Gary Skinner, 78, passed away on May 28 in Olympia, Wash. He was born on March 16, 1945, in Bozeman. Gary was a loving family man who had a great sense of humor and enjoyed spending time with his wife, his horses and his dogs. Gary was preceded in death by his parents, Herb and Elsie Skinner. He is survived by his wife, Chloe Skinner; his daughter, Tami Skinner; his son, Brian Skinner; his daughter-in-law, Laurel Skinner; his granddaughter, Lily Sinner; his grandson, Nathaniel Skinner; his brothers, Ron, Rick, Ted and Terry; his sister, Sherry Pfendler; and several nieces and nephews. Gary retired a Lieutenant Colonel from the Air Force after serving our country for 20 years. He went on to work in the private sector for another 20 years. He enjoyed training his horses, making improvements around his property, carpentry and spending time with his family. He was a family man at heart. Services to be determined.
Anne K. Dietrich October 14, 1928 - June 27, 2023
On June 27, 2023, we lost Anne K. Dietrich, Mom, Grannie Annie, at the age of 94. Anne was born a year before the Great Depression on Oct. 14, 1928. She outlived nearly every member of her generation. She was born in her grandparents’ home in Fairview, Mont. She was a child of an agricultural community, many who had “proved up” their homesteads. Anne remained deeply linked to those modest roots. Later, as the wife of dedicated lawyer John M. “Jack” Dietrich, and the mother of five children, she was exposed to many strong, interesting and varied personalities. Anne never forgot whence she came, nor failed to bring common sense, light-heartedness and humor to her environment. Her German/Norwegian/immigrant sense of modesty (she was more authentic than anyone in Lake Wobegon) created a loving and compassionate environment for her family, friends, community and her beloved Mayflower Church. In the Great Depression, her father, Louis C. Kiefer, and her mother, Etta Bauman Kiefer, moved from Fairview, along Montana’s Hi-Line, to Havre and Shelby, and then settled in Deer Lodge; they lived in 14 homes until they purchased a house in Deer Lodge. “I often had only one dress before my high school years,” she said. In Deer Lodge, Louis managed a grocery store. “He would sometimes help the less fortunate to have enough to eat,” she observed. In the 1930s, raised as a “prison city kittie,” she befriended the Middleton family, headed by the Montana State prison warden, and his daughter, Tomme Lu Worden, who remained a lifelong friend. She remembered the “wireless” radio announce the 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing while as an early teen she helped her parents install storm windows on the family home. She observed the nation go to war and many young men from Deer Lodge take part. Jack, the “boy across the street” had been drafted out of his first year at Stanford. Later in the war years she and he exchanged letters as he served in Casablanca and Tripoli in the US Army Air Corps. After the war, from 1946 to 1947 she studied at the University of Montana and developed there, working in its library, a lifelong passion for reading. “I unwrapped the new books as they came in and got first crack at reading them.” And there she developed a progressive set of friends (Margot, Lorraine, Barbara, Joanne) who would influence her progressive humanism throughout her life. She married the “young man across the street,” Jack Dietrich, on June 19, 1948, at the Presbyterian Church in Deer Lodge. She was drafted into the role of secretary in his fledgling law practice, helping him be elected as Powell County Attorney. Both of their parents lived in the same neighborhood. There she gave life to her first two children, Paul and Janet. In 1955, Jack and Anne surprised themselves and their parents when they left a recently purchased “forever home” in Deer Lodge to move to Billings for a new opportunity. She supported Jack in his law career at the Crowley Law Firm. Billings was vibrant with Williston Basin oil money and post war expansion. They bought a modest farmhouse on what was then the far West End of Billings (the 2000 block of Pryor Lane), which lacked a phone for several months, and which was served by a dirt road. They renovated the home, adding a second story, and it would serve as her Billings abode for over 62 years until 2017. During the Pryor Lane years, she would give life to three more