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In the sounds of bagpipes, the release of balloons and dozens of buttons saying "10,000 or Bust," participants and attendees at the 2017 Montana Women's Run remembered a Billings woman who had championed the event for decades.

Pat Jaffray, 77, died on April 9, after a roughly three year battle with myelodisplasic syndrome, a disorder where the body's bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. 

Pat's sons Tim and Mark came to Billings from Seattle and attended the event on Saturday morning, Mark with his 6-year-old daughter Golden Jaffray and her mother Carterin Jaffray, both of whom participated.

"I was hugely impressed," Tim Jaffray said of the tribute to his mother, which included the release of 300 of balloons. In the generations of women participating together, Jaffray said he saw another tribute to his mother. 

"I saw families with three generations of ladies in the run and to me that was a huge thing," he said. "And so to me that was kind of a realization that I'm super happy that mom was involved in that, but she wasn't the only one." 

This year was the 36th Montana Women's Run and Renee Coppock, chair of the board of directors for the event, said Jaffray was at the very first run and had been deeply involved in organizing the event since. When Coppock visited Jaffray a day before she died, she said her friend kept asking about the run. 

"She was the one that wanted to add something new to each race," Coppock said. "She was really active in the community. She just knew that if women got out and exercised, they would feel better." 

Coppock said that unbeknownst to some, Jaffray would pay race fees for some women who could not afford to participate. "She was just about the biggest cheerleader and all about Billings," Coppock said.

According to Coppock, Jaffray dreamed of seeing 10,000 women participate, often saying "10,000 or bust," when talking about race attendance. This year's attendance was about 7,600, a slight dip from last year's, Coppock said. 

Mark Jaffray said in addition to helping others, community involvement and promoting the advancement of women, his mother deeply valued friendships. "She cultivated friends all her life," he said. The brothers said that even as she fought illness, she still kept up with friends from the first grade. She also kept going to the run when she could, "even when she was scary weak," Mark Jaffray said. 

Mark Jaffray said though his daughter is missing Grandma, she has moved on from the loss which is still fresh to him. Seeing that resilience in his daughter reminds him of his mother, Mark said. 

"That was one of my mom's things she loved to say. 'Onward and forward,'" he said. "She would end phone calls like that."

"So I think that's how my daughter is. She's just going." 


Night Reporter

General assignment reporter for The Billings Gazette.