Eli Richards Roberts, 38, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, on Friday, February 18th at his apartment in Missoula. Eli was born on October 2nd, 1983, in Missoula and attended Paxon Elementary and Washington Middle School. He graduated from Hellgate High School in 2001. Aside from a few years in Arizona and Florida, Eli lived in Missoula his whole life.
Eli was loving, quirky and autistic, born more than a decade before terms like Asperger’s syndrome and autism spectrum disorder entered our vocabulary and the DSM. He worked at Home ReSource and the AMC movie theater for many years. Eli loved animals and volunteered for a time at the AniMeals No-Kill Adoption Center. He had an elaborate imagination full of alternate realms of existence, in which he spent much of his time fighting dark lords and evil spirits and allying with Goddesses, nymphs, and other magical creatures.
Eli was known for his big bear hugs and kindness to all. He was sweet, goofy, and perceptive. Eli frequented the Good Food Store for lunch and the Town and Country for drinks. He biked everywhere, in all weather conditions and enjoyed taking long walks around town, chatting with people he met and hugging those he already knew.
His family wishes to extend our thanks to the entire Missoula community; to the many friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and other kind souls who looked out for Eli and made sure he was ok. A friend wrote that “his spirit of kindness and protection floats all over Missoula.” At the same time, the spirit of kindness and protection shown by Missoulians gave Eli a wonderful 38 years in a loving community and a level of safe independence that is rare for someone with his level of disability.
Survivors include his parents, Dr. Lindsay Richards and Dr. Tom Roberts; his sister Anna Roberts; and his cousin Justin Richards.
Donations in Eli’s name can be made to Opportunity Resources, Inc. at orimt.org or to AniMeals at animeals.com. Opportunity Resources supports Montanans with disabilities and helped Eli find and maintain the jobs that were so important for his self-esteem and sense of belonging.
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 12th at 2 pm at the Missoula Friends Meetinghouse at 1861 S. 12th St. W. It will be followed by a group bike ride (optional) to the Town and Country Lounge at 1616 S 3rd St W for an outdoor reception. Mask requirements for the Memorial Service will be in accordance with CDC guidelines in effect for Missoula at the time of the ceremony.