My mother, Mary E. Williams, passed away on June 11, 2014, in Billings. Mary was part of a now-disappearing generation, the child of homesteaders. She was born to Charles and Nita Eckels on the family homestead, near Fishtail, on Sept. 12, 1920. She was educated in Absarokee schools and received a teaching degree from Eastern Montana College (now MSUB) in 1941. After teaching in a one-room school near Fishtail, she married Lonnie Williams in 1942, during his service in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Mary was a traditional homemaker for her husband and for her son, Burton. In a changing world following World War II, she made a home wherever life took them — wartime Salt Lake City; the construction camp at Boysen Dam in Wyoming; the various communities where Lonnie held positions with Rural Electric Cooperatives in Livingston, Malta and Eugene, Ore.; and finally, to retirement in Montana.
Mary tirelessly volunteered for every kid activity, from Cub Scouts to driving baseball teams to away games. She was great as a parent, handling all her son’s and friends’ misdeeds with humor and love. Our home was a center for the many friends she and her husband made during 62 years of marriage. She was confidant, counselor, helper and caretaker for friends and neighbors over all those years. All who knew her would agree that she was a loyal friend, always ready for a card game, displayed a well-honed ribald sense of humor, and ended most days with at least two cocktails and conversation.
She was the mainstay in making Lonnie’s last years comfortable and developed new friendships with his caregivers, including another Grizzly fan for watching football games. The family wants to express their thanks and appreciation to all those who were so kind to Mary in her last years, especially Shipp’s Assisted Living in Absarokee and TenderNest in Billings during her last months.
Mary is survived by her son Burton, his wife Joan and five nieces. She was predeceased by her husband Lonnie, her parents, and brother Charles Eckels.
I have always admired and loved my mother for how she was a true partner to my father, for being my touchstone and for providing a place for all my friends to gather, and for making close and lasting friendships. She will be missed.
No services will be held, at Mary’s request. A private family ceremony will occur later this summer. Memorials can be directed to Cobblestone School Preservation Committee, PO Box 176, Absarokee, MT 59028; the Museum of the Beartooths, PO Box 1, Columbus, MT 59019; or to a charity of your choosing.