RAPID CITY – On July 19, 2022, Dr. Robert Charles “Sarge” Preston “got rid of that deadly coil” after a lifetime that touched countless people around the world with his charm, wit and compassion. Sarge passed through to the other side surrounded by the love and affection of his wife, daughter, son and the dedicated caretakers of Hospice House in Rapid City, SD.
Dr. Preston now joins his parents James Werden “Bud” Preston and Marguerite Anna (Martin) Preston. He is survived by his 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), Elizabeth “Betty” Preston Swain (Ralph Swain); many in-laws, nieces and nephews, cousins, distant relatives and dear friends.
Sarge was born on February 19, 1949 in Spencer, IA. Soon after, the family moved to Sturgis, SD, then purchased a dairy ranch in Hermosa, SD in the mid-1950s. After graduating from the University of Utah in 1972, he quickly found the way to California, where he worked as a commercial whitewater rafting guide on various rivers in California, Colorado and Utah. Sarge returned to Vermillion, SD 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 started a family in Salt Lake City while he completed his internal medicine residency.
Dr. Preston practiced medicine in Hot Springs, SD from 1986 to 1989. During this time he rekindled his passion for geology and caving and was Chairman of Paha Sapa Cave for a time. Sarge participated in the exploration of the 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 have served the community tirelessly for over 23 years. Sarge loved people and was not one to submit to the bureaucratic or administrative requirements of insurers. Sarge had no problem fighting for his patients. His pursuit of medical justice has earned Dr. Preston the respect of his patients, employees, and those who have attempted to replicate his success.
Sarge went above and beyond anything he attempted. For example, he made waves in the local football community after playing softball and baseball all his life earning his Class C license. In 1998, he then took the Stevens High Girls Varsity football team to the first (unauthorized) state tournament championship in SD as head coach, winning 1st place. His unconventional coaching style involved dribbling footballs with his team atop Black Elk Peak. Sarge’s non-traditional approach was rooted in an endless quest for improvement. He often quoted John Lennon: “It will be all right in the end. If it doesn’t, 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 such an incredible but magnificent risk compelled him, and sure enough, the 90-mile stretch of one of Earth’s deepest canyons flowing from the Tibetan Plateau was safely marked. After 4 weeks on the Salween, Sarge and his son were able to take a detour to see Mount Everest with their own eyes, barely. Arriving and waking up during a storm, the chances were slim to see the highest peak in the world. But just as they were about to leave, a tunnel view of the sacred mountain pierced through the clouds as if to give this tall man the chance to see the glorious peak soar into the heavens. For a moment, Sarge stood in awe at this moment as he and the mountain met for the first and last time.
Above all, Sarge could make anyone laugh and loved to have fun. Anyone who met him would end up feeling welcomed and relaxed in his company because 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 couldn’t speak. That didn’t stop him from making silly faces and chasing his grandchildren around the house with pure glee. Sarge learned to communicate without words during the last decade of his life, often speaking volumes with just the glare of his eyes. His show of affection was shown in a hug, a smile and a kiss on the head which he gave to all. We miss Sarge beyond belief. It is our honor to celebrate his life and recognize the struggles he stoically braved day after day for years. Anyone wishing to share in the celebration of Sarge’s life is invited to join the family on September 17*, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. MST at Stewart Lodge – Terry Peak Ski Area 21120 Stewart Slope Road Lead, SD 57754 (*date TBC ) .
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the following organizations: • Friends of the Yampa • Action Rapid Creek Watershed • Doctors Without Borders • The Alzheimer’s Association.
Friends and family can sign her guest book online and leave written condolences for the family at blackhillsfuneralhome.com.