Jacqueline Dundas was a Montana native both in her heart and in her heritage. She grew up on a ranch around Nye and was raised in the mountains by her parents Thelma Cullen Eaton and Lewis Thomas Eaton. When Jacquee spoke of her childhood, it was invariably colored by the history and landscape that had surrounded her. Whether she was leading pack horses for a trip through Yellowstone Park, galloping Warpaint across the fields of the family land, or riding one of her father’s sturdy Montana Travelers, Jacquee’s reported family history reflected her love for her Montana home and the “people” who were always around her. “People” is appropriate here because she tended to consider the dogs, horses, cats and other animals that surrounded her to be among her people. Never without her dog(s), Jacquee loved the companionship of her four-legged friends. Jacquee drew people to her for a multitude of reasons as she generously shared her innate kindness, her ribald humor, her fierce loyalty and her love with the world. She could be as passionate about topic sentences as she was about the latest episode of Blue Planet and the people who relied on her the most could always be assured that she would share her heart with you.
As a lifelong proponent of education, Jacquee was both a dedicated steward of the institution and a staunch supporter of her students. She believed in her students’ ability to change and both stood over them to eradicate the passive voice from their writing and stood beside them when they stumbled over life’s obstacles. She was compassionate, but more than that, Jacquee was dedicated to her students. She would quietly go above and beyond to help them behind the scenes to better their chances of success in life as well as the classroom. Whether it was finding them some necessary supplies, getting them transportation, or sitting with them at her kitchen table and helping them refine their work, Jacquee was always willing to change her life in order to better help her students.
Jacquee believed in service to the world and she was tireless in giving her time and attention in the service of her school. With a teaching career spanning 51 years, she taught young people to communicate with clarity and to organize their thinking at Columbus High School, Will James Junior High, Billings Senior High, Billings Central Catholic High School and Rocky Mountain College. Students enjoyed her humor, her professionalism as an educator and her focused attention to the improvement of their command of the English language. She loved big ideas and was energized by the challenge of helping her students confront the thorniest of the human conditions with clear eyes and a compassionate heart. Her students were always as rigorously challenged to think as they were to write. Teaching was never just a job to Jacquee, and she steadfastly served her lifelong commitment to education in the classroom.
Outside of the classroom, Jacquee was continuously active in serving the institution of Rocky Mountain College in a multitude of ways. Mentoring was both a vocation and a calling for her. Jacquee always patiently listened to her colleagues’ teaching struggles, willingly discussed the finest of pedagogical points or refined the thinking about the themes of classes or the direction of the core curriculum. She could lift up troubled or despondent teaching spirits with both her bracing wisdom and compassionate smiles. Jacquee served on committees large and small, chaired the Humanities and Fine Arts Division for many years, and was the Director of the Equestrian Program, among many other roles as an active faculty member. As a Professor of English, Jacquee Dundas’s teaching position at Rocky Mountain College reflects a kind of coming home. Though she never taught in Eaton Hall, the administrative building holds her family name and stands as a reminder of the college’s deep ties to her family. Jacquee was an alumna of the school, graduating in 1968 from an institution formed by the efforts of her grandfather, Lewis Eaton, and his brother Ernest. The Eaton brothers founded Billings Polytechnic Institute in 1908, which became the foundation for the present Rocky Mountain College. Jacquee’s father Thomas graduated from BPI in 1936 and, in 2003, Jacquee’s son Ian received his bachelor’s degree from RMC. To walk around campus with Jacquee was a revelation of both family and local history as she fondly remembered playing over there at her grandmother’s house or the work that it took for her grandfather to plant the trees. Tall, stately evergreens along Poly Drive and sprinkled across the RMC campus were small sprouts that began from work of the Eaton family.
Jacquee’s family were her “dearest ones” and no one was more dear to her than her husband, Don Dundas. They were married for 37 years until his death in 2008. The two enjoyed their lives together and both frequently told stories of their adventures of raising their beloved son, Ian. Jacquee’s love for and pride in her son’s acerbic wit, poet’s heart and steadfast strength was ever present to those around her. Some of her most treasured stories might have caused Ian to squirm a bit in chagrin but they consistently brought laughter to Jacquee’s heart. How often we all chuckled over Ian’s youthful declaration of “I don’t want to hear any more about the muffins!” Jacquee was always willing to open her home and her heart to others, and she shared her love of the horse with so very many diverse individuals. Avid horsewomen such as Jacquee will always find kindred souls and her family of friends in the horse world is widespread. The bonds she shared with her horse friends moved across her lifetime as she raised Quarter Horses and competed with her horses in both cutting and all-around classes, and finally just enjoyed riding later in life. She relished the joys of laughter over victories in the show pen and the quiet humor of the smaller challenges in the barn life. As a champion of the horse, Jacquee was dedicated to the well-being of her horses and was well known for her need for both a million brushes and sparkling clean water buckets. Jacquee found one of her favorite brands of peace when she was in the barn and breathing in the scent of her horses. Through a shared love of the horse, Jacquee formed a lifelong bond with her dear friend Penni Nance, who served as a staunch guardian over Jacquee’s difficult battle with cancer. Jacquee often remarked that she treasured Penni’s strength of character and willingness to “walk in front of me with a sword.” As a devoted friend, Penni ensured Jacquee had what she needed when she needed it and worked diligently as a constant advocate.
Jacquee was an artist in both spirit and in craft. She created beautiful things and enjoyed sharing them with others. Her meticulous beadwork, ambitious needlepoint projects, and variety of animal paintings surrounded her. Jacquee’s home is a gallery of her favorite works and most reflect a combination of her vision of the noble horse, the beauty of the natural world, and a celebration of rural Montana life. Jacquee enjoyed sharing with others her eclectic artistic tastes that encompassed her love of literature, PBS, rock ’n roll and the Billings Symphony. Traveling with her in a vehicle could lead you down many aural paths from the craziest of the hair metal to the sweetest of the classical symphonies. You might also sit in the driveway of her house at the end of a long drive just to hear the ending of the latest audiobook. Though her colorful garden was a source of devotion (from the rigorous use of umbrellas for sheltering her hydrangeas to her wildly growing ferns sheltering overwinter in her college office) it also caused her some conflict (how to control weed invasions without hurting the ants and bees). Some of the best barbecue summer evenings could be spent out on her patio surrounded by vigorously blooming plants.
Jacquee is preceded in death by her husband, Donald Dundas; her parents; her nephew, Rob Dundas; and her sister-in-law Judy Krause. Jacquee is survived by her son, Ian Anderson Dundas; her siblings, Tom Eaton and Judi Gress; Don’s twin and Jacquee’s brother-in-law, Doug Dundas; her sister-in-law Shirley Dundas; brothers-in-law Greg Gress and Jerry Krause; and her nephews and nieces, Cadance Eaton Wipplinger, Chance Eaton, Cain Eaton, Todd Dundas, Joe Gress, Jeff Krause and Jennifer Krause Epp.
Jacquee’s impact on the lives of those she touched is a cherished legacy that is shared by an enormous circle of people. From the admiration of her two godchildren, Elise and Evan Neuman, to the influence on her students from over 50 years as a teacher, from her colleagues who treasured her wisdom and her wit to her friends who relished her laughter and her passion for life, Jacqueline Eaton Dundas’ multitude of gifts to us all will be marked, treasured and well-remembered.