he generously welcomed into their lives.
Born in New Jersey on Sept. 4, 1957, Richard spent the first half of his life on the East Coast, graduating from high school in Levittown, New York on Long Island, and then receiving an Associate’s Degree in Hotel Management from the State University of New York, Delhi, in 1977. After serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1981 to 1983, Richard continued to serve his country as part of the New York Air National Guard where he was a part of the 274th Combat Communications Squadron until his honorable discharge in 1989.
Richard met his future wife, Nazha Eljdid, when they worked together at a hotel in New York; they married on April 13, 1993. Nazha had recently immigrated to the U.S. from Morocco, and Richard embraced his new wife’s culture and extended family, converting to Islam at the time of their marriage. The newlyweds’ lives took a dramatic turn West several months later, when Richard accepted the job of Executive Head of Housekeeping at Big Sky Resort.
Nazha and her sister Hafida, who relocated to Montana with her new brother-in-law and sister, never forgot their first glimpse of the tiny airport and the miles and miles of empty land. Accustomed to urban landscapes, they both suppressed questions about what, exactly, Richard had gotten them into.
Soon, they got their answer. Richard never lost his New York accent, but Montana quickly became home to him and Nazha as well as Hafida, who married and moved down the street. After several years of employment at Big Sky Resort, Richard became a maintenance manager for Lake Condominiums and also began his own business, Atlas Carpet Cleaning. The couple welcomed their first son, Rachid, in 1997, and their second boy, Yasin, two years later.
The sense of adventure that Richard had possessed since he was young and with which he hiked much of the Appalachian Trail meshed with Big Sky culture. An enthusiastic traveler, Richard visited all 50 states in his life and made many trips abroad, and though he had a deep fear of heights, could be found joining his family parasailing, zip-lining and even rappelling from a cliff on a vacation in Mexico.
Along with his family, the Big Sky community was also growing, and Richard, who had become General Manager of the Skyline Bus System, became a much loved and respected community leader in this position. For over 17 years, Richard focused on creating a transit system that met the needs of all members of the community: seasonal workers, commuters, residents and guests. Richard understood how many people depended on the transportation system to get to work and back and forth between Bozeman, and was known to check in on drivers on his days off to make sure people were getting the rides they needed. He developed and expanded this core Big Sky service, refining transit schedules, acquiring and maintaining the fleet, and hiring and training drivers.
Richard’s willingness to help local nonprofits and children was well known and his ability to make buses available for special needs—dances, sporting activities, practices and Camp Big Sky—enhanced and made many of these events and activities possible. To Richard, the safety and needs of the kids of the community were always a priority.
Richard was an extremely humble person who preferred quiet acts of kindness. A doting dad, he was a fixture at every WMPAC event and Music in the Mountains concert, sitting close to the technical booth where he could quietly observe his oldest son Rachid, who excelled at sound and lighting from a young age. He always supported his younger son Yasin in school and in sports, often creating excuses to pick something up at the grocery store where Yasin is employed, just to see how he was doing. He was supportive of all local kids, attending many sporting events, and was a loyal fan of Lady Big Horns volleyball, cheering on his talented niece Dounia.
Richard’s devotion to his wife and his family was boundless. He was an enthusiastic partner in work and life with Nazha, both in her growing property management business and in raising their sons. Their life together was filled with an easy comfort and much laughter. He welcomed and supported many of Nazha’s relatives and was especially close to her mother, Radia, who lived with the Schultz’s until she passed away.
He is survived by his wife, Nazha, and their two sons, Rachid Schultz (Seattle) and Yasin Schultz (Bozeman). He is also survived by his mother, Jeanne Schultz; his three sisters, Barbara Wright (Ken), Joanne Schultz (Danny) and Nancy McNichol, as well as sister-in-law Hafida Eljdid and brother-in-law Craig Metje, his niece, Dounia, of Big Sky, and his brother-in-law Abdelmalik Eljdid of Bozeman. In addition, he is survived by many members of his wife’s family, including sisters, brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews who live in Big Sky, Bozeman and all over the world. Richard was preceded in death by his father, Richard Dennis Schultz, Sr. and his brother-in-law, Jimmy McNichol.
Richard was laid to rest in the Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bozeman with military honors on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Donations can be made in Richard’s memory to the Islamic Center of Bozeman, Montanamuslims.org., Bozeman Health Cancer Center or any cancer research foundation or nonprofit of your choice.