THREE FORKS - Joyce Elaine Britzius Cooper lost her two-year battle with pancreatic cancer on Dec. 16, 2011.
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Joyce was born April 18, 1932, to James and Laura (Beauchot) Britzius in Harlowton. In 1942, when she was 10, the Britzius family moved to Three Forks. She has been a member of Holy Family Catholic Church since moving to Three Forks, and in the late 1960s, she was CYO youth director and taught catechism.
Joyce met her soul mate, Chan Cooper, at the Lark Cafe where she waited tables. Chan's friends always liked to go with him as she always gave him extra potato chips. On March 3, 1949, Joyce married Chan at the Cooper ranch. Joyce left high school early to marry Chan and then later obtained her GED. Joyce and Chan raised five daughters and one son, three of which lived in the log house that is now part of the Museum of the Rockies. Chan and Joyce always said, "After being married for over 62 years, we are just starting to get the hang of it."
In 1953, Chan and Joyce started leasing the family ranch from his parents. In 1963, they went into partnership with Chan's parents, and in 1970 they bought his parents' half of the partnership. In 1989, Chan and Joyce sold the cattle and machinery and leased part of the ranch. They dry-land farmed for an additional five years.
They liked to dance, and in the 1980s and 1990s they belonged to the Bozeman Formal Dance Club.
Chan and Joyce also began traveling in their fifth-wheel and spent their winters in the south from California to Florida. They traveled all 49 continental states, all Canadian provinces and parts of Mexico. In 2004, they sold the family ranch and remained as residents of the house where they had raised their six children. In 2005, they officially became empty nesters. Through the years Joyce and Chan took in niece-in-law, Donna House Fairhurst, and grandson, Chris Barry so they could attend school in Willow Creek. They hosted many foreign exchange students from Mexico and Brazil. They always seemed to have one of their offspring or grandchildren visiting or staying with them. They felt, the more the merrier.
Those who knew Joyce can recall her ability to whip up a meal at a moment's notice. Joyce always had a huge vegetable garden and cooked noon meals for the hay crews and her family. Sometimes she fed 10 or more at the noon meal every day. She would always invite the kids' friends to eat and would always say, "One more won't make a difference."
She had the ability to keep order in a house of chaos. She taught her family how to cook, garden (some pulled plants instead of weeds to get out of gardening), and keep house (some learned better than others). She also taught her family compassion for others no matter what background they came from.
Joyce raised chickens and piglets and fed bum lambs and calves. To her family's amazement, she pulled and saved triplet lambs when Chan was out of town.
Joyce loved board games, cards, crossword puzzles, playing in the bridge club she belonged to since 1950, and playing cribbage with Chan when they traveled. She would always take the time to play board games with her family, and they only won if it was an honest win. This taught them how to lose graciously and that the fun was in playing the game, not necessarily winning.
Joyce always put her family's needs before her own. She attended every sporting event she could that her family was involved in. Joyce was a night owl and was always up when her family got home late at night just to make sure they were home safe and on time. This was also the only time she had to herself after everyone had gone to bed so she could regroup for the next hectic day of raising six kids. She didn't believe in grounding her kids, because she would only be punishing herself. Joyce was always a sport when it came to Dad's practical jokes and light teasing. She would get a little bent out of shape if all the family, except her, was waiting in the car, and Dad was honking the horn. She always claimed she had to check the house one last time. Joyce had a wonderful sense of humor, which she maintained to the end.
Joyce is survived by her husband, Chan; sister, Pat Fairhurst Marceau (John) of Three Forks; two brothers-in-law, Larry Cooper of Gaithersburg, Md., and Frank Cooper (Shirley Cleary) of Helena; five daughters, Laura Barry (Steve) of Helena, Cathy Conner Wilson (Jack) of Auburn, Wash., Marla Richardson (Ron) of Three Forks, Cindi Kilpatrick of Sheridan, Wyo., and Chanelle Cooper of Seattle; and one son, Britt Cooper (Lisa) of Harrison.
She is also survived by 12 grandchildren, Chan Barry (Mary), Tammy Barry Stefanik, Chris Barry (Corri), Casey Barry Tuttle (Ryan), Courtney Wilson Jurca (Sam), Whitney Wilson, Jamie Richardson, Tasha Richardson Kohlwes (Brandon), Colleen Kilpatrick Butler (Michael), Maureen Kilpatrick Neavill (Jason), Mykah and Britt Nicole Cooper; and 11 great-grandchildren, Bree and Tori Stefanik, Molly and Nora Butler, Monica and Cooper Neavill, Kasey Bresso, Cate, Kyli and Jaci Barry, Tytus Tuttle; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Joyce was preceded in death by her parents; two sisters; a son; a brother-in-law, Bill Cooper; and a son-in-law, Gene Kilpatrick.
Memorials in Joyce's memory may be made to the
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27, at Holy Family Parish in Three Forks, with Father Joseph Finnegan officiating. Interment will follow in Mount Green Cemetery in Willow Creek. A Parish Vigil Service will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at K&L Mortuary Chapel in Three Forks.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Dec. 20, 2011