Joann Nelson December 29, 1924 - December 14, 2022
Joann S. Nelson, 97, of Deer Lodge, died peacefully on Wednesday morning, Dec. 14, 2022, surrounded by her loving family. Joann was preceded in death by her husband, the Rev. Canon T. Christian Nelson; her sister Rosemary and brother John. Two of Joann’s children also preceded her in death: her sixth child, baby Thomas Russell Nelson in 1959, and her eldest child, David Christian Nelson in 2009. Joann has one surviving sister, Nancy Soltero of Sedona, Ariz. Joann is also survived by her remaining children and their spouses: son David’s wife Lois Anne Nelson of Toledo, Ohio; Peggy Miller of Missoula; Douglas and Christel Nelson of Les Mathes Charente-Maritime, France; Anne Louise (Annie) and John Bergin of Seattle; Dorothy and David Zerbe of Oshkosh, Wis.; and Andrew and Robin Nelson of Seattle. Joann is also survived by 22 loving grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren, some of whom live as far away as Hawaii and Ireland. Joann was born Joan Louise Staats on Dec. 29, 1924, to Russell L. Staats and Margaret Kerr Staats of Chugwater, Wyo., the second of four children. There was no hospital in Chugwater, so Joann was born in Cheyenne (After she learned to read, she added an “n” to her first name so people would pronounce her name correctly). Joann walked daily to a two-room schoolhouse that was heated with coal throughout the long winters. Joann loved school, and her favorite subject was reading. She graduated from Chugwater High School in 1942, in a class of 21 people. As a child, Joann learned to play the piano from an itinerant piano teacher. Joann’s family was involved in the local Baptist church, and she quickly discovered her passion was singing. She was easily recognized as a talented vocalist and piano accompanist. She attended the University of Wyoming at Laramie and was inducted into the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority. She met Army GI/New Jersey native T. Christian Nelson (Chris) when he was also attending classes at UW, and they both sang in the Episcopal church choir. They were separated for a time while Chris was stationed in the Aleutian Islands during WWII, and in June 1946, after Joann graduated with her Music degree from UW, they were married and spent the entire summer on the east coast. Joann and Chris had seven children, moving from state to state in the Midwest and in the East, pursuing Chris’ educational goals and job leads as an engineer and then following his call to become an Episcopalian minister. Joann stepped naturally into the role of church organist and choir director. She had a passion for music that was contagious. A stay-at-home Mom, she taught piano and voice students in her living room. She sang in community choirs and accepted solo singing gigs whenever she could. Among her favorite opportunities were singing the Brahms Requiem with the Billings Symphony in 1964 and singing the soprano lead in Verdi’s Requiem with the Bozeman Symphony in 1973 (The Verdi is now preserved on MP3). Joann and Chris and their six children left Billings and moved to Mandan, N.D. in 1967 where Joann continued teaching piano and voice, becoming a popular instructor at Mary College (now Mary University) in Bismarck, N.D. Joann volunteered at Mandan’s St. Vincent de Paul store and was constantly finding people in her community who needed help, and offering her friendship. In 1987, when Chris retired as an engineer (he had returned to engineering while continuing as a pastor part-time), the couple moved to Deer Lodge. Chris had been called to fill the pulpit at St. James Episcopal Church, and Joann quickly filled in as the organist. She made friends easily by volunteering everywhere and riding her bicycle all over town until she was well into her 80s. She and Chris joined the community choir and the Prison Players Theater group, which is where she met the Cutler family. This led to countless other theatrical and accompaniment opportunities for Joann, which she thoroughly enjoyed for the next 20-some years. Joann joined a group of friends singing and playing piano weekly at the assisted living facilities in Deer Lodge, up until age 95, when COVID put a stop to public gatherings. Also in Deer Lodge, Joann, with the help of her husband Chris, helped initiate a Crisis Pregnancy Help Center, a Hospice program and the Senior Center (which continues to this day). Joann also enjoyed much travel. She and Chris drove or flew to various locations to greet most of their grandchildren soon after they were born. They also travelled to England, France and New Zealand together. After Chris died in 1996, some of Joann’s excursions included India, France, England, China (as an English language instructor), Honduras for a year as a teacher, Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, New Zealand and the San Juan Islands. Joann was in the habit of going to the Sun-Up