Bea Gibson passed away Feb. 4, 2021, at RiverStone Hospice House in Billings, after a fall two weeks earlier. She was just 52 days shy of her 100th birthday.
Bea was born Bernice Marie Reh on March 25, 1921, in Fresno, California, to Adam and Stephanie Reh — the fifth of seven children.
After high school, she enlisted in the U.S. Army Women’s Air Corps and served at a military hospital in Paris during World War II, achieving the rank of sergeant before her honorable discharge. Following the war, she studied microbiology at Colorado State University, where she met Joseph Arthur Gibson. They were married June 10, 1950, in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Joe’s jobs with federal land-management agencies took them to Bernalillo, Chama and Farmington in New Mexico. All five of Bea’s children were born in New Mexico. They later moved to Montana and raised their children in Malta and Lewistown. They lived for a few years in Virginia before transferring back to Montana and settling in Billings.
Bea was an artist, painting mostly landscapes from her travels. She declined to sell her paintings, instead displaying them in her home and giving them to her children and grandchildren.
After Joe retired in 1982, the couple toured extensively with their Airstream travel trailer, visiting most states and Canadian provinces with the Wally Byam Caravan Club. They camped frequently with family and friends.
Bea rarely used a measuring cup and inadvertently created Gibson chocolate cake while trying to use up half a pan of leftover oatmeal and some Hershey’s bars. Sixty years later, the cake still is a hit with her family and friends who soon discovered that it paired well with beer around the campfire.
Bea is preceded in death by her husband Joe in 2016; their oldest son, Thomas; and her siblings. She is survived by daughters Rosemary (Mike) Youderian of Lewistown and Eileen Wendlandt of Billings; sons Robert (Linda) of Billings and Joseph of Palmer, Alaska; 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Remembrances will include a family gathering at Mountview Cemetery and a more extensive celebration with family, friends and acquaintances this summer.
In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to the RiverStone Hospice House, 2230 Mission Way, Billings, MT 59102.