February 19, 1949 - July 19, 2022
Dr. Robert Charles “Sarge” Preston “shuffled off this mortal coil” on July 19, 2022 after a life that touched countless people the world over with his charm, wit, and compassion. Sarge transitioned to the other side surrounded by the love and affection of his adoring wife, daughter, son, and devoted caretakers at the Hospice House in Rapid City, S.D.
Dr. Preston now joins his parents James Werden “Bud” Preston and Marguerite Anna Martin Preston. He is survived by wife, Krista Preston; children, Berit Preston and James Preston (Ashley Preston); grandchildren, Kaija, Dane, Harper, Henry, and Charlotte; siblings, James “Jim” Preston (Dee Preston), John Preston (Polly Preston), and Elizabeth “Betty” Preston Swain (Ralph Swain); numerous in-laws, nieces and nephews, cousins, distant relatives, and dear friends.
Sarge was born on February 19, 1949 in Spencer, Iowa. Soon thereafter the family moved to Sturgis, S.D. and then purchased a dairy ranch in Hermosa, S.D. in the mid-1950s. After graduating from the University of Utah in 1972, he soon found his way to California, where he worked as a commercial whitewater rafting guide on various rivers in California, Colorado, and Utah. Sarge returned to Vermillion, S.D. to attend USD School of Medicine and to complete his greatest accomplishment–marrying the love of his life, Krista (Everson) Preston. The two married in the Fiery Furnace of Arches National Park in Utah and began a family in Salt Lake City while he completed his internal medicine residency.
Dr. Preston practiced medicine in Hot Springs from 1986 to 1989. During this time he rekindled his passion for geology and caving and served as President of the Paha Sapa Grotto for a time. Sarge participated in the exploration of Jewel, Wind, and Reeds Caves as well as many other caves in the Black Hills.
In 1989, Sarge and Krista opened South Dakota’s first freestanding urgent care clinic (RapidCare, PC) in Rapid City and tirelessly served the community for over 23 years. Sarge loved people and was not one to bend to the bureaucratic or administrative demands of insurers. Sarge had no problem going to bat for his patients. His pursuit of medical justice earned Dr. Preston the respect of his patients, employees, and those who attempted to replicate his success.
Sarge went above and beyond in anything he attempted. For example, he made waves in the local soccer community after a lifetime of playing softball and baseball by obtaining his Class C License. In 1998, he then took the Stevens High Girls Varsity soccer team to the first (unsanctioned) state tournament championship in South Dakota as head coach, winning 1st place. His unconventional coaching style included making his team dribble soccer balls to the top of Black Elk Peak. Sarge’s nontraditional approach was rooted in an endless pursuit of improvement. He often quoted John Lennon: “Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”
In 2007, Sarge was invited to row a first descent of the Salween River in Tibet. The opportunity to take on such an amazing yet beautiful risk compelled him and, sure enough, the 90-mile stretch of one of the deepest canyons on Earth flowing off the Tibetan Plateau was marked safely complete. After 4 weeks on the Salween, Sarge and his son were able to take a side trip to see Mt. Everest with his own eyes, barely. Arriving and waking up during a storm, the chances were slim to view the world’s highest peak. But just as they were about to leave, a tunnel view of the sacred mountain bored through the clouds as if to allow this great man the chance to see the glorious peak jutting to the heavens. For a moment, Sarge stood in awe at this moment while he and the mountain met for the first and last time.
Above all, Sarge could make anyone laugh and loved to goof around. Anyone who met him would eventually feel welcomed and relaxed in his company as he had such a way of connecting on so many levels. However, his family was his greatest source of joy. He mischievously sought his grandchildren’s attention, even when he could not speak. That did not stop him from making silly faces and chasing his grandkids around the house with pure elation. Sarge learned to communicate without words for the last decade of his life, often speaking volumes with just the sparkle of his eyes. His demonstration of affection was made clear with a hug, smile, and a kiss on the head that he gave to all.
Sarge is missed beyond belief. It is our honor to celebrate his life and acknowledge the struggles he stoically braved day after day for years.
Join the family for a Celebration of Life on September 17*, 2022, 4 p.m. at Stewart Lodge - Terry Peak Ski Area, 21120 Stewart Slope Road, Lead, S.D. (*date to be confirmed).
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the following organizations: Friends of the Yampa, Rapid Creek Watershed Action, Doctors Without Borders or The Alzheimer’s Association
Friends and family may sign his online guestbook and leave condolences for the family at blackhillsfuneralhome.com