Rachel Ruth Stearns Koory

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Rachel Ruth Stearns Koory

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Rachel Ruth Stearns Koory led a long, successful and storied life. A free-spirited adventurer to the end, Rachie was the life of any party, and a true and caring friend. She died at 12:12 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at her home in Billings.

Graveside services for Rachel will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22, at Mountview Cemetery, 1704 Central Ave., Billings. Her cremains will be interred near the grave of her husband Joe. A celebration of life will be held in Spring 2019.

Rachel was the fourth of seven children in the family of Archie Jerome Stearns and Alma Louise Moen. She was born Jan. 3, 1920, on what was probably a cold winter’s day in a far less than grand farm home on the grasslands of southern Saskatchewan. Her siblings were Clinton, Thelma, Elinor, Gordon, Russell and Lorna.

The entire family worked hard to build a farmstead and life on their remote acreage bordering the U.S./Canada line, but their plans were changed with the death of father Archie in the spring of 1939.  His death, along with the Great Depression, drought and the outbreak of World War II all contributed to the end of the farm life. Rachie moved with her mother and baby sister Lorna in the early 1940s to Scobey, Montana, where she operated the Trocadero, a small café, to support herself, her mom and younger sister Lorna.

Rachie also experienced the thrills of the raucous boomtown life of the massive Fort Peck Dam building project. She stayed there with her older sister Thelma (aka Sister Kate) who had moved there earlier. Rachel worked in a newsstand and drinking/dining establishments in the Fort Peck/Glasgow area, honing her skills in the hospitality business. Rachie had a remarkable ability to remember people’s names. Once she met you, she remembered you. People appreciated that!

Rachie married Konow Knute Bondy, Jr. (aka Ole), a childhood friend, soon after his return from WWII military service. Ole was the brother of Orville Bondy, the husband of her Sister Kate.

Rachie and Ole moved to Belt, Montana, where they went into the bar/café business. After several years of marriage, they amicably divorced, but then moved together to Worland, Wyoming, where they resumed their single lives. Rachie and Ole had no children.

Rachel married a second time to Joseph F. Koory. A Nebraska-born Lebanese-American piano player/singer who made his living as a traveling entertainer, Joe introduced Rachel to a life of glitz and glamour, which she so enjoyed. It was during this time she began using the professional name of Kay.

She became a professional entertainer too, performing with her husband as a drummer, and enticing their audiences with her  infectious smile, sparkling eyes, good looks and amazing grace. Her enthusiastic dancing ability and bold overtures to any available dancing partner continued to the last week of her life. High-heeled dancing was an art form perfected by Rachie.

The Joe and Kay Koory Duo toured throughout the Pacific Northwest. They spent time in southern California too. She loved talking about her tenure as a roller-skating car hop at a trendy drive-in restaurant in Los Angeles. She made great tips from its movie industry patrons. Can you imagine Rachie roller-skating fast food to the stars in their cars?

In the early 1950s, she and Joe arrived in Billings and decided to stay. They purchased a home in the city, and Rachel remained in that home on Custer Avenue until her death.

Over the years, Rachie and Joe owned or managed several bars/nightclubs in this community. The Beacon Club in the Heights, the Bonanza Lounge and Monte Carlo Club downtown, and the Tap Inn on Broadwater Avenue all benefited from the management style of Kay Koory (with just a little bit of help from poor old Joe!) She was a prominent member of the Billings nightclub scene. She worked hard, entertained well, stayed up late and slept in every morning. That was the Billings work life of Rachel “Kay” Koory.

When she and Joe weren’t working, they enjoyed entertaining friends and family at home, fishing, snowmobiling, boating, hunting, camping, cooking, gardening, golfing, traveling and experiencing life to the fullest. She and Joe never had children together, but she was a proud stepmother to Joe’s three daughters (Shari, Jody, and Jan) from a previous marriage.

In retirement, she and Joe enjoyed traveling the continent in their motorhome, and Rachie took international trips with friends. She enjoyed talking about people and places she experienced  in the countries of Greece, England, Ireland and Scotland. She loved going “back home” to Canada and visited family and friends in Rockglen, Saskatchewan, whenever she had the chance.

After Joe’s death in 1989, she continued her adventures, and visited Australia and New Zealand with another important man in her life. Dick Brickley was his name, and she enjoyed many years of great fun with Dick by her side until his passing. Not too many years ago, Rachie and Dick spent cold but exciting  weeks in the middle of winter at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Rachel was inspired by the opportunity to volunteer long, tiring hours cooking massive amounts of food in a canvas tent in below zero temperatures to feed thousands of festival attendees. Go figure….

Rachie was one of Billings’ best supporters and promoters. She volunteered many hours of service to the Blue Blazers, a hospitality group with the Billings Chamber of Commerce. She had many fond memories of her time, experiences and friendships made with that group.

All of Rachie’s siblings preceded her in death. She is survived by good friends whom she loved very much and considered them family. Joe’s three daughters and their families will remember her. Extended family members throughout the United States and Canada cherish her memory. Though Rachie never had her own children, she has nieces and nephews who will miss her generous hugs and kisses. She was indeed a great…great….great aunt!

Rachie lived a good life with hopefully few regrets. As she was known to say:  “If I am not having a good time, it is my own damn fault…”

Peace and good times be with you, Rachie, until we meet again!

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3 thoughts on “Rachel Ruth Stearns Koory”

  1. What a wonderful life she must have had. I am sure it was a very difficult life during her early years. My friends and I bowled at the Jubilee Lanes (Tom & Chris Schiavon) and afterwords we would go downtown; the Bonanza; the Old Heidelberg Inn; Turf Club; The Sabre Room at the General Custer Hotel and even hit the Silver Dollar Inn across the tracks.

    I had not heard the Koory name until my wife (Toni) and I delivered Meals on Wheels. If I remember correctly, we made a delivery(ies) to the home on the SW corner of Parkhill and 13th Street W. There was Kay, she introduced herself and I asked if she used to entertain. It was like opening up floodgates of memories.

    I am very happy that after all of those years I was able to meet her again. She will be truly missed by anyone that is left that remembers the old Downtown Billings entertainment venues.

    GOD BLESS KAY AND ESPECIALLY HER FAMILY!.

  2. Thomas Halsey Doely

    I was introduced to Kay by my Uncle Richard (Dick) Brickley! My Aunt Gloria passed away which left him lonely and sad, then his daughter Diane passed away which was devastating! Then he met Kay, and his life changed for ever. I had the pleasure of dressing her hair, dancing at the Elks, she comforted my Dad when my mother passed away! We partied together during my cousin Johns wedding in Chicago! She came to all of our family get Arizona with Uncle Richard!! She was a classie, kind, generous, breath of fresh air who our family all loved! She will be truly missed! Thomas Halsey Doely, Tolleson, Arizona

  3. I met Joe and Kay at the Bonanza Lounge when I had recently moved to Billings from Plentywood in 1966. Kay planned special holiday entertainment at the club and I was a part of it. In 2010, the Billings Gazette featured her in an article and I wrote to her. She responded in her gracious way and remembered me clearly! She had a joyous spirit. God bless Kay and her family. She left such lovely memories with so many. Adrienne Syme Gibson.

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