Leola M. Van Atta


Leola M. Van Atta


Leola Van Atta
Leola Van Atta

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.

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  1. Let’s try this again…I fell in love with Judy. When I met Leola I fell even more in love with her. She treated me as her own son from day one. Leola made me a better Father and Husband as she knew a few things after raising three rambunctious boys. I watched her live a loyal and graceful life as a widow and I watched her immerse herself in our family. As the years advanced and her eyesight failed she still had the guts to travel to Ohio for one more Christmas or one more summer with our boys. Her example of overcoming obstacles in life made me love her even more. We enjoyed many happy hours together as Leola showed me how a woman could be classy while downing a whiskey with a splash of water. She called her whiskey drinks a “drinky poo”. As Leola realized her own mortality she was always graceful and giving. Her last words to me validated my life in many ways. She shared with me the following, “Mark, you are a great man, a wonderful Father and husband.” What more could a Mother in Law give to her “favorite” Son in Law. I love you Leola and yes, we will see each other again.

    Mark Adams

  2. My prayers are with you all in the loss of Leola. She was a good wife, mother, grandma and aunt.
    She will always be in my heart. I have wonderful memories growing up and visiting at the farm. I was always welcomed with opened arms. I have a poem I would like to share, it is titled “I’m Free” author unknown. “Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free. I’m following the path God laid for me. I took his hand when I heard him call, I turned my back & left it all. I could not stay another day, To laugh, to love to work or play. Tasks left undone must stay that way. I found that place at the break of day. If my parting has left a void, Then fill it with remembered joy. A friendship shared, a laugh, a loss, Ah yes, these thing I too, will miss. Be not burdened with the times of sorrow, I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow. My life’s been full, I have savored much. Good friends, good times a loved one’s touch. Perhaps my time seemed all to brief. Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief. Lift up your head and share with me. God wanted me now, He set me free.
    I am sorry that Duane and I won’t be able to attend the funeral on Monday. Be assured that you will be in our hearts and prayer. May God Bless you all. Carol Ankney a thankful niece.

  3. Judy Mossestad Svendsen

    So sorry for your loss, Larry, Duane and Judy and families. Your mother was a wonderful woman and loved by all in the Vida community. You’re in our prayers. Judy Mossestad Svendsen

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