On Feb. 10, 2018, our loving mother, Grammy, aunt and friend left us after 88 years to join our dad, and her identical twin sister Toni, and all her other family.
Jenny and Toni were born on October 21, 1929, at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings, to Mary and James Zagorda. The Zagorda Twins (as they were known) were the youngest of six children to be raised in a loving and very close-knit Italian family. Mom was very proud of her Italian heritage, and she passed that love along to her children. Although she grew up during the Depression, Mom always said that her family was poor, but neither she nor her siblings realized it because they were happy and loved by their wonderful parents. One of Mom’s fondest memories was Christmas Eve, when all her cousins, aunts and uncles would come and stay at their house, which was directly across the street from Little Flower Church (now known as Mary Queen of Peace) so they could all attend midnight mass. She realized years later that the adults had to stay up all night because the house was small and the kids had the beds. Mom was very proud of growing up on the Billings South Side. Much of her time was spent doing things in the neighborhood and with the Little Flower Church community where she was baptized, received first communion, was confirmed and was married. Although she and Dad were charter members of St. Pius Parish, Mom returned to Little Flower after Dad’s passing and always felt like she was back home.
Jenny attended Garfield School and graduated from Central High School in 1948. She and Toni attended St. Vincent’s School of Nursing and graduated in 1951.
In 1953, in a double wedding ceremony with her identical twin, she married Merle Simon. They celebrated 49 years together. From this union they had four children, Mike, Susanne, Mary and Janet.
For several years in their early nursing careers, Mom and Toni job-shared one full-time position. Mom would always say that the days she worked were easier because on the opposite days she had six children (three of her own and the three Kennedy boys) to care for as Toni was then at work. Unfortunately, Mom’s twin, Toni Kennedy, passed away in 1965 at the age of 35. Mom missed her every day and was looking forward to being reunited with her.
Mom went on with her nursing career and worked for the Billings Clinic until her retirement in 1991. She and Dad enjoyed their retirement together traveling and spending time at their cabin at Cooney Dam. She has deeply missed Dad but now they are back together. We are sure she already has him working on her “honey do” list. She also enjoyed playing cards with her friends, golfing at Par 3 and the Red Hat Society. Even though it was a volunteer position at St. Vincent’s, for her and Doris Zagorda, her sister-in-law and coffee cart partner, it became one of their weekly social activities.
In her later years, her happiest times were holidays at her house with all her family. She especially enjoyed Sunday breakfast with her kids, her brother Pete, sister-in-law Doris, brother-in-law Tony O’Dea and any nieces and nephews who showed up on any given Sunday.
She felt fortunate that, even though her granddaughter, Janet (JJ), lived in Nevada, she would spend all her vacations with Grammy in Billings. JJ continued to visit after she was married, and she always brought Grammy’s great-grandchildren with her. Once JJ entered the working world, she would call Grammy every morning on her way to work. Mom so looked forward to those daily calls. She and JJ had a very special bond and she felt very blessed to have such a special granddaughter.
Her husband, Merle; her parents; and her siblings Pete Zagorda, Mickey Zagorda, Rose Roebuck and her twin Toni (Antoinette) Kennedy preceded her in death. She is survived by her sister, Lena O’Dea, and brother-in-law, Tony O’Dea; her children: Mike (Mel), Sue Pullishy (Ken), Mary and Janet; her granddaughter JJ (Janet) Roberts (Keith); and her great-grandchildren Mikey, Stella and Gwen. After Toni’s passing, Mom always felt like she had eight children — hers and Toni’s — Jim Kennedy, Dan Kennedy, Bill Kennedy and Mary Kittson. She is also survived by her many other special nieces and nephews in the Zagorda, O’Dea, Kennedy, Purcell and Olmstead families.
The family would like to thank the staff from RiverStone Hospice for the wonderful care she received from Kathy, Shara, Judy, Noelle and special thanks to Susan Carlson.
Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, at Mary Queen Peace Catholic Church, 34th and Third Avenue South, Billings.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Angela’s Piazza or RiverStone Hospice.