children, David, Susan and Katja. It was in this home that Mom and Dad exemplified the quote “There are two things we give our children: one is roots, the other wings.” Missing the mountains of Deer Lodge and Western Montana, in 1960, she and Jack located a lot in the Grizzly Peak Mountain homes in the Beartooth foothills; the cabin would become her weekend and summer mountain escape. She would trail her children through ethnic grocery stores and the Festival of Nations in the mining town of Red Lodge. There she and Jack met their cabin neighbors from Minneapolis, who became ranch partners, Vince and Janet Carpenter, with whom they enjoyed a four-decade partnership. She was an eclectic reader, a vigilant gardener, and an available confidant to any of her children or grandchildren who needed advice or wisdom. She placed the Cicero quote at her cabin: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” For decades, she attended her local book club (whose selections were much in demand) with a gaggle of friends, introduced to her by Judy Johnson. Jack died in 2007 and Anne flourished with a second wind of life at 2047 Pryor Lane until 2017, when she moved to Morningstar. “It was like being on a cruise ship,” she would say. She later enjoyed the compassionate care of its Reflections Memory Care Unit since February of 2021. “I intend to live long enough to be a problem to my children” she would joke. The Dietrich family extends its heartfelt thanks for the help to the staff of Morningstar and Stillwater Hospice. Anne was preceded in death by her parents Louis C. Kiefer and Etta Bauman Kiefer, her brother Louis C. Kiefer, her husband Jack Dietrich and her beloved granddaughter Natalie Anne Dietrich. Anne is survived by her children Paul, Janet (Dan Erikson), David (Jan), Suzy (Ryan Clarke) and Katja. Her beloved grandchildren were the light of her life: Christian (Paul); Elizabeth, Ellen, and Zoe (Janet); Rachel (David); Megan, Patrick and Bailey (Suzy); and Jacob (Katja). Anne’s great-grandchildren Archer and Weston (Elizabeth); Finley and Addison (Megan); will grow to learn of Great Grannie Annie’s humor and wisdom. She was a proud member of the Delta Gamma Sorority at the University of Montana, the Billings Chapter “S” P.E.O.; the Junior League of Billings, and in the 1990’s, she served on the Fine Arts Board of the University of Montana. She also enjoyed working as a docent at the Yellowstone Art Museum. A celebration of life will occur at Mayflower Church at 2940 Poly Drive at 11 .m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22, with a reception to follow. In the words of Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music: “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night I hate to go and leave this pretty sight … So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu” In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial to the Rialto Theater in Deer Lodge, the Billings Public Library Foundation, the Yellowstone Art Museum, The Mayflower Church or a charity of your choice.
Phyllis Maureen Higle August 6, 1936 - February 14, 2023
On Tuesday February 14th of 2023, Mrs. Phyllis Maureen Higle slipped away to be with our Lord and Savior at age 86 in Phoenix, Ariz. She was surrounded by loved ones and people who cared for her as she passed peacefully. Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents and dear sisters Beverly Demattio, Beulah Smith and Thelma Davenport. Phyllis was born on Aug. 6, 1936 in Circle, Mont. The daughter of Margaret and Arcie DeLapp, she attended grade school there until 1942 when her family moved to Rexford, Mont., at which time she became a student at Rexford Elementary School in Rexford followed by Lincoln County High School in Eureka, Mont. On June 10, 1952, she was united in marriage to the late Thomas Oliver Higle. Together they had four beautiful children, Gregory Higle of Kennewick, Wash., Rebecca Alvis (Steve) of Phoenix, Ariz., the late Clinton Higle, and Lori Peterson (Gary) of Phoenix, Ariz. Phyllis was a devoted wife, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother and friend to all those she knew. She loved spending time in the kitchen cooking and baking for her family and friends.Every weekend you could find family and friends gathered around the supper table for hours, sharing stories and laughter. Phyllis was always ready with a full pot of coffee, fresh sun tea