The Heavens went silent during the morning of May 1, 2013. For many years, the saints wondered in amazement and with respect, for who would dare to welcome all into her home, even posting on her door that you never know when a caller may be a saint in disguise. Indeed, this woman, known as Sioux Ellen, or Mom, to all, certainly earned her place among the saints. Their silence on this morning is out of respect and that of joy, now knowing they could embrace this woman, this Mom, revel at her deeds and her life devoted to Our Father and to all children everywhere. Perhaps they would even sip hot cowboy coffee with Mom. Perhaps. But there are many, many others also waiting for Mom, all having crossed the Big River in their time. And those for whom she mourns, she has found, and she mourns no more.
Mom’s remarkable journey on this earth began in the dry and hot northeast Montana summer that also marked the beginning of this country’s Great Depression. As we have come to learn, this was no coincidence. Our Father had a plan, and he placed it in the heart of this newborn child. According to official documents, Mom was born in the Glasgow Hospital to John O’Connell and Gladys Campbell that hot July of 1929. However, rumors persist as to her arrival being filled with cowboy adventure and cowgirl glamor. At any rate, Mom was reared by her Grandpa and Grandma, William and Ellen (Holten) O’Connell, on a little farm in Jordan country. As an adolescent, she attended school until her journey landed her in Miles City and then to Billings as a young teenager growing fast into adulthood.
Mom met up with Albert Steven Craig after his return from wartorn Europe. Together, beginning in 1947 in Miles City, then back to Billings, they started a large and somewhat boisterous clan of youngsters, several redheaded, several not. Mom and Dad’s second-born, Albert Steven, was called to Heaven shortly after entering this world. During those years, Mom’s ability to raise a flock, with constant demands, needs, and wants, proved nothing short of miraculous. But the saints had been watching her all along anyway. Along with bringing up this family, Mom would find work as well to help cover the massive expenses of the Craig kids. She offered art classes to neighborhood kids on weekends, volunteered as a cub scout den mother, spent time with the activities constantly occurring at Holy Rosary Parish, worked late into the night at Bee’s Photo , took some of the younger ones picking yucca for her weekend students’ projects, and showed us how to really look for agates. All this time, there were clothes to be laundered, ironed, and sewn, potatoes to be peeled and somehow turned into the most wonderful meals that she could stretch for days.
Mom and Dad ended their union in 1969, but her never ending source of energy took her to a new life with kids growing, yet still coming and going, staying, and staying some more. Mom’s next career move came naturally - she became one of the most popular bartenders to ever work the taverns of Montana and Minnesota Avenues, and then Main Street Hardin. Mom’s second husband, Tom Knaub, helped her bring into this world one more son. But if you know Mom, your children were hers as well. Sometimes your mom or dad became her ward for a night, or a week. There were always extra blankets and a hot stove with meat and potatoes ready for everybody who came to her door. She would even scrape together a couple of bucks for a pouch of tobacco when needed, usually shorting herself but never letting on. That is the goodness in her heart she was blessed with when she came into this world.
Mom is preceded in her journey by her daughter, Linda Ellen O’Connell, her sons Albert Steven Craig, James Monroe “Randy” Craig, and Lawrence Charles “Larry” Craig, grandson Allen John Craig, and granddaughter China Fay Morris. Mom’s brothers Clifton O’Connell and Bert Emery have also been waiting for her on that far shore There are many close friends and other relatives gone before her as well. And not in the least, Mom’s parents and grandparents stand with the saints waiting her arrival.
Mom is survived by so very many. Such a list may fill a census volume. Be assured, we all stand together in seeing Mom take up the next chapter in her amazing experience. Missing Mom and still walking these paths are her children Patrick G. Craig of Billings, Annie (Lindy) Smith of Kalispell, Michael J. (Debra) Craig, Timothy M (Michelle) Craig Donald E. Knaub, all of Billings, and John T. (Sheila) Craig of Gardnerville, Nev. Without question, Shellie Fischer, you are also Mom’s daughter and often our referee. You are a voice of reason and maker of sense, and it is with Mom’s blessing that you are also our sister. If Mom had unfinished business, it is her desire to be a part of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Kate and Paul Knuebel of Rapid City, Gabriel Anthony O’Connell and his fanclub of Denver, Ellie and Josh Suda, with their little adventurers Bridger Allen and Elise Kila, of Kalispell, Christina and Chris Brearly with their future Olympic athletes Gwenth and Mirabel of Boise, Ezra Lee and Jaquie Craig and their little cowpokes Chance, Wyatt, and Dakota of Glendale, Ariz., Forrest and Kelley Craig with their little fishing and hunting partners Thad, Denie and Noah of Livingston, and Aaron and April Craig of Gardnerville, Nev. Mom, these very special grandchildren will forever remind us of you and your desires to keep cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, praying, and loving – Dakota Craig, and Asia and Landon Morris, and Ashley Lage with her two future superheroes LaDarrian and Luis, Jr.
Finally, Mom is also reunited with two brothers. Her sisters Margaret Emery of Surprise, Ariz., and Mary Romansko of Pocatello, Idaho, and brother Bob O’Connell of Big Timber remain here with us to walk these paths we call life. St Francis, protector of and friend to those creatures who inhabit this world with humans, expresses his sadness once again. Like her grandson Allen John before her, Sioux Ellen O’Connell’s absence here on earth removes one of the mightiest defenders of those creatures who struggle to defend themselves…..except mice!
Please come celebrate Mom’s life with us on Tuesday, May 7, at Dahl Funeral Chapel, 10 Yellowstone Avenue in Billings. Messages can be conveyed through their phone number at 406-248-8807. Mom would love to be cooking for us all. Rather, we now learn to cook and certainly welcome your potluck entrée, side or dessert. Should Mom ever officially be canonized to sainthood, surely her handle would suggest Saint Sioux Ellen, Patron Saint of Charitable Causes. The Causes are so many. However, memorials directed to Dahl Funeral Chapel to help offset a proper celebration of Mom are also most welcome.
Mom, you are out of pain now. Your physical pain clouded a more fulfilling life in these years of late. Like you have done all your life, you offered up your physical pain to the Almighty Father for a greater world here and peace forever everywhere. The least we can do is try to ease the mental anguish you suffer when we cannot get along here without you.
Love is Forever.