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After a long and courageous battle with cancer, Mary Ponce died peacefully in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2010. Mary was 61 years old.

Born in Billings on Sept. 29, 1949, the daughter of Vicente and Cecilia Gutierrez, Mary grew up in a large and loving family. She attended Billings public schools, graduating from Billings Senior High School in 1969. Even before graduating, Mary began to work with School District #2 in the IMC department. She especially enjoyed the years she worked with Marshall Jones, and she continued to work for the school district until her retirement in 2004.

On Oct. 14, 1969, Mary's life was blessed with the birth of her daughter, Lena Ponce Gomez. Lena was the joy of Mary's life. She and Lena were as close as any mother and daughter could ever be. In the last weeks of Mary's life, Lena was at Mary's bedside virtually every minute, day and night, caring for her and keeping her as comfortable as possible. Lena also provided Mary with three grandchildren, Christopher, Gabrielle and Antonio. These grandchildren were the greatest gifts and joy in Mary's life. In 1998, Jim Peterson entered Mary's life and added a new level of love and laughter.

Mary had many interests and passions, but her daughter and grandchildren were definitely her most precious treasures. Mary also loved being with all of her brothers, sisters and extended family at the many family gatherings. When everyone was together, it was always a reason to celebrate. Mary loved her family more than anything in the world. Mary was also a gifted painter and created beautiful embroideries that, when viewed, will always bring warm memories of the special person that she was. Mary also loved to dance. It is with fond memories that we will always picture Mary dancing and laughing with her infectious laugh at weddings and parties and her favorite, Mexican dances. With Jim, she learned to golf and spent many, many hours on the links. She became a good golfer and we certainly hope there are beautiful golf courses in heaven, because she will enjoy them.

She is survived by her husband, Jim Peterson; daughter Lena Ponce Gomez of Thornton, Colo.; three grandchildren, Christopher Harper, Gabrielle and Antonio Gomez; four sisters, Yolanda (Ralph) Gallardo of Layton, Utah, Teresa (Robert) Hansen of Monrovia, Calif., Eugenia (Duane) Winslow of Billings and Martha (Jeff) Tanner of Billings; two brothers, Vincent Gutierrez of Billings and Robert (Nina) Gutierrez of Billings; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Her father and mother, Vicente and Cecilia Gutierrez; brother Jose Trevinio; and sister Margarita McCormick preceded her in death.

A vigil will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m., at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The funeral mass will be held on Thursday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m., at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, followed by interment at Holy Cross Cemetery.

The family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to the wonderful caregivers at RiverStone Hospice. Their care and love for Mary will always be appreciated. Donations may be made to RiverStone Hospice or the charity of one's choice.

Smith Downtown Chapel is assisting with the arrangements.

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