and fresh baked cookies along with an ear for listening to whatever was on your mind, or just for catching up. She was always ready to add an extra plate for supper if Tom happened to bring anyone home with him. Most of all she loved her family! Many weekends you could also find a grandkid or two there as well. Even though Phyllis was not musically inclined her love for music was taught to all her kids and grandkids. You could always count on her house being filled with some type of music playing.She felt music was good for the soul which she instilled in her family. Phyllis also supported Tom with all of his businesses by doing the bookwork to keep them thriving.Later, she worked for Dr. Richard Miller, DMD which she loved keeping his dental office in tip top order. All of Tom and Phyllis’ grandkids would say they were the best grandparents in the world and that their house was the best place to be. A favorite memory by all the grandkids was the homemade popcorn and delicious milkshakes that she treated all of them to. Phyllis will be deeply missed by her grandkids, Jarrod Neckels (Kelly), Stevee Alvis, Lani Jo Gilman (Tal), Meghan Higle (Anthony), Patric Higle (Leanne), Chase Higle, Koby Peterson (Tiana), Emmy Driscoll (Eric), and her 12 great-grandkids. She also leaves behind her brother Farrell DeLapp (Donna) and numerous nieces and nephews. A service will be held in Deer Lodge at the First Baptist Church on Saturday, July 22 at 11:00 am to celebrate the life of Phyllis.
Jack J. N. Price May 3, 1931 - July 19, 2023
Jack, 92, passed away Wednesday evening peacefully in his home surrounded by family. He was born to John and Veronica (Paddy) Price on May 3, 1931, in Missoula. Jack graduated from Powell County High School in 1950. In 1951 he joined the Marines and served in the Korean War through 1953. After the war Jack returned to work at Montana Phosphate Mine (Cominco American) where he would retire after 30 years. In 1956 Jack met Eleanor Ann Cearley during a dance at the Avon Club House. They were married on June 23, 1956. They were blessed with three children. He was so proud of his children, grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. He valued his friendships and never missed an opportunity to meet new people and learn about them. Jack loved making films, pitching horseshoes, history, traveling and working cattle with the family. His legacy will be carried on through his family and agricultural operations. Jack was very active in the community, being a member of numerous organizations. He was preceded in death by his parents and grandchildren Samantha Jo and Isaac. Jack is survived by his wife Eleanor and three children: Sarah (Chuck) Fiske of Butte, John (Lynn Thomas) Price of Avon, and Mary (John) Rantz of Bellingham, Wash.; brother, Henry Price; eight grandchildren; and seven and one-half great grandchildren; a niece and nephew. A viewing will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home in Helena. Graveside services will be held at the Avon Cemetery at 11 a.m., Friday, July 28, with Rite of Committal and Military Honors. A luncheon will follow at the Avon Club House. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to Avon Fire Department, Avon Quick Response Unit (QRU) or Avon Cemetery.
Helen M. Barnett September 25, 1921 - July 14, 2023
Helen M. Barnett, 101, passed away Friday, July 14, at Deer Lodge Medical Center. Born on Sept. 25, 1921, in Iona, S.D., Helen was the daughter of the late Mathew and Ethel (Barkell) Gilpen. She was married to Delbert Barnett, who preceded her in death. Helen was a faithful Jehovah’s Witness as well as a caregiver for her daughter, Lucille. She is survived by her daughter, Lucille Barnett of Deer Lodge, and one son, Jack Barnett of Chino Valley, Ariz. She is further survived by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Private services will be held. Please visit axelsonfuneralhome.com to offer a condolence or share a memory of Helen.
Valerie Y. Benson, 62, of Helena, died July 19, 2023. Funeral services are at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 26, at Immaculate Conception Church, 605 Clark Street in Deer Lodge. Burial will follow the service at the Avon Cemetery in Avon. A reception will follow the burial at the Avon Community Clubhouse on Main Street. Visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to share a favorite memory of Valerie.