Richard (Ricky) Ellrott
Richard Ellrott of Elliston, passed away at St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena on Wednesday July 22, 2020. He was born on November 27, 1946 in San Diego, Calif.
Ricky was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Beryl Ellrott; his brother, Ken Ellrott; and his sister Beverly Young of Elliston. He is survived by his brother-in-law, Gary Young of Elliston, numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins who all fondly referred to him has Uncle Ricky.
Richard (Ricky) was a faithful, simple, easy going and loving man; friendly and outgoing to everyone he met. An example for everyone – he was never judgmental or critical of others. He lived an honest and pure life and will be missed by all who knew him.
Cleo Strickland was reunited with her father on July 7, 2020. She was born on November 8, 1931 in Killdeer, N.D. and was 88 years old when she died of natural causes. She was surrounded by family at the time of her death.
Cleo was raised in Grassy Butte, N.D. then moved to Sidney with her parents Carl and Verna Neckels in 1948. She had completed two years of high school by correspondence at that time and she graduated from Sidney High School in 1950. She attended St. Patrick Hospital Nursing School in Missoula where she earned her nursing degree in 1954. Cleo’s nursing career spanned nearly four decades. At the culmination of her career, she was the Director of Nursing at Galen State Hospital. She led the nursing staff through multiple changes and turbulent times as the director, with many changes and employee strikes. During her tenure the hospital transitioned from a primary care hospital, to a tuberculosis ward, to a drug and alcohol treatment center. Cleo was known for her witty sense of humor, exceptional work ethic, and compassionate care and leadership for all she served. She retired in 1993 when the hospital closed.
Cleo was very proud to have been the Director of Nursing at Galen, but was more proud of her kids and grandkids. She never missed an activity that they participated in, from little guy wrestling to college football and basketball. She loved hosting family gatherings, holiday dinners, and late night breakfasts at the ranch. In the Deer Lodge Valley, Cleo had the reputation of being the person that anyone could call if and when they needed help. Cleo also enjoyed her flowers. She and Bob planted and cared for dozens of flower baskets annually! At their Arizona home (Bob and Cleo were snowbirds) she kept Bob and his buddies, Reggie and Fred, stocked up with fresh baked goods daily; that is when she wasn’t busy with her slightly overweight (nearly 35 pound) cat, Kibbles.
During her later years, Cleo suffered from dementia, yet still maintained her sense of humor. The staff at the Renaissance Care Center and the nurses with Barrett Home Healthcare repeatedly reported that Cleo was one of their “all time” favorite residents/patients.
On October 25, 1954, Cleo married Bob Strickland from Deer Lodge. Together they had five children. Cleo was preceded in death by her parents, Carl and Verna Neckels, her husband JR “Bob” Strickland, and her son Robert Keith Strickland. She is survived by her brothers Cecil (Eva) Neckels, John (Carolyn) Neckels, and Howard (Jarita) Neckels; her children, Lynnette (Fred) Sorenson, John Strickland, Debi (Russ) Richardson,and Carla (Wade) Anderson; her grandchildren, Lacey Green-Fields, Lynsey Green, Shaun Strickland, Keith Strickland, Alicia Eckman, Karl Richardson, James Richardson, Winston Anderson, and Cord Anderson. She is also survived by her nine great-grandchildren, numerous cousins, her late husband’s extended Strickland family and many nieces and nephews.
A private memorial service for the immediate family will be held at Hillcrest Cemetery in Deer Lodge on August 8 at 1 p.m. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.
The family wishes to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to the staff at the Renaissance Care Center in Dillon, the nurses at Barrett Home Healthcare, and Dr. Megan Evans at Dillon Community Health. In lieu of flowers, memorials are encouraged to support students pursuing nursing education in Montana.
Claudette Jessie Wolff
Claudette Jessie Wolff was born in Deer Lodge on July 5, 1946, joining two brothers and a sister. The family would add another brother and two sisters. Our parents were Frank and Medora Wolff. Dad worked for the railroad and mom was the city librarian and a cosmetologist, often working from home, and sometimes employed at a shop downtown. Claudette attended Deer Lodge public schools, graduating from Powell County High School in 1964. In 1957, Claudette saw a movie, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman. The movie so inspired her, that she felt a lifelong call to go to China, as a missionary, a teacher, or at the very least, a visitor. Because our parents wanted her to stay close to home and go to a school in state, she was determined, as always, to prove her own independence. She decided to attend Marian College in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She was able to convince them further by reminding them that our older sister lived there. It was easy to go back and forth on the Milwaukee Railroad, since our dad was an engineer and we had a family pass. Later, she transferred to Minot, N.D., attending Minot State University, and completed her Bachelor Degree in secondary education at Western Montana College in Dillon. (Later U of M affiliated.) She earned her Masters Degree by attending schools in several other locations. She taught English and French. She had teaching jobs in West Yellowstone, Port Angeles, Wash., and Bloomfield, N.M. She often had a summer job. She worked in various locations in Yellowstone Park, on a sheep ranch in Dillon, and on an elk ranch in Hardin.
In 1985 she was accepted to a program to teach English as a second language in China and her lifelong hope became a reality. She lived in China for two years, forming enduring friendships with many of her students. She came back in 1987 and continued to teach in New Mexico. In 1999 she applied to adopt a child, returned again to China and came home with a daughter. Beautiful four year old FuChai joined our family just in time to be a flower girl in her new cousin’s wedding. You never saw such bewilderment in any child’s face as hers on that day! She was experiencing this strange new mom, huge new family, new language, new home, new customs, and a wedding celebration! She had no idea what she was in for. Our family has always been one of diversity. From religion to politics to talent to heritage, we cover the spectrum. Through it all, so far at least, we have learned to build bridges instead of walls. Thanks in part to Claudette and her insistent opinions and her habit of making the least predictable or popular, of choices.
She moved to Big Timber to be near to her two sisters in December, 2019. She was diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer one month later. She said at the time, and this is the hallmark of her faith, “I am in God’s hands.” She had many friends and would have given any of them, or a stranger in need, her last cent. She was very strong and her decision to fight the disease that claimed her was typically unselfish. The fact that we lost one of our brothers to cancer when he was very young led to her determination. She believed that her experimental treatment would contribute to the research that would benefit other cancer patients. She died on May 17, 2020.
She is in God’s hands.
Claudette was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Medora (Backhaus) Wolff, brothers, Robert, Richard, and Thomas Wolff, sister, Sally Anne (Wolff) Giebel, and sister-in-law, Patricia (Burton) Wolff. She is survived by her daughter, Jessie FuChai (Wolff) Mead, son-in-law, Michael “Mick” Mead, sisters, Michele Wolff, Lianna (Wolff) Karlin, brothers-in-law, Rolland Karlin and Norbert Giebel, and sister-in-law, Nancy (Monroe) Wolff. She is survived by a large extended family including many cousins and 29 nieces and nephews. The family asks that those wishing to give memorials choose St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Her funeral service will be held at St. Mark Episcopal Church, Big Timber on Saturday, August 1 at 10:30 a.m. with internment on Sunday, August 2 at 3 p.m. at Hillcrest Cemetery in Deer Lodge, the Reverend Bryan Beveridge, rector, officiating.
(Social distancing will be observed and face masks encouraged.)