gym five days a week, riding the stationary bike daily and weight-lifting 3x/week. She was an avid reader, persevering even though her vision was dimming. She used a lighted video-magnifier to thoroughly read the local weekly news and the Sunday paper. She devoured the “Week” news magazine, and regularly watched the PBS news hour to keep up with what was going on in the world. Joann loved going to Senior Lunch at the Deer Lodge Senior Center. Other hobbies included hiking, swimming, word games like Scrabble and Quiddler, gardening, crosswords and sewing. Joann loved people. In her 80s, she learned that a young friend needed help with daycare for her baby. Joann offered to care for the child one day a week. As the years progressed, that child began piano lessons with Joann once a week. During this time period, Joann earned the nickname, “JoJo.” Morning and night, Joann asked God for guidance. For years, she sang a hymn in French every morning as part of her devotions. She was an avid follower of Christ but kept an open mind and often voiced her concern about what was wrong in the world. Joann made a difference by developing her personal faith, engaging with people of all ages and variety of beliefs, by being honest about her doubts and praying constantly for world peace. Joann supported many causes. Over the past couple of decades, instead of giving gifts to her grown children and grandchildren each Christmas, Joann began making donations in their names to dig wells in villages in Africa or South America that needed water. These are the kind of gifts that keep on giving. Joann loved her friends in Deer Lodge and knew she was dearly loved. As one of her musician friends recently coined, “Joann was a kind, vivacious soul.” While visiting her daughter’s family in Missoula in the Fall, Joann began a hospice program to help guide her Home. Sincere thanks to Big Sky Hospice for all the beauty, help and encouragement they offered Joann and her family in these past weeks. Joann’s passing leaves an enormous void in our lives. Please come join us in remembering her. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at St. James Episcopal Church, 307 Cottonwood Ave., Deer Lodge. The service will be at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon at The Broken Arrow restaurant, 317 Main St., Deer Lodge. In lieu of flowers for Joann’s memorial, please consider giving to a worthy cause that helps people in need, i.e., Habitat for Humanity or your local food shelf.
Mary Sue (Andress) Barber October 5, 1961 - November 20, 2022
Mary Sue Barber, 61, of Deer Lodge, Mont., died Nov. 20, 2022. She was born on Oct. 5, 1961, near Seoul, South Korea. Because of extremely difficult circumstances there, her mother placed Mary Sue for adoption, and she was adopted at age 8 by the Andress family of Golden Valley, Minnesota, where she arrived on March 25, 1970. Mary Sue attended school in the Robbinsdale school district (Minnesota) – Sunny Hollow Elementary, Sandburg Middle School and Armstrong High School, graduating in 1980. She sang in choir, participated in vocational technical club and was active at Calvary Lutheran Church. Mary Sue held a variety of jobs in the hospitality and related industries through the years, in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Utah and Montana. She had one child, James T. Barber, from her marriage to JT Barber. She reconnected with her birth mother and family when they moved to the U.S. In Deer Lodge she found a home and family on the staff at the Safeway grocery store, where she worked for 20 years. She got hugs from little kids and brightened customers’ days with her smile. She won regional competitions for being the best “sample lady” in the business, out-selling everyone on special promotions. Mary Sue had a deep love of nature – the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior in Minnesota, the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Colorado, the mountains and streams near Deer Lodge where she would camp and harvest wild things. She faced many challenges in her life and made it through with remarkable resilience. She had a kind and generous heart and touched so many people’s lives. In her last month of life she was making wild rice soup for a friend who had survived a car accident. Mary Sue was diagnosed with lung cancer in November 2021 and lived through a series of aggressive treatments for the next 12 months. Mary Sue was preceded in death by Chong Sun Dollarhide (Richard) and James Andress. She is survived by James T. Barber, Jonithan Barber, Shelby Andress, Gene Dollarhide (Un Chong), Yong Pae Choi (Chong Rose), Liz Andress (Steve Solbrack), Paul Andress (Margot), nieces and nephews – and so many in Deer Lodge who loved her. Private family memorial gathering planned for January in Minnesota. Memorial gifts may be directed to a charity of your choice, in honor of Mary Sue’s generous heart.
