Our remarkable Dad, Grandpa and Great-Grandpa William Howard “Bill” Eaton passed from this earth to his heavenly home on April 6, 2019. His beloved wife Betty and our beloved mom had passed just 28 days earlier on March 9, 2019, leaving him heartbroken without his best friend at his side. They were blessed to celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary in November 2018. We take great comfort knowing they are now together in heaven.
Bill entered this world in River Falls, Wisconsin, on Nov. 22, 1928, as one of eight kids born to George and Grace Eaton. After graduating from River Falls High School, Bill made the move to Montana, and eventually all of his family followed and settled in the Big Timber area. His brother Sherm talked the family into building a truck stop nine miles south of Big Timber, and thus Eaton’s Inn was born. It was a combination of a café, bar, dance hall and gas station, along with a few cabins. It didn’t take long for the “Inn” to earn a stellar reputation as “the place” to stop for outstanding home cooking. The Inn was the magnet that drew all the Eatons together, especially at Christmas.
It was in Big Timber that Bill would meet and marry the love of his life, Betty Yost, who lived on a ranch near Melville. Together, they moved to Billings, where Bill and his father-in-law Leonard Yost started the Eaton and Yost Construction company. Over 64 years, developing and building custom homes. When the economy slowed down, Bill and Betty invested in Pella Windows and Doors, becoming the distributor for all of Montana. Their son Sheldon would take over Eaton and Yost Construction, while their sons Larry and Rod became responsible for Pella Windows and Doors. This did not mean Betty and Bill “retired.” Instead, they became a team of two, driving all over the state doing window repair work for many years and always had stories to tell of their travels.
Bill grew up during the Depression and times were hard. He recalled a time when his childhood friend Glenn found a penny, so they decided to walk four miles barefoot to a candy store to buy a sucker. The owner felt so sorry for them that he gave them each a sucker. This story perfectly illustrates Bill’s character; he was a champion of hard, tireless work, who took great pride in everything he did, from contracting to gardening.
If there were two words that best describe Dad, they would be “passionate outdoorsman.” Hunting and fishing dominated his life. Our memories of growing up involve countless hours stalking big game, fishing, camping, hiking, exploring Montana’s backcountry on Tote Goat trail bikes and snowmobiles. He was most comfortable worshiping the Lord in Montana’s landscapes and always so thankful and appreciative of what God had created. These values have continued to pass on to his kids and grandkids.
Mom and Dad left our family with two priceless treasures — a cabin near Luther and a small ranch near Melstone. The grandkids are blessed with beautiful memories from the cabin — ice hockey on a frozen pond, partaking in maple syrup candy drizzled over a bowl of snow, massive fireworks on the 4th of July, and hikes to the infamous bear cave.
The Melstone property allowed Dad to live out his dream of being a rancher. Together, Mom and Dad spent many a day spraying weeds, a goal that was never quite accomplished at the ranch. In the evenings, it was their simple joy to watch the deer come and graze in the fields. When they weren’t at the ranch, they could be found tending to a monster-sized garden adjacent to their Billings home or working on jigsaw puzzles.
Both Mom and Dad’s lives were devoted to caring for their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. Dad would have given the shirt off his back to help any one of us. He was a kind and gentle soul. He loved the Lord and we take great comfort in knowing that he and Mom are together.
You can’t say Bill without saying Betty, that’s just the way it was. They inspired, encouraged, helped, served, loved and touched so many people in their life. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your generous spirit. We love you!
Surviving Bill are his children, Donnie Sexton (Ed) and their sons, Jed (Riann) and Tanner; Sheldon (Vicki) and their sons Dusty (Kara) and Dallas (Anna); Larry (Connie) and their kids, Hilarry (Peterson), Seth (Cassie); Logan (Kristin), Sedley (AJ), Meaghan (Cory); Bridger (April); Colter; Rod (Sandi) and their kids, Brianna, Rachael, Kyle, and Connor. In addition, there are 14 great-grandchildren and two on the way! Preceding Bill in death are are wife Betty, his parents, his seven siblings, and grandson Ryan.
Services for Bill will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 13, at Faith Chapel, 517 Shiloh Road in Billings.
Memorials can be made to United Luv Project, 3245 Alpine Drive, Billings, MT 59102.