Nancy passed away peacefully on June 3, 2014, among family, at age 72.
She was born in Missoula on Feb. 5, 1942, to Robert and Helen LaGrone (Gaudina). She grew up near the family ranch and attended school in Bridger until moving to Billings, where she graduated from Central High. She attended the College of St. Teresa in Minnesota and the University of Montana, and received her master’s degree in special education in 1965 from Eastern Montana College (now MSUB). On Dec. 26, 1962, she married Jerry Whitmer at St. Patrick Co-Cathedral and to that union were born six sons: Bob, Jeff, Doug, Jon, Patrick and Timothy, to whom she gave her whole heart and more, as a mother.
Nancy tutored and worked with children with special needs and their families when special education programs were just emerging. She was compassionate, a good listener, adventurous, hopeful and full of love. Nancy was a powerful, shining and creative example to follow, in anything she was involved with, and that is what she passed on to her sons who continue her legacy. “Treat everyone like you would want to be treated and just be yourselves … people will see your value quickly and you’ll never know how proud I am of all of you, to be your mother,” she would remind her boys.
When Nancy’s son Jon was diagnosed with terminal Muscular Dystrophy Duchenne, lost the ability to walk, and started experiencing the disease’s cascading and severe health issues that normally shortened a child’s life to 12 years, Nancy wouldn’t take no for an answer and dedicated her time and perspective to Jon’s well-being to ensure he had the best chance to live life to its fullest. Her 24/7 effort with Jon’s fight to live, love for family, sense of adventure, hopeful humor, community action, daily personal care and relentless medical challenges until his final age of 34 is no less than an incomparable masterpiece. Nancy helped other families with disabled children see a new, exciting and limitless perspective. “You’ll meet my son Jon in a minute, he’s outside right now with his brothers and friends riding on a sled behind the three-wheeler in the alley,” she would chuckle.
Nancy’s house and its famous “Prayer Tree” out front will forever be a memorable home in Billings. Her community gatherings were held there, and her sons, family and friends were active with endless youthful adventure and humor that occurred in, on and outside of the house. Live music from Nancy’s sons’ popular rock bands poured from the basement, and she never wore ear plugs and enjoyed it all.
Nancy was deeply involved in charities and community groups, including St. Vincent De Paul, Wise Penny, Junior League, and she helped inspire the first annual Ronald McDonald House Thanksgiving dinner donated from Billings students and parents.
She was a member of St. Patrick Co-Cathedral and St. Thomas Parish and was active in Ultreya, Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus and Renew.
Nancy was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Jerry; and her son, Jon. Survivors include her sons, Bob, Jeff, Doug, Patrick, Timothy; and six grandchildren: Brianna, Spencer, Britta, Brady, Chase and little Jonni.
A viewing will be from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 8, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. Funeral services for Nancy will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 10, at St. Thomas Parish, 2055 Woody Drive, Billings.
Memorial donations can be made to St. Vincent De Paul or The Ronald McDonald House in Billings.
Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary is assisting with the arrangements. Condolences may be made online at www.michelottisawyers.com.