Edythe T. McCleary

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Edythe T. McCleary

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Edythe McCleary
Edythe McCleary

Edythe T. McCleary, loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend went to her heavenly home May 4, 2012, due to Parkinson’s disease. Edythe was born Dec. 23, 1928, to John E. Sr. and Minnie Burton Turley at St. Vincent Hospital and was raised on the Mountain Home Ranch, Musselshell, where she loved to play in the hills and learn all she could in the one-room schoolhouse.

If we were to name one single characteristic of Edythe’s it was simply this: unconditional love. She lived it; she shared it; she covered our family with it. Her life-long love was John D. McCleary “her Johnny” who she knew like a book and loved cover-to-cover. Her passion was being “Mom” and she was that to her four children until her final breath.

Her father’s passion for education was passed on to all of the five Turley kids. At age four Mom followed her older sister Lou to the Mountain Home School the first day and just kept attending. She graduated from 8th grade in 1941 and lived with Lou while they attended high school in Roundup where she graduated in 1945.

At age sixteen she began her studies at Montana State College (now MSU) in Bozeman receiving a B.S. in Commercial Science in 1949. She proudly received her Golden Diploma in 1999 and her Silver Diploma in 2009. A Bobcat through and through she proudly wore her Bobcat socks and her “14” Jersey (she loved to watch Everett Gilbert run!) while watching Bobcat football on television.

When dad returned after his army stint he also entered MSC. These “Bull Mountain Sweethearts” married on Aug. 19, 1947, at the St. Honorata Catholic Church in Musselshell.

While Dad finished school Mom worked as a stenographer in the Agricultural Economics Department at MSC. Following his graduation they moved to Win-Del Ranches in Ennis where Dad was cattle foreman and Mom was the ranch secretary. She continued using her education when they moved to Pullman Washington where Dad attended Washington State University. Mom was first a secretary to non-faculty personnel and then became secretary to the Dean of the Graduate school until 1956 when Dad graduated and they moved to Worden, MT where Dad setup his first Veterinary Practice. Mom faithfully supported Dad as a part-time Veterinary Assistant both in Worden and when they moved to Hardin in 1959. She continued working with dad through 1986 as assistant and bookkeeper while also being a substitute teacher in the Hardin schools from 1975 through 1985.

Her professional life began to turn when she took on the Welcome Wagon role through the Hardin Chamber of Commerce from 1984-85. She was good at it! (No surprise to any of us.) Others recognized her talent for business and sales. Thus, in 1986 Edythe, at the age of 55, took on an entirely new role as Executive Director of Custer Country, Inc. one of the six tourism regions in Montana. She was a valiant champion of the communities and businesses of eastern Montana believing that every part of Custer Country, from Wibaux to Laurel deserved to be heralded as beacons of tourism in Montana. She strove for and achieved excellence in marketing and promotion for the large eastern portion of our state.

Her integrity, keen mind and organization skills were sought by the Old West Trail Association where she was on the board of directors from 1988-92; First Interstate Bank, Hardin, where she served on the board of directors from 1991-99; the Virginia City/Nevada City Preservation Task Force from 1996-97; the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Advisory Council 1995-99; and, Governor Marc F. Racicot appointed her to the Governor’s Tourism Advisory Council where she served from 1989-99.

While working for and serving the people of eastern Montana she also was a member of the St. Joseph’s Altar Society, was a proud member of and strong supporter of the Big Horn County Republican Central Committee and helped promote the area’s cattle industry through Big Horn County CowBelles.

In 1999 Edythe retired from her position with Custer Country, Inc. yet she never stopped believing in the communities she served or the goals of ensuring tourism equality in the region.

Through this journey her number one profession, however, was being Mom. Her four children, Kathy, Patti, Johnny and Mike were the central focus of her life. She raised them with love, compassion, forgiveness, endless support and encouragement and her unfathomable ability to truly embody unconditional love. From the moment she bore us to her dying day she loved us unquestionably. We honestly don’t know what the days and years ahead will be like without our tireless champion.

Yet even we acknowledge that while she always said each of us was “practically perfect” the qualifier was omitted when it came to her eight grandchildren. Steph, Dan, Justin, Miles, Sage, Matt, Garrett, and Katie gave her endless joy. Each was able to spend time with her during her final days at home and we know their lives will be guided by her example. David McCleary her beloved five-year-old great grandson will help us share an expression of her love which of late included his phrase “love you to the moon and back.” She said this to each of us often especially in her nightly litany: “Good Night. God bless you. I love you, to the moon and back.”

