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1920 Mary 2020

Mary Olive (Merene) Strong

November 11, 1920 — October 18, 2020

Mary Strong, a Livingston pioneer, passed away Sunday, October 18 just weeks short of her 100th birthday.Mary Olive (Merene) Strong was born in Pasco, Washington to Oscar and Olive Merene in November of 1920. At age two, her parents returned to the Livingston area where they both had been born and raised. They bought a ranch in the Deep Creek area and Mary attended the Deep Creek School as an elementary student. After graduating from Park County High School, Mary attended the Great Falls Deaconess School of Nursing, earning her RN degree from Montana State College.Later she followed her fianc, Bill Strong Sr., to Upland, California where he enlisted in the US Army. They were married in Palo Alto, CA on February 16,1944. Upon Bills deployment overseas, Mary returned to Livingston to work at the Park Hospital, mainly with Dr. Lueck.When Bill returned to the States, Mary joined him in Georgia where she worked as a surgical nurse. Bill was then redeployed overseas. Mary went back to Livingston to await the birth of their first child, Cheryl. Bill did not see his new daughter until he was dismissed from the Army six months later.A second daughter, Pennie, was followed by Peggy, Bill Jr. and David. Like many mothers of that time, Mary stayed at home caring for their children, sewing, cooking and keeping house while her husband, Bill, was busy building the family business, Strong and Bradley Inc. with partner, Stan Bradley. With a big family, Mary still found time to practice her nursing skills by volunteering as a camp nurse on Mill Creek, at Luccock Park and the Camp on the Boulder in the 1950s and 60s, taking her children along with her as she helped. Mary loved to travel. Besides countless trips to Mexico, she and Bill spent time in the Bahamas, South America, Hawaii and Europe. Throughout her life, Mary was a devoted bird lover and a member of the Audubon Society. She spent many hours identifying countless varieties of birds, both in Livingston and throughout their travels. There was never a hungry bird at the Strong residence!As a lifelong member of the Grace United Methodist Church, Mary was devoted to the missionary and prayer groups and she and Bill were Youth Fellowship leaders for many years. She was a generous and compassionate person and never met a charity she did not support.Mary was a remarkable historian. She and Bill were active in the Park County Historical Society and if anyone needed historical information, the word was "call Mary."She also loved music. Her musical tastes were wide and varied. She enjoyed country music and embraced the Livingston Community Concert Association with attendance at all performances with family in tow. Mary was preceded in death by her parents, her husband and her sister, Berdena Ulmer.She is survived by her five children: Cheryl (Brent) Garrett of Surprise, Arizona, Pennie (Gary) Tague of Bozeman, Mt., Peggy (Andy) Anderson of Boise, ID, William Strong Jr. (Peggy) of Livingston, Mt. and David (Amaya Garcia Costas) of Billings, MT. In addition to her five children, Mary had 10 grandchildren: Traci Punke of Missoula, MT, Amy Silk of Napa, CA, Rochelle Neilson and Heather Van Hee of Bozeman, MT, Matthew Strong of Livingston, MT, Lisa Baller of Bozeman, Mt., Rachel Hutchins and Travis Anderson of Boise, ID and Rebeca and Ana Garcia Strong of Billings, MT.Mary had 11 great grandchildren and in addition to her biological children, she and Bill helped raise a foster daughter, Shirley Bonebright, and a Vietnamese boat refugee "son", Long Nguyen. Since the fall of 2014, Mary had the pleasure of making The Bozeman Lodge Assisted Living Center her home where she embraced assisted living with the same grace and energy as she had with the rest of her life. Her family extends a huge thank you to the wonderful caring staff at the Lodge and to the Compassus Hospice helpers who provided such solace to her in her final weeks. Dr. Kirchoff and Dr. Desnick were beyond amazing!A private graveside service at the Mountain View Cemetery will be held with Chaplain Michael Flannery officiating. A public ceremony will be planned for a later date, covid permitting. Donations may be made to Compassus Hospice, 301 Edelweiss Dr., Suite 6 Bozeman, MT 59718All those who knew Mary will remember the twinkle in her eye, her sweet disposition and her ability to tell a great story!
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