Mary Ruth "Ruthie" Nelson (1931 - 2011)

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Mary Ruth "Ruthie" Nelson, 79, of Bozeman, passed away on March 19, 2011. She was born March 22, 1931, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Boyd C. and Mary (O'Neil) Kelly.

She was raised on a ranch along the Green River, outside of Pinedale, Wyo., where she attended grade school and junior high. She graduated from high school in Cody, Wyo., and then attended the University of Wyoming.

In 1948, Ruthie was introduced to a rodeo cowboy by the name of Robert Nelson who became the love of her life. They were married on May 4, 1950, in Missoula, and soon after they moved to Paso Robles, Calif., where Bob was stationed in the Army at Camp Roberts and Ruthie was the private secretary for the commanding officer. Since Ruthie had influence with the commander, her husband was always granted a weekend pass to participate in California rodeos.

Because of their entrepreneurial spirit, Ruthie and her husband owned many businesses throughout Montana and Idaho. At first, it was a nightclub called the Frontier Lounge in Missoula and next the El Rancho Motel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. For three years the two of them even built houses, with Ruthie, as little as she was, stripping the concrete forms, running the transit, and helping in the construction.

From 1960 to 1968, they ranched in Harrison and Cardwell, and because of Ruthie's fun nature she organized a group called the "Continental Club" where local couples got together monthly to socialize with dinner and dancing. After that, it was on to Ennis to the Longbranch Saloon, that they owned, operated, renamed and remodeled.

In 1972, after meeting with Chet Huntley, the founder of Big Sky, they opted to design and own the first jewelry store at the top of the mountain at the Big Sky Ski Resort. That business was called the TeePee Trading Post. However, after two robberies at Big Sky, they decided to move to Helena to open a new gift store in the Colonial Inn. They lived in Helena until 1980. That is when they received the good news that they were going to be grandparents, so they sold their business and moved to Bozeman to be close to their first grandchild.

After the grandchildren were grown, they moved to Nevada for the winters, but Ruthie always insisted that they be back to Bozeman for Mother's Day so that she could spend it with her family.

Ruthie was a charter member of the Wyoming Cowbells and was also active in the PTA, 4-H, and the Red Hat Society. She enjoyed knitting. Her husband, children and grandchildren were recipients of the beautiful sweaters, coats and afghans that she made. She was an excellent cook and passed her skills on to her daughters and grandkids.

She loved to read and to travel and was a master at reading a map. Nobody was a better "navigator," as she liked to call herself. She and her husband traveled and cruised all over the world.

Ruthie referred to her children and grandchildren as her "little loves." She always made time for them. The mere mention of them would bring an instant smile to her face. Ruthie may have owned and operated businesses but to her the most important job was to be a good mother and wife. The family can attest that she certainly succeeded in that.

Her parents preceded her in death.

She is survived by Bob, her devoted husband of 60 years; her daughters of Bozeman, Mary (Bill) Bridger and Barbara (Ken) Tonn; grandchildren, Katrina (Lonne) Andersen of Belgrade, Michael (Lisa) Storey of North Pole, Alaska, and Katie Bridger of San Diego, Calif. Three great-grandchildren, Kyla and Teagan Andersen and Ethyn Storey, also survive. She will be missed immensely and forever remembered.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, March 25, at St. James Episcopal Church, 5 W. Olive St., Bozeman.

The family wishes to thank the Southwest Hospice of Montana for their tremendous help and support during this difficult time.

In lieu of flowers, donations are preferred to the Bozeman Deaconess Foundation for Hospice of Southwest Montana, 931 Highland Blvd. Suite 3200, Bozeman, MT 59715; or to the .

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service; www.dokkennelson.com.
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Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 587-3184
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Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Mar. 23, 2011
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