The Billings Outpost

Patrick ‘Rick’ Sweeney

Patrick Charles Sweeney, 70, who had been a Judge Advocate General officer in the Air Force before going into private practice in Billings, died Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.

He was born in Billings on June 18, 1943, to Naomi and Charles Sweeney.  At the time of his birth, his father, a B-17 pilot during World War II, had been declared missing in action and would spend nearly two years in German prisoner of war camps before being liberated by the allies in 1945.

In 1946 the family moved to a farm outside of Hardin. The family moved into Hardin in 1953 and he graduated from Hardin High School in 1961, playing defensive lineman on the varsity football team.

He earned a law degree from the University of Montana in 1968. He worked during summer breaks on construction of the Yellowtail Dam south of Hardin. He married Diana Patrick, and they had five children.

In 1969, Mr. Sweeney entered the Air Force as a commissioned officer, beginning a 20-year career as a Judge Advocate General officer (JAG). He was stationed in New Jersey, California, Michigan and Greece.

After he and his wife divorced, he was stationed in Washington, D.C., where he finished his Air Force career as a lieutenant colonel and was honorably discharged.

He returned to Montana and went into private practice in Billings, first as a partner with Allen Beck and later as a sole practitioner.  In 1993 he married Lottie Blades, and acquired another son, Brett, whom he adopted in 2006. The marriage also brought a stepson into his life. They divorced in 2013.

Survivors include his mother; a brother, Kevