Joyce Iris Blackman
Great Fall —The matriarch of the Sterling Ranch Company, Joyce Iris Sterling Blackman, age 85, of Craig, Montana passed away on January 14, 2015 from a stroke caused by unnecessary stress in the ranch business. A visitation open to the public will be held on Monday, January 19, from 6 to 8 PM in the Rose Room Chapel at Croxford Funeral Home in Great Falls, Montana. Funeral services are scheduled for 1:00 PM, Tuesday, January 20, 2015 in the same location followed with a burial service to be held at 3:00 PM at the Craig Cemetery.
Joyce was born on February 1, 1929 to Frank D. and Edythe L. Sterling of Craig, Montana. As a child, Joyce had been burned in a fire while her sister Frances, brother Edward, and mother Edythe were burning leaves at the lower house of the Sterling Ranch Company. She was in the Great Falls Columbus Hospital for six months with 3rd degree burns. At age 9, Joyce had polio which left her with her right leg slightly shorter than her left. She attended schools in Craig, Great Falls, Thompson Falls, and Helena. She graduated from Helena High School in 1947 and then attended college at Greely, Colorado. She returned to Helena where she later married WWII veteran Lonnie Gary Blackman at St. Paul's Methodist Church on September 8, 1948 in Helena. From this union they had Brenda, Randy, and Scott. After 60 wonderful years together, Gary passed away on January 13, 2009 and was buried on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.
Gary and Joyce proudly owned and operated a dairy farm in Helena Valley. In 1954, after selling their dairy farm, they spent the remainder of their years together with her father, Frank D. Sterling on the Sterling Ranch. After the passing of Frank in 1983, Gary and Joyce with the help of Scott, continued to work the Sterling Ranch. Joyce cooked for the ranch for 37 years while also maintaining the position of bookkeeper. She was an owner, director, secretary and treasurer of the Sterling Ranch Company. Joyce was a fourth generation and last descendant living on the Sterling Ranch. She also owned Blackman Ranch, RV Park in Craig and other investment properties. She was a proud member of the Rambling Sam's RV Club in Great Falls, a 65 year member of Miriam Chapter #1 Order of the Eastern Star in Helena, Ulm-Cascade Daughters of the Nile and Cascade American Legion Auxiliary #133.
In addition to her already busy lifestyle, Joyce enjoyed spending her quiet time sewing, knitting, reading newspapers and books. She enjoyed traveling in her motor home, visit with the class of '47 at the City Bar, visit the class of '45 at Jorgenson's in Helena, visit with the coffee group and Sunday bunch in Wolf Creek.
She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Lonnie Gary Blackman; son, Randy Blackman, and brother Edward Sterling.
Joyce is survived by her son, Scott (Raina) Blackman of Craig; daughter, Brenda (Andy) Gruel of Craig; grandchildren Charles and Devon Gruel, Loni and Jeannie Blackman, and one great grandson, Nathanial Gruel. She is also survived by her stepbrother, Richard (Janice) Harper of Tucson, Arizona and Texas; sister, Francis Fredrickson of Salem, Oregon; nieces, and nephews.
Memorial contributions in Joyce's name are suggested to the Masonic Home of Montana, 2010 Masonic Road, Helena, Montana 59602. Or to the American Legion Auxiliary Unit #133, 2985 Craig Frontage Road, Wolf Creek, Montana 59648.
Condolences to the family may be shared at www.croxfordfuneralhome.com
Published by Great Falls Tribune on Jan. 18, 2015.