Barbara W. Molen passed away on Dec. 29, 2014, surrounded by family, at the age of 89.
She was born on Oct. 16, 1925, in Great Falls, to Mabel and D.Y. Wilson Jr., and graduated from Winnett High School in May 1943 in a class of 11 students.
After attending Montana State College (MSU), Barbara worked for Union Oil Company of California as an Executive Secretary in Cut Bank from 1945 through 1954. She was a stylish young executive, and much of her clothing was custom-designed. Barbara traveled extensively for business in an aircraft, which was rare for a young woman in those days.
Vern Molen saw her at a Billings restaurant, remembering her from when he was a bellhop in Great Falls because she gave great tips. Vern made a bet with a friend that he would have a date with her by Friday. They were married on June 12, 1954, and celebrated many anniversaries until his death in 1997.
In the ’60s, she was very active in GOP politics, as wells as geologists and petroleum wives organizations. She served as President of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA). Thousands of trees in Billings’ parks and schools are there because of her efforts to establish a tradition on Arbor Day of children planting trees throughout the city. As a member of the Audubon Society, she knew dozens of wild birds by sight, and many blue ribbons from the Yellowstone County Fair can attest to her perfection in baking.
In 1970, she and her husband Vern founded Molen Drilling Co, Inc. It was also this year when she had a total loss of her hearing due to auditory nerve loss. She handled the challenge very well, learning to read lips on her own and, in later years, some people admitted they never knew she was deaf. In 1990, with the assistance of her daughter Brenda and Dr. Gerald English from the Swedish Memorial Hospital in Denver, she received one of the early models of cochlear implants at the University of Iowa. She called Vern and the first words that she heard in 20 years were: “I love you, Barbara.” She tested and helped develop and improve many models of the Cochlear device for the next 24 years.
Barbara has always been supportive of and attentive to her children and grandchildren. She attended many of their events, including cheerleading, majorettes, choir, band, tennis, soccer, volleyball, baseball, wrestling and football games. She received a big thrill when her grandson, Christopher, was so excited to see her after winning a football game that he threw her high up in the air.
Barbara and Vern traveled extensively to various business and industry association meetings. In later years, after Vern’s death, she often traveled with her children’s families. She and her son, Bob, especially, had many traveling adventures. On a trip to the Cayman Islands, Bob taught her to snorkel when she was 76 years old!
Survivors include her children, Bob and his wife Li Na of Shanghai, China, Brenda Davis and her husband Nick of Bozeman, and Don and his wife Shelly of Billings, as well as her sister, Gayle “Freddie” Gregovich of Great Falls. She adored her five grandchildren (Nicholas and Elizabeth Davis, Christopher, Andrea and Sam Molen), and also her step-grandchildren and their families: Loraine Davis von Moltke and family of London, Alexandra Davis Colon and Helen Davis Richardson and their families of Denver, and Eleanor Davis Aschoff and family from Portland, Ore. She was preceded in death by her husband, Vern; her father, D.Y. Wilson Jr.; and her mother, Mabel.
The family greatly appreciates the staff of Langemo Cottage at St. John’s for their wonderful care of Barbara in her last years.
In lieu of flowers, should friends desire, memorials may be made to ZooMontana or to the charity of choice.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave., followed by interment in Mountview Cemetery.