One of Eastern Montana’s last pioneering women, Leola M. Van Atta, 92, of Vida, Mont., passed away from natural causes on Nov. 6, at St. John’s Nursing Home, in Billings.
Leola was born in Wolf Point, Mont., on Oct. 16, 1922, to Paul and Ina (McFarlane) Schillinger. She attended the Schillinger country school, Wolf Point High School, and graduated from Billings Senior High School in the first graduating class at the current BSHS building, which then was considered to be on the edge of the fast-growing city.
Leola worked as a dental assistant, attended beauty school, and became a beautician. She and James Robbins Van Atta were married at Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola, Fla., on Jan. 26, 1944. They made their home in Florida until Jimmy completed his duty with the Army Air Corps, moving back to Billings in 1946. The family then moved to Vida, where they worked the family farm. Although slight in build, Leola was a strong woman, working every aspect of the farm — especially after her husband’s death in 1977— well into her 80s.
Leola was an active member of the Vida-area community and will be widely missed, especially for her generous spirit, lively conversation, and marvelous sense of humor. She was a longtime member of St. Ann’s Catholic Church Alter Society, Vida Homemakers Club, Wolf Point Elks Club, Vida Bridge Club, and was a 4-H leader. She was known for her large, lush gardens and fabulous country meals. Leola permanently moved to Billings in 2003.
Leola is survived by her sons, Larry (Shelley) and Duane (Terry), both of Billings; daughter, Judy Adams (Mark), of Springboro, Ohio; 15 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, sister-in-law, Mary Jayne Van Atta, and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jimmy; her son, Clint; her parents, and siblings, Cleone (Don Sass), Clyde (Monica), Thelma (Ray O’Donnell), and Clair (Edith).
Leola will be missed by all, but now is reunited with her loving husband after 37 years apart.
A visitation will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 9, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 10, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 2055 Woody Drive. Memorials may be made to Montana Talking Book Library, PO Box 201800, Helena, MT, 59620-1800; Blind and Low Vision Services, PO Box 4210, Helena, MT 59604, or the charity of your choice.