Jennie Elizabeth “Bess” Terry Hovey was born to James and Maude Terry on July 17, 1919 in the Harris Hospital, the second Caucasian to be born in the Wolf Point Township. She was the oldest of three children. When she was six, the family moved from the ranch in McCone County to Wolf Point as there was neither a nearby church nor school. Her parents purchased the Terry Hotel and this is where Bess and her brothers grew up. Bess missed her first year of school as she, her mother and siblings took a trip to Tennessee to visit relatives. She later skipped a grade. Bess learned to play clarinet and participated in the high school band.
At the age of ten Bess learned to ride and handle horses, helping to move cattle on their Sheep Creek family ranch, and at age fourteen she became employed at the local dress shop where she clerked until she graduated from high school in 1937.
She remembered two welfare children who were taken in by her family—one an African American boy from Tennessee, who wasn’t with them for long, and another part Native American boy who lived with them for several years.
Bess financed her college education through her brother Peuton. He was an enterprising teenager with a bank account. He worked part-time in the local drug store and sold subscriptions to Literary Digest. (He was the seventh top sales person in the U.S.) Bess mortgaged her livestock to him to pay her college tuition.
She attended two years of college in Cookeville, Tennessee, living with the families of two uncles. Her dad sent a team of trained mules to pay for her room and board.
Bess met Bob Hovey in July, 1939 and they were married that fall in September, and honeymooned at the World’s Fair in San Francisco. They settled in Frazer, MT, where they owned and operated the General Store. In 1942 they opened a store in Wolf Point and that was when Bob was called as an infantry man into the US Army. He served from 1942-1945. Bob had purchased an apartment complex prior to his service time and this was their home for the next four years. Later they built a home in Wolf Point and operated the Chevrolet dealership for twenty five years.
Bob and Bess were interested in various artists, chief among them Floyd “Tenny” DeWitt, born in Wolf Point, an internationally acclaimed artist known for his direct metal bronze sculpture and oil paintings. They were instrumental in collecting funds for a statue “The Homage” of a horse and rider by Tenny that now stands in the town park in Wolf Point.
Bob and Bess moved to Poway, CA in about 1980 and eventually bought a hotel in Phoenix, AZ. They moved to Billings in 1997. Over the years they took many trips travelling to South America and the Far East. Bess was active in her church, Eastern Star, Republican politics and most of all bridge.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Bob, and her brother Jim. She is survived by one brother, Peyton and her sister-in-law Connie; two sons, Dr. Larry Hovey, and daughter-in-law Beverly of Poway, CA, and Robert “Bob” Hovey of Billings; three grandchildren, Jennifer Hovey, Sarah Marien and Dr. Larry R. Hovey; and seven-great grandchildren.
Bess lived a rich, full, Christian life as a wife, mother, and grandmother. She was a collector of antiques, recipes, and most of all friends. She loved calls and visits from her friends, many half her age. Some she had known only a few months and some she had known for almost a lifetime. She was “outspoken, colorful and flamboyant… qualities that made her so much fun to be around” to quote a friend. She will be greatly missed.
Services will be held at 1:00 p.m., on Sunday, June 22nd at the First Presbyterian Church, corner of Poly Drive and 13th St. West, Billings. Graveside services will be at 1:00 p.m., Monday, June 23, at Greenwood Cemetery in Wolf Point, MT.