Mary Louise Hespen passed away May 12, 2011, after a brief battle with pneumonia. Born in Conrad, Mont., on September 25, 1923, Mary spent her 87 years with us teaching us about tolerance, respect for nature and love of learning.
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In 1927, the family moved to Billings, Mont., where her father had accepted a position on the science faculty of Eastern Montana College. Her early years were spent climbing the rims, camping out in Pioneer Park with her brothers, and making frequent trips to the Public Library. Each summer was spent at an Environmental Science Camp started by her father south of Red Lodge, Mont.
With the untimely death of her father in 1937, the family moved to Big Timber, Mont., where her mother taught home economics, and she helped care for her four brothers. She graduated from Sweet Grass County High School in 1941 as valedictorian and editor of the school newspaper. She attended Montana State University (then College) for several years and trained as an 'aircraft communicator' with the Civil Aeronautics Administration. She was stationed at the airports in Dillon, Mont., and Gallatin Field in Belgrade, Mont., where she met Benjamin Hespen. They were married in 1946. In 1950, the couple divorced, and Mary returned to Conrad with her two infant daughters where her mother was a county extension agent. In 1956, Mary returned to Bozeman where she lived the remainder of her life. When her daughters were older, Mary accepted a position as a cook for the Kappa Delta Sorority and later the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity where she cooked for many years. Each summer she renewed her connection to nature often cooking at Spear-O-Wigwam, a well-known dude ranch in the Cloud Peak Wilderness of Wyoming. Even after her retirement she continued to garden, hike and backpack well into her 70s.
Mary taught us much about the footprint we leave in this world. We thank her for all the week-long camping trips which always included geology, botany and ornithology lessons. We thank her for teaching us to value life-long learning, education and ideas. We thank her for her incredibly creative spirit which we see every day in her needle work, knitting and what have become to be known as her memory quilts. Each quilt was entirely hand-pieced and hand-quilted. These works of art often took her several years to make but always included remnant and recycled fabric from the recipient's life. Her legacy will live on in each of the lives she has touched.
Mary is preceded in death by her father, Reynold A. Shunk, her mother, Louise Stone Shunk, her brother, William Monte Shunk, and her brother Reynold Shunk II. She is survived by her brothers Dwight Shunk of Punta Arenas, Chile; and Edward Shunk of Tijeras, N.M. She is also survived by her daughters, Christine Lamb of Bozeman, Mont., and Louise Engelstad of Rapid City, S.D.; and grandchildren Rachael Lamb-Ortego of Bozeman, Mont.; and William Van Horn of Bozeman, Mont.
Cremation has taken place. Family graveside interment services will be held at the Meadowview Cemetery, Manhattan, Mont., at a later date. She will be put to rest with her father and mother as well as grandparents and great-grandparents.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her name to the Bozeman Public Library Foundation http://www.bozemanlibraryfoundation.org/donate.php or a charity of choice.
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on May 15, 2011