Donald Earl Dalton January 18, 1935 - December 1, 2022
Donald Earl Dalton came into this life on Jan. 18, 1935, and left it in the early hours of Dec. 1, 2022. He went gently into that good night just as he wanted, taking his last breath at home on Little Blackfoot River Road, south of Elliston. Born in Golden, Colo., to Robert John Dalton and Ruth Ellen (McIntyre) Dalton, Don spent his youth in Golden and San Bernardino, Calif., working summers with his brothers in family mines and mills in Nevada and Arizona. After graduating from the Colorado School of Mines, he served two years in the U. S. Army posted to Korea. Back home, Don joined his family’s agricultural minerals business, R. J. Dalton and Sons. Over the years he also built and remodeled many houses. Don’s surviving brother, Frank, believes the happiest time of Don’s life was when he moved to Montana in 1985 and mushed dogs with Dave Torgerson. Don spent many nights caring for and training sled dog teams with Dave, often on the road to Kading Campground up the Little Blackfoot River. Those countless training nights led to travels to race sled dogs as far north as Yellowknife, NWT, Canada. With his keen engineering mind and countless skills, Don hand-produced dogsleds that continue to travel moonlight trails to this day. Don was well known and respected throughout the mushing community; his friends spread to the far reaches of North America, only to gather at yearly events, the most notable the Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, which traveled throughout western Wyoming. Don was a fixture at this event for nearly two decades. He later became a grandfather figure to Dave’s children, Maria, Sydnie and Emilie Torgerson. Don was an avid horseman his entire life and liked nothing better than trail rides with friends, astride Cody, his favorite mount, who is now 32-years-old. From his front window he trained his binoculars on the comings and goings of foxes, elk grazing on the mountain opposite his house, and the birds living in, or just passing through, the Little Blackfoot/Telegraph Creek area. Don was the neighborhood Mr. Fix-it, whether what needed fixing was a lawn mower, a dirt bike, a vacuum cleaner, car, truck or snow blower. His green pickup was at the ready to pull other drivers out of ditches and snow banks, night or day. He used his favorite tool, a chain saw, to clear trails, cut up deadfall on the road and to fell many Christmas trees for friends over the years. Surviving Don are his younger brother, Frank, and Frank’s wife Trina, of Riverside, Calif.; Roberta Kay, wife of his late brother Robert, of Tucson, Ariz.; and his only sister, the late Mary Hornsby, who was also of Riverside. Don possessed a kindness that he spread throughout the Elliston area; he supported and touched many lives in our valley community. He loved the Little Blackfoot Valley and those in the Valley loved and cared for Don as well. His family, friends and neighbors, dog and horse will miss him greatly. Don’s parting wish was to “maybe have a little party for me.” A celebration of his life is scheduled for noon to 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Avon MT Community Center, lunch provided by the Avon Café. Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Don.
Don Stoecker March 3, 1933 -December 4, 2022
Don Stoecker, 89, was born March 3, 1933, and died on Dec. 4, 2022. He grew up in California, and after serving in the Navy moved to Montana where he worked on ranches in the Big Hole and Philipsburg area. Don developed an interest in birds and became an excellent birder and supporter of Montana Audubon. He established the Christmas Bird Count at Warm Springs, which is still being conducted today. Although Don had no formal training in ornithology, he studied hard and became known as an outstanding birder in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. In Don’s later years he lived in his van and followed the birds to Texas in the fall. There he led bird walks at several National Wildlife Management Areas. Each spring he would return to Montana with his friends, “the birds,” during spring migration. Don was a friend and mentor to many birders during his active years of birding. When Don could no longer care for himself, he moved into the IVY retirement home in Deer Lodge where he enjoyed an easy life with someone else cooking for him until his death. He had one sister who remained in California. Don was laid to rest at Hillcrest Cemetery in Deer Lodge. Please visit www.axelsonfuneralhome.com to offer the family a condolence or share a memory of Don.
Wayland D. Smith May 7, 1928 - December 3, 2022
Wayland D. Smith died Dec, 3, 2022. He was born May 7, 1928, to Alva and Margaret Smith in Bartlesville, Okla., the oldest of four children. He was a proud World War II Navy Vet with 76 years in the American Legion. He was a Master Electrician, retiring as Electrical Inspector at age 92. He was a member of Knights of Columbus since 1964, being inducted into the 4th degree in 1966, serving as Master from 1989 to 1993. He was also an accomplished craftsman, blessing many with his gift. He was a beloved husband, dad, and grandpa. He is survived by his wife of 73 years, Teresa (Rogers) Smith; six daughters, Sharon (Sid) Helgesen, Janet (Tim) Olsen, Linda (Mike) McElderry, Annie (Ron) Ockert, Lisa (Rick) Rambo, Kim (Rocky) Hanson; five sons, Christopher (Debbie) Smith, David (Randi) Smith, Shawn Smith, Michael (Colleen) Smith and Alan (Shelly) Smith; 34 grandchildren, 38 great grandchildren and eight great-great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, three siblings, son Denis, one grandson Chris, and two sons-in-law Rick Rambo and Tim Olsen. A Memorial Mass will be scheduled in June 2023. Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Wayland.