Alma passed away at 92 years of age on Saturday, March 28, at Vista Assisted Living Complex in St. John's Lutheran Ministries. Born in Great Falls on Feb. 27, 1923, to Erna and Gottlieb Ryffel, Alma was the fifth of eight children. Her parents and five siblings preceded Alma in death: John, Henry, George, Erna, and Bob. There are two surviving siblings, Mary Birgenheier (Highwood, Montana) and Jim Ryffel (Fort Worth, Texas).
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Alma attended school in Belt, Montana, where her family ran Ryffel's General Store. After high school graduation in Belt, Alma attended Montana State University, initially receiving a degree in Home Economics Education and later a Masters in School Counseling. Alma spent her working life in education.
In 1946, Alma married Elwood Ragar of Belt, Montana. Four children were produced from this union: Jan (John Patton) of Billings, Judi of Billings, Chris of Bozeman, and Todd (Alex McCready) of Billings. Alma had six grandchildren: Sarah and Jessica Patton (California); Jeremy and Shaylee Ragar (Bozeman); Maia and Myles Ragar (Billings).
Alma spent her working life in education. She enjoyed years as an elementary, middle school and high school educator. Her last 17 years she was at Dawson Community College in Glendive, Montana. For some time, Alma was the Dean of Women, taught psychology, was the admissions officer, was the career counselor, was the Student Counsel advisor, sold popcorn at the basketball games and raised her two boys. Her colleague Rose Aus wrote us, "When Alma was Dean of Women at Dawson College, she quietly helped many women in her office and on her own time and in her own home..... some who were single mothers struggling with responsibilities and a return to school."
She also loved to travel and visited China, Japan, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Sicily, Germany and Hawaii. Most of the travels were with, or to visit, her children and grandchildren. She loved to laugh and treasured a good story or joke.
Alma spent her last years surrounded by family and the caring staff at Vista Assisted Living. The family would like to mention the compassionate care of Mary Piatte at Vista. We will greatly miss the grace and humor with which Alma lived her life. Alma chose to face life with a positive spirit. She particularly treasured the love and company of her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren. Alma left us quietly and peacefully, in her own home surrounded by loved ones. She was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.
Most of her friends preceded her in death, but Alma was comforted in her later years by the friendships of Marge Johnson and Marj Metcalf.
Alma appreciated her long and active life, which we will celebrate at a memorial service at Cremation & Funeral Gallery on April 4, at 2:00 p.m., followed by a reception.
Arrangements are by Cremation & Funeral Gallery. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.cfgbillings.com through "Our Families."
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Apr. 2, 2015