BOZEMAN — Mary Biering Burkhart passed away on April 5, 2018, surrounded by her family and cousins. She was the daughter of Harald Adam Biering and Mildred Elizabeth (Townsend) Arnold, born in Livingston, on Feb. 28, 1934. The night Mary was born there was no doctor in Bozeman to perform a cesarean. They had to travel over the Bozeman Pass to the Livingston hospital to save Mary and Mildred’s life. A dramatic evening that set the stage for what would be whirlwind of a life well-lived.
Mary spent her childhood in Bozeman, attending school in the winter and working on the family ranch in the summer. The ranch provided her with her trusted steed, Goldie. The pair could be seen everywhere, including in route to the one-room LaMotte schoolhouse in Bear Canyon almost daily. After graduating from LaMotte, Mary attended Bozeman High school. Though Goldie would be her first choice, she traded in four hooves for the four wheels of the old farm truck to get to school. In the fall of her senior year, Mary’s heart met another in the form of Bud Burkhart. On June 22, 1951, she married Gerard “Bud” Story Burkhart in Saint James Episcopal Church. They lived on the Story family ranch in the Gallatin Canyon, before Bud moved the family to San Luis Obispo, California, so he could attend college at Cal Poly. Upon Bud’s graduation, the family moved back to Bozeman, joining Mary’s father, Harald Biering, in ranching east of Bozeman. The Spanish Peaks provided the setting for Bud and Mary as they raised purebred Herefords and foundation Quarter Horses. Mary loved the Hereford cattle and as an avid student of genetics, she played a vital role in their breeding program. She had several pet cows and the herd bulls would come when she called. Mary never lost her love of riding a good horse. She and Bud raised the horses they rode, they also sold many throughout the country and supplied breeding stock to a ranch in Monterey, Mexico. She was proud of the two four-in-hand teams selected by Disney to lead the 1980 Rose Bowl Parade, pulling coaches, honoring Disney’s 25th anniversary.
After the death of her father, they sold the ranch east of Bozeman and moved to Mary’s ancestral farm on Kagy Road. There they raised certified hay and Quarter Horses. The ranch would be her life’s work and passion. You could often see Mary on her orange Kubota tractor going across the fields in search of any weed that dared to raise its head into her sight. The ranch was not her only passion. True to her dynamic personality, she was voracious reader and could match anyone when discussing history, politics, or the world in general. She had no difficulty in setting one straight if one were steering toward the wrong direction. If there ever was a person who personified moxie, Mary was it.
While raising cattle, horses, hay and the occasional hoopla, she and Bud raised a family too. Along with her husband, she taught her sons and daughter about loving the land and tending the livestock while instilling the importance of the heritage before them. Her grandchildren were blessed to have strong relationships with her. This blessing came to friends that quickly became family as Mary treated most as though they were already a part of the fold. The love of family is a hallmark of the legacy she left behind.
Mary was member of the Lily of the Valley, Chapter No. 4, Order of the Eastern Star, for over fifty years. Her service through the chairs gained her recognition as Worthy Grand Matron of the State. In October 2011, the Chapter voted Mary a Life Member. Her service extended to the 4-H organization of Gallatin County. Over the years of her involvement, Mary helped shape many young members into adults as a 4-H leader.
In Sept. of 2017, Mary was able to travel to Washington, D.C. with her daughter, granddaughter, and daughter-in-law for the Koch family reunion. As the Matriarch of the clan, she was the special member. She thoroughly enjoyed every single moment of the trip and the memories shared and made with everyone.
Mary is survived by her children, Robert (Gloria), Clint, and Kathryn (Marty); her sister, Debra Arnold Ferrin; her grandchildren, Kimberli (Ross) and Juaquin; Michelle (Chad), Rachel (Brandon), Drew, Elizabeth (Justice) and Nate; Matthew (Adri) and Meghan (Don); niece, Amber (Lance) and great-niece, Jernie Grace.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Bud; her son, Richard; and her grandson, Dax.
Ever original, Mary did not want a funeral service. Instead, she requested a Celebration of Life. Her hope of sunny days and hills thick with tall green grass will provide a joyful day in which to honor her. She laughed about having to wait years for that to happen after this winter. The Celebration of Mary’s Life is scheduled for June 22, 2018, on her and Bud’s wedding anniversary.
The family would like to thank Dr. Hensold, Kari Marley, PA-C; Whitney Pritham, Polly, and the rest of the staff at the Bozeman Cancer Center for their care and compassion with Mary. While in the hospital, Mary received excellent care from Dr. Brown, Dr. Donahue, Clare from the Palliative Care Unit, Frontier Hospice and all the Nurses.
Per Mary’s wishes, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations are suggested to the following organizations: The Lily of the Valley, Chapter No. 4, Nancy Hopkins, P.O. Box 10747, Bozeman, MT 59719; Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, 1459 E. Cameron Bridge Rd., Bozeman, MT 59718; or to the Justin Cowboys Crisis Fund, 101 Pro Rodeo Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service