James Fern Fitz
James Fern Fitz passed away on January 6, 2017 at the Deer Lodge Center where he had been living for the past year under the wonderful care of the staff who grew to love him.
Jim was born on August 21, 1927 in Chehalis, Wash. to Fern and Ethel Fitz where he grew up ranching, logging and eventually became a heavy equipment operator.
Jim and his first wife, Vivian Stearns, met at school in Boisfort, Wash. They had three children, James, Vivian, and Nancy. They later divorced, and he then met his companion of 20 years, Maxine Crews. She was his cowgirl and they spent their time in Centralia, Wash. taking care of his mother and the ranch she owned near Curtis, Wash. Shortly after Maxine’s passing in 1999, Jim moved to Deer Lodge to live with his daughter Nancy and her family. He spent the remainder of his days charming the waitresses at the local 4B’s and Avon Cafe.
Jim enjoyed attending auctions and estate sales. He was an enthusiastic reader of local history, loved watching old TV westerns and spending time driving the back roads with his son-in-law David. Jim had a need for big boy toys; be it boats, tractors, trucks or horses, and he managed to add another one to the collection each time Nancy was distracted. Jim lived with Dave and Nancy in their dream home on three acres with a view he fell in love with. He spent time sitting in his favorite arm chair watching the mountains in the town he grew to call home. He had a knack for putting a smile on everyone’s face, and he quickly became friends with all those he crossed paths with. Most will remember him for his perfect one-liners, his flirtatious demeanor, and his stubborn attitude. He will be deeply missed, and the excitement he brought to his family and friends will never be forgotten.
Jim is survived by his children, James and his wife Judy Fitz of Arizona, Vivian and her husband Frank Burke of Nevada, and Nancy and her husband David Moore of Montana, as well as numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren in North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Montana. He was preceded in death by his parents, his companion, Maxine Crews and his brother Gerald Fitz.
The family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to the staff of the Deer Lodge Center for their care and compassion.
In accordance with Jim’s wishes, there will not be a service, however, friends and family are invited to gather in a celebration of Jim’s life on Saturday, January 21, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Elks Lodge.
Helen Mae Schaffer
Helen, 87, left us to join her beloved husband, Buck, and her many friends and family members on Thursday, January 12, 2017. She lived her life to the fullest and left us with only happy memories. Helen was born in Butte on October 1, 1929 to Frank & Agnes (Murphy) Harris. She lived her childhood years on the family homestead east of Deer Lodge and started grade school at the Emery School located east of Deer Lodge at the Emery Mine site. She graduated from Powell County High School with the Class of 1947. Helen lived in Deer Lodge until 1998, when she built a house south of town seven miles. In 2012 she moved to Hunters’ Pointe retirement home in Helena. She enjoyed her life at Hunters’ Pointe. There was nothing better than a fast game of poker, pinochle or bingo to win a nickel from her friends. She was a card shark to the very end!
On November 21, 1947 Helen married her best friend, Dale “Buck” Schaffer. They lived a wonderful life together and made many memories that we will cherish forever. Buck and Helen had many good friends and traveled extensively with them. They never had a ‘down-weekend’ in their life. Helen loved anything with yarn attached to it! She spun yarn from the sheep and knitted or crocheted many sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves, pot-holders, and sometimes mystery items! She was an avid and very competitive bowler. She was the Montana delegate to the Senior National tournament in Reno at the age of 80. She continued her bowling career to the very end, bowling on the Wii bowling league at the Hunter’s Pointe. Her high point game on the Wii was a 299 just a year ago. Her yard was very important to her. She spent most of her summer days making her flowers bloom for us.
Buck & Helen owned and operated “Buck’s Union 76” gas station for 10 years in the 1960s. Helen started working for the local telephone company when it was “Mountain Bell.” She continued as the office manager in the Deer Lodge office for 20 years as it went from Mountain Bell, to U.S. West, to Qwest, to Century Link. When the Deer Lodge office closed in 1984, she transferred to the Helena office until her retirement in 1990. She always had her side-line business of sewing and knitting for anybody that needed any kind of stitching done.
Helen was preceded in death by her husband, Buck and her parents Frank & Agnes, and her only sibling, Ann Hilderman. She is survived by her children, Bill (Barbara) Schaffer of Washougal, Wash., Debi (Dan) Kelley of Deer Lodge, and John (Rhonda) Schaffer of Helena. Also her pride and joys, that only knew her as “Gramma Buck” – grandchildren, Cody (Karlee) Kelley, Ryan (fiancée Lindsay Bras) Kelley, Kyle (Leigh) Kelley, Tyler (Jessica) Pipinich, Shelby Schaffer and Kelly Souza; great-grandchildren, Claire & Wiley Kelley; McKenna, Bridger & Alexa Pipinich; Jordan & Cory Souza. Mom never liked funerals, so at her request there will be no services. The next time you see an eagle soaring – throw her a kiss!
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