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Earl Bilbrey

1935 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Earl Bilbrey Obituary
Earl Bilbrey, 78, of Yuma, Arizona and Missoula, Montana, passed away on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Having a number of illnesses, he was under the care of St. Patrick Hospital and Rocky Mountain Hospice, and passed away from cardiac complications.

Born in Yuma, Arizona in 1935 to Grace and Emmet Bilbrey, Earl grew up in Gadsden, Arizona, speaking both English and Spanish fluently. He attended Yuma High School and Arizona Western College. After joining the U.S. Army in 1954, the desert native found himself serving far north in Fairbanks, Alaska. After his military service, Earl returned to Arizona where he went to work for his future brother-in-law, Jim McElhaney, in Wellton, Arizona. That was how he met his wife, Audrey Ann Stahr. Earl and Audrey married in 1960 and had their only child, Melanie.

Melanie was the light of Earl's life. He loved doing activities with his daughter, her friends, and his nieces and nephews. He volunteered extensively for youth-based organizations including coaching Little League, participating in PTA, running school carnivals, and working with Melanie's Girl Scout troops. He also loved animals and always considered the family pets to be official members of the family.

Earl enjoyed many activities, including trying new ones. In early years he tried canal-car skiing and frog gigging. He played softball and enjoyed participating in church social events. He enjoyed cooking, made great Mexican dishes, and loved hosting parties. He also had a passion for old-time Country Western music and cowboy movies. Earl was also a huge sports fan.

He was known by all to have a generous and kind spirit. Earl never said no to anyone who needed a hand. Using his career experience as an Agriculture Inspector, he especially enjoyed helping others with their home landscaping and horticulture. He was knowledgeable about all types of cacti, tree graphing, and the proper horticultural chemical use.

In 1990, Melanie moved to Montana and in 1991 Earl and Audrey began making annual trips to Missoula to visit. He loved exploring Missoula, Western Montana, and the Pacific Northwest. He also enjoyed helping Melanie in her first-grade classroom whenever he had the chance. Earl and Audrey eventually relocated to Missoula permanently in 2011.

It was during those earlier trips to Missoula that Earl discovered Grizzly football. He became a fiercely loyal Griz fan, cheering from Arizona when he could not be in Missoula for games. A highlight last year was when Griz football head coach, Mick Delaney, made a personal visit to Earl at home. Earl was sure he passed along some great advice to the coach!

Surviving Earl is his wife, Audrey Bilbrey; daughter, Melanie Pettit; son-in-law, Robert Pettit; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and all eight of his siblings. Some of Earl's ashes will be buried at the Western Montana State Veterans' Cemetery, with the remainder spread on the land where Earl first met Audrey in Arizona.

A memorial service will be held for Earl on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. at the Western Montana State Veterans' Cemetery. A lunch featuring his favorite foods will follow at Beehive Homes House #1, 2406 River Road. In lieu of flowers, the family requests consideration of donations to Rocky Mountain Hospice, 2409 Dearborn Ave, Missoula, MT 59801, or to an animal .
Condolences may be sent to Audrey Bilbrey, Beehive Homes #1, 2406 River Road, Missoula, MT 59804.
Published in The Yuma Sun on May 14, 2014
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