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Diane MacDonald Barz

1943 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Diane MacDonald Barz Obituary
One of Montana's "Trailblazing" women, Judge Diane MacDonald Barz, passed away on May 14, 2014, after an almost eight-year battle with cancer.

Diane was born in Bozeman on Aug. 18, 1943, to John and Bernice (Johnson) MacDonald. At the time of Diane's birth, her father was a decorated B-17 pilot in World War II. Diane was almost 2 when her father returned to Montana to pursue a career in education in schools in Laurel and Belt before moving to California. After graduation from high school in Concord, Calif., Diane completed her BA degree at Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash., with a year of study at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. In 1968, she received her Juris Doctor of Law Degree at the University of Montana Law School as the only woman in the class of 30 men.

Diane, a bridesmaid, met Dan Barz in 1969 at her friend Sandy Brown's wedding in Terry. Dan's brother, Art, was the groom. Dan and Diane were then married in November 1970, in Billings. Son Rocky Carl Barz was warmly welcomed into the family on Feb. 19, 1978.

After leaving Missoula, Diane served as the first woman law clerk in the Montana Supreme Court from 1968 to 1969. She then was co-editor of the Montana Criminal Law Commission, who wrote the "Montana Criminal Code." Diane served as the first woman Deputy County Attorney in Yellowstone County from 1970 to 1974, and ran for Public Administrator of Yellowstone County and served from 1974 to 1979. Diane also served as Yellowstone County Public Defender from 1976 to 1978. Doris Poppler and Diane then started the first all-women law office in the Pacific Northwest, from 1973 to 1979. Diane was elected as the first woman to the District Court of Montana in 1978, and served for 22 years. During that time, Diane was Chief Judge of the District from 1982 to 1984, as well as 1989 and 1996. She graduated from the National Judicial College, University of Nevada in 1979.

Judge Barz ran the Youth Court for 15 and a half years and chartered the first "Youth Court Conference Committee" in Montana to assist our youth and their parents in limiting incarcerations of our youth. Gov. Stan Stephens appointed Judge Barz as the first woman to serve on the Montana Supreme Court in September 1989. She served for two years, until she made the decision to return to Billings to assist her husband, Dan in raising their son, Rocky. From 1991 to 1994, Diane served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and was then elected to another two terms on the Montana District Court bench.

Diane was very active in many legal organizations. She was a member of the American and Montana Bar association, as well as the Montana Trial Lawyers Association and the Yellowstone County Bar Association. Judge Barz served on the Judicial Evaluation Committee of the National Association of Women Judges, the Montana Board of Crime Control, Montana State-Federal Judicial Council and the State Bar Committee on Gender Bias. Also, Diane is a past president of the Montana Judges Association; past member of the Board of Visitors, University of Montana Law School; the National Association for Juveniles and Family Court Judges; and Montana Trial Judges Association. She chaired the Montana Judicial Nomination Committee for 10 years. Diane also served as the Montana Representative to the State Trial Judge Division of the ABA.

In addition, Diane was a past director of the Yellowstone Metra Council, the Board of the Mental Health Center, Tumbleweed Advisory Board, the Junior League of Billings, Billings Big Brother and Big Sisters Board, the Billings Professional Women's Club, Montana 4-H Board, Billings Clinic Board (10 years), Montana State University President's Advisory Board, Montana Board of Crime Control and the Montana Youth Justice Council. She also belonged to Chapter Y PEO in Billings and then transferred to Chapter AI PEO in Polson.

Diane was named Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities - 1965, Who's Who in American Woman 1973 to present and Outstanding Young Women of America Nominee 1970-1979. Diane was also named Montana's Outstanding Young Career Woman in 1971; Phi Delta Phi Woman of the Year 1968; Outstanding Woman in Government 1984; YWCA "Salute to Women," 1987; Soroptimist's Woman of Distinction Award 2000; Rotary Paul Harris Award and the 2004 Distinguished Alumni of the University of Montana. She chaired the University of Montana "Athletics Deficit Panel" and, most recently, chaired the University of Montana Investigation into Sexual Assaults on the University of Montana campus.

In retirement, Diane had served as the Judge Pro-tem in Lake County Justice Court and Flathead (Kalispell) Municipal Court, as well as the District Court. The Chief Justice appointed her as a District Court Judge in several cases on a Pro-Tem basis; Diane performed these duties Pro-bono. She recently was President of the Lake County Youth Home Board, the Polson Community Memorial Library Foundation, and the University of Montana Law School Board of Visitors (2003 to 2009).

Her interests included an annual upland game bird hunt with Dan and his trusty labs. One of Diane's special antelope hunting tales was long ago on an adventure with Dan, Art and Sandy, when the steering wheel came off the old white Ford in the heat of the chase. It was definitely a moment to remember! She loved to fish jigging walleye, Mexican bottom fishing and Montana ice fishing. Another favorite pleasure was escorting friends and family on evening boat rides around Wildhorse Island on Flathead Lake to see the collection of birds and animals on the island. During Rocky's school years, she spent countless hours attending his little league games, American Legion Scarlets baseball games and trips and his West High football games. She was an avid morel mushroom hunter and huckleberry picker. Many of her hours were spent reading Montana and U.S. Supreme Court decisions to keep abreast of any major changes in the law. And, finally, in this world of "mixed marriages," she attended 46 straight Cat/Griz football games with husband Dan. Diane leaves friends in almost every community in Montana. She loved to travel, but ran out of time to complete her wish list!

In recent times, Diane relished the company of her grandson, Brendan, whether he was playing with his lightsabers or her King Charles Cavalier, Gracie. Brendan's antics and rambunctious Gracie provided her with many enjoyable hours.

Diane was preceded in death by her mother and father. She is survived by Dan, her husband of 44 years; son, Rocky (Jana) and grandson, Brendan. She leaves a brother, Daryll MacDonald (Elaine) of Olympia, Wash., and niece and nephew, Nicole and Scott MacDonald; and sister, JoAnn Westerbeck (John) and niece, Kirsten Westerbeck, Antioch, Calif.

Other survivors include brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Art and Sandy Barz of Billings; niece, Darcy Barz (Steve) Nuzzo and Logan, Lance and Shayla of Hoffman Estates, Ill.; niece, Karla Barz (Rick) Stauffer and Shane and Kate of Billings; niece, Tonya Barz (Tyler) Bush and Colton and Tatum of Billings; sister-in-law, Mary Lou Camp of Longmont, Colo.; nephew, David Gibb (Kathy) Camp and Matthew and Dulcinea of Richland, Wash.; and niece, Susan (Dave) Landers and Paul and Kevin of Longmont, Colo.

Memorial services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, at the First Presbyterian Church in Billings.

Diane has requested a summer gathering for her Western Montana friends at our home on Flathead Lake, 10 miles North of Polson. Date to be announced.

Memorials can be made to "The Honorable Diane G. Barz Scholarship" at the University of Montana Law School, c/o University of Montana Foundation, PO Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807; or the "Barz Family Intercollegiate Athletic Scholarship," c/o MSU Foundation, Inc., PO Box 172750, Bozeman, MT 59717-2750.

Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary is assisting with arrangements. Condolences may be made online at www.michelottisawyers.com.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on May 16, 2014
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