Cynthia Hepburn Neuffer, 72, was passionate about many things -- pink flamingos, old dogs, a toothless cat, The New Yorker, poetry, public radio and Mozart. She was expert at telling a tale with enough truth to engage listeners with knowing recognition and enough exaggeration to transform the ordinary into the outrageous. Cynthia was deeply devoted to her children and grandchildren, whose enduring love and laughter were rivaled as an object of her passion only by the rhythms of life at the foot of Grassy Mountain in Bridger Canyon.
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Born on Dec. 4, 1934, in Detroit, Mich., to Sarah Dorothy King and Franklin Dewey Hepburn, Cynthia was a college student at Mount Holyoke when she first met and married an engaging young Air Force officer, John "Frank" Neuffer, from Preston, Idaho. Striking out beyond her life in Grosse Pointe, she embarked with Frank on a great adventure out west in Montana.
The young couple first arrived in Bridger Canyon in 1958, purchasing a large swath of land and a log home in the woods at Bridger Bowl. They built and ran the first Deer Park Chalet, which became a favorite of local skiers. While her husband plowed open the ski road in the morning, Cynthia hauled vats of hot cocoa and steaming hot dogs up the mountain in her Jeep to warm skiers enjoying a day on the slopes.
When the log house was lost to fire, the family moved to a new home Frank and Cynthia built just across Bridger Canyon Road. They later resettled in Reno and then Seattle but returned to the Canyon to spend summers.
Cynthia always dreamed of living there once again year-round, a dream she realized in 1997, when she built another home looking out onto the Bridgers.
Cynthia attended Mount Holyoke but ultimately graduated with her bachelor's in English literature and master's in social work from the University of Washington. While raising her five children, she worked as a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in geriatric and psychiatric care. She practiced her profession in Washington State, California and Montana.
Cynthia passed away on Oct. 19, 2007, at Horizon Hospice House in Billings in the presence of her children. She is survived by five children and 13 grandchildren -- son, Garth, and his wife, Li, and their daughter, Emma, of Bethesda, Md.; son, John, and his wife, Gloria, and their children, Cole and Jake, of Oak Hill, Va.; daughter, Kate Vargas, and her husband, Ron, and their sons, Joaquin and Mateo, of Bozeman; daughter, Sarah Fitzgerald, and her children, Nichole, James, Ronnie, Jessica and Kyle, of San Mateo, Calif.; and son Robert, and his wife, Christine, and their children, Samantha, Ekaterina and Benjamin, of Tukwila, Wash. -- and her sister, Linda Harden, of Scottsdale, Ariz.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, at St. James Episcopal Church on the corner of Olive and Tracy in Bozeman.
Memorial donations may be sent to Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, 2125 N. Rouse, Bozeman, MT 59715; the Food Bank, 602 Bond, Bozeman, MT 59715; St. James Episcopal Church, 5 W. Olive, Bozeman, MT 59715; Gallatin County Pioneer Museum, 317 W. Main, Bozeman, MT 59715; or Horizon Hospice House, 1019 Neptune, Billings, MT 59105.
Dahl Funeral Chapel
300 Highland Boulevard
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Oct. 21, 2007