The world lost an amazing woman last Sunday morning, March 1, 2020, when Lonna Rae Collett passed away after a long battle with illness she fought with rare strength and courage. The beauty of her person and the strength of her character are irreplaceable, and her compassionate and gentle spirit will be greatly missed by her family and friends. Though her passing has saddened and deeply affected all of us, her family offers these words in the faith and confidence that she is now with her Creator and Redeemer, awaiting the resurrection of the body and the making new of all things.
She was born Lonna Rae Rathie in Butte, to Torbjorn Haakon Rathie and Leona Engler-Rathie at their Butte home on Edwards Street on Nov. 4, 1942, and baptized into the Catholic faith at St. Patrick Catholic Church (Butte). Four years later, her family moved to Red Lodge and she began her first years of schooling at the parish school of St. Agnes Catholic. In 1951, her family moved to Billings, where she completed her education at Fratt Memorial Parochial School and Billings Central High School, excelling in high school and graduating with the class of 1960. She married Donald Dean Collett in January 1962 and gave birth to two children, Donald Cary (’63) and Pennie Lynn (’64), then attended secretarial school in Billings. She began working for the law firm of Derry, Hanser, and Derry, leaving there to work at the Yellowstone County Courthouse as the secretary for the county attorney Harold Hanser for several years during the late ’60s and early ’70s. After transitioning into the world of banking at Valley Bank in Billings on 1645 Grand Avenue (now US Bank), she worked until her retirement at age 62 some 28 years later.
Lonna was a giving person who lived her life for the sake of helping others, especially her family. From her earliest years as a Girl Scout to her later years in banking customer service, she continued to give herself and her time to serving and supporting others. She was a selfless person who put others first, even when that meant doing without things she needed for her own support. She was a devoted mother who built her life around her children and extended family, enjoying yearly family get-togethers at Thanksgiving and Christmas at the home of her parents, especially Christmas.
She was a lover of all children and her own children, especially her grandchildren. The many pictures of her family in the photo albums she left behind provide abundant testimony to this, showing just how important family was for her. Lonna loved to watch children and plants grow up, and often had beautiful plants growing in and around her house. She led by example, teaching her children to be kind and generous to others. Everything her children and grandchildren have accomplished in life is due her many sacrifices, and they would not be where they are without her.
Her life was also lived through a love of music. She remained a devoted fan of the music of Elvis and ’50s rock n’ roll to the end of her life, though, as the ninth child in a family of 12 Rathie children, it goes without saying that she also loved country and western music. Charlie Pride, Freddie Fender, and Gene Watson were among her special favorites, and she loved to dance to country music with family and friends at many family get-togethers over the years. It’s hard to believe she is gone, and although heaven has gained a soul, her passing has left a hole that can never be filled in the lives of those who knew and loved her. Goodbye, Lonna Rae! We all love you and wait to see you again in that world that knows no end, where death and suffering have passed away in the resurrection life of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Lonna was preceded in death by her two sisters, Lavonne Rathie (1930), Margaret Rathie Davies (2013); and her three brothers, Raymond Rathie (1969), Lawrence Rathie (2008) and Leonard Rathie (2009). She is survived by her three sisters, Louise Eskro (Charles), Marlene Boyles (Richard), Alona Stancil; her three brothers, Torbjorn Rathie Jr. (Bonnie), Bernard Rathie (Lynn), Dennis Rathie; one son, Don Collett (Jamie); one daughter, Pennie McGrail (Randy); and four grandchildren, Jessica Rae Collett, Donald Bernard Collett, Kailey Denae McGrail, and Lexi Nicole McGrail; as well as many nieces and nephews.
Special thanks to Avantara Billings and the friends she made there for bringing happiness to her at a difficult time. Your care is appreciated.
Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Friday, March 6, at Michelotti-Sawyers, the Rev. Tim Hathaway presiding, followed by a graveside service at Sunset Memorial Gardens. There is a reception to follow at the Billings Elks Lodge on 934 Lewis Ave.