Mom loved to dance. As a young woman the higher the high heel the better! She loved to golf and enjoyed many years of great fun with Mom & Dads friends at the Fort Custer golf club in Hardin. They planned theme parties, socials, golf outings and just-plain-fun. The therapy of going out on the course just to hold a club was not only good for her in the past couple of years but an incentive as well on days when her energy waned. She loved to laugh and to listen to her family and friends when they’d sing (we never did that enough for her.) One thing she did not like was the spot light. Sorry Mom, this time we will ignore your wishes. You and your life must be heralded.

In 2000 she and John moved to Billings where they lived close enough to enjoy the many activities of her grandchildren in the area. They took pleasure in traveling and Edythe’s sisters Lou Bell and Mary Cooley joined them for high adventure in Hawaii, Canada, Panama Canal, and Ireland.

Wherever she went, whatever she did Edythe embodied integrity, a strong work ethic, a keen interest in all she met (she once told her daughter Patti, “I just like people”), a desire to learn and a belief that she was truly blessed.

Her faith guided her throughout life and was the cornerstone of her unconditional love. She constantly counted her blessings and would often pick up her own spirits by listing the things she was blessed with: from the yellow finch outside her window to the members of her family, always her family she gave thanks to God for giving her.

Edythe was a member of St. Pius Catholic Church in Billings following her long-time parish life at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Hardin. As with John, Edythe instilled a strong sense of faith of Catholicism in her four children. For years at St. Pius, Edythe volunteered as a Eucharistic Minister to bring the body of Christ and a prayer to the homes of parishioners unable to attend Mass, and these individuals became special people in Mom’s life.

Following Dad’s death in 2007 Parkinsons began to take root and often robbed her of the things she loved to do most, visit, golf, … Our “Speedy Edy” couldn’t take care of others as she was prone to do, but it never, ever robbed her of her spirit. Her doctors and physical therapists always were in awe of her determination to follow whatever guidelines were given for she was resolved to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Over the past few years Mom traveled to visit friends, family and to be with her grandchildren and great-grandson for holidays and special events. Her stated wish was: “I want to feel a little bit better and stay in my home.” Her daughter Patti put aside her own life goals in 2010 in order to provide daily assistance and coaching. Along with Kathy who stayed with her nights and weekends as often she could and her sons John and Mike who came when they were able, Edythe’s request to enjoy life as much as possible in the comfortable surroundings of her home was achieved.

On April 19, when she’d made her choice to return home and let death come naturally she said, “I’m not afraid of dying. I know there is a heaven.” She said she wanted to tell everyone something but knew she wouldn’t be able to speak to everyone she loved; plus, it was physically difficult for her to speak due to Parkinsons as well as the emotional nature of her message. Thus, we promised we would share her words: “I had a good life. I have been so blessed by all my family, all my friends, and so many good neighbors.”

In her final days Mom shared fond stories full of color, humor, love, faith and ultimately, final goodbyes with her children, grandchildren, her sister Mary, close family and friends. Every moment was cherished and considered a blessing as God prepared a home for her reunion with John in heaven. As our family gathered around her one evening this past week our brother John said: “Mom, you taught us how to live; now you are teaching us how to die.” Yes she did. Her life of unconditionally loving will continue on in the hearts and lives of her family. We feel richly blessed.

Mom was preceded in death by her parents; her loving husband John; and her brothers John Turley and Martin Turley. She is survived by her ever grateful children, Kathy of Billings, Patti (Tom) Dunbar of Billings, John (Lea) of Lodge Grass, Mike (Carlotta) of Bismarck, N.D.; her grandchildren Stephanie Dunbar of Boulder, Colo., Dan Dunbar of Longmont, Colo., Justin (Sue) McCleary of Sheridan, Wyo., Miles McCleary of Ontario, Ore., Sage McCleary, of Bozeman, Matt, Garrett and Katie McCleary all of Bismarck; and great grandson David McCleary of Dayton, Wyo. Her sisters, Lou Bell, Great Falls, Mary Cooley, Musselshell; sisters in law Faye Turley of Billings, and Madelyn Turley of Locust Grove, Va.; her Aunt Willy Burton of Seaside, Ore.; and many special nieces, nephews, cousins and wonderful friends.

There will be a Vigil Service celebrating Edythe’s life at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8, at St. Pius X Parish. Continuing this celebration the Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 9, also at St. Pius X Parish, 717 18th St. West, in Billings. Following a light lunch burial will be at the Musselshell Cemetery in Musselshell, Mont.

Our family thanks Dr. Neal Sorensen for his care and the way he raised Mom’s spirits (especially their shared love of golf and the Bobcats.) We also thank Riverstone Hospice and Synergy HomeCare for their gentle professionalism and true caring as they helped us in Mom’s final days. Memorials may be made to the Big Horn County Historical Society, Route 1, Box 1206A, Hardin, MT 59034, to Friends of Musselshell School, PO Box 14, Musselshell, MT 59059, or the charity of your choice.

 


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