Merry Louise Henson passed away Wednesday morning, August 9th, 2018, at Aspen Point in Bozeman, Montana. This remarkable woman was a fourth-generation Montanan, born in Livingston on May 30th, 1927 and raised primarily by her grandparents Della and Tom Rosier. They, along with her family friends Nettie and William Hargrove, instilled in her a love of reading, a compassionate and caring nature, a romantic and imaginative view of life, and an adventurous spirit that served her throughout her life. At 18 years old this bright young woman was preparing to pursue a career in Law (this is 1945), encouraged by her grandfather Tom, when she met a young Lieutenant, pilot in the Army Air Force, back visiting during a break in World War II combat. They quickly fell in love, she boarded a train within a few months for Southern California to meet with his family, where they began a 61 year marriage and long successful career in the Air Force, carrying them across the United States at a number of bases as her husband Jim mastered a succession of bomber aircraft serving as commanding officer. They had three children (Kris, Jim and Tom), tragically losing Tom at the age of six. While Merry Lou focused on raising a family she also pursued joy and talents in painting, studying Fine Arts at Texas Christian University and honing her bridge skills, both pursuits she concentrated on after Jim retired from the Air Force in 1966 from March Air Force base in Riverside. They returned to the Montana they both loved while their children continued in college in California. Over the next 20-30 years, they enjoyed all this unique area provides, loving and supporting family and friends, travelling often down the West Coast, visiting the art museums she so loved. During these years Merry Lou was able to concentrate on the painting that so enriched her life. She was a founding member of the Artist’s Gallery at the Emerson Cultural Center. She won Best of Show at a Yellowstone Park Exhibition and her work has been shown in most western states. Her paintings are in several private collections, in and outside of Montana. Merry Lou lost her husband Jim in 2007 and fought some challenging illnesses during the last few years of her life.
But what of the person herself, what made this woman such a joy to her family and friends? Let us share some events. How about these as examples of motherly advice: When her high school son was working on literature assignments from his English class, going on about Theodore Dreiser and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Merry Lou said, “That’s all well and good but you need to read Steinbeck so you learn to be compassionate for the less fortunate and appreciate the simple things of life.” When that same son was struggling with writing assignments in his freshmen year at college Merry Lou said, “Just be concise and straightforward, if you want to see how just read some Hemingway!” On a Saturday night, when the same son again, in his junior high school year, was listening to Bob Dylan with a friend and pronouncing on society’s ills Merry Lou commented, “Okay, but don’t neglect finding a girlfriend.” Sound and outstanding motherly advice, don’t you think? She loved her cabin on the Gallatin River, she and her husband would retreat there every chance they could, especially to escape the hot summer days in Bozeman. While her husband fished she often hiked or road her horse up the Gallatin headwaters or to a favorite spot on the Cinnamon Mountain trail. It was fascinating to hear her tell of what she saw, how the colors changed in the aspens with different sunlight and cloud patterns, all aspects of light and color she would incorporate in her paintings. Her care and concern for her family were extraordinary, helping raise her beloved grandchildren, supporting them and their children however possible in fulfilling their goals and pursuits.
From all of us, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nephews, nieces, in-laws, friends and colleagues all, we congratulate you on living a great compassionate and creative life. Well done, Merry Lou, well done indeed! We will try to take your admonition to heart, to give strength and care to each other, for are we all not but “fellow travelers between the two great infinities.”
Merry Lou was preceded in death by her husband, Jim and son, Tom. She is survived by her daughter, Kris Dunn of Livingston; son, James W. (Lindsey) Henson of Bozeman, MT and Sunrise, FL; three grandsons, Thomas Gnauck (Penelope Thompson) of McAllister, Pantzer (Tammi) Gnauck of Bozeman, and Bradley (Seetha Srinivasan) Henson of Washington, D.C. Her four great-grandchildren, Tanner, Taryn, Madde and Sadie, all of Bozeman, were a great joy to her life. She is also survived by her brother-in-law, Claude Henson of Billings and her niece, Holly King of Billings; nephews, Don Henson of Bozeman and Richard Henson of Billings, and numerous other nieces and nephews.
To the staff at Aspen Pointe, to the caregivers of Hospice Bozeman Health, Qualicare Big Sky, and Advocare Home Health we thank you for your compassionate care that so helped in Merry Lou’s final days. To Joanne Naro, Lisa Souba and Heidi Witt, private caregivers and Merry Lou’s blessed friends, thank you again.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Emerson Cultural Arts Center of Bozeman. Two ceremonies next summer will honor Merry Lou’s request that her ashes be split between the family gravesite at Mountain View Cemetery in Livingston and at a site up the Cinnamon trail above the Ranger Station where spring flowers are always in a special bloom.
Arrangements are under the care of Franzen-Davis Funeral Home and Crematory in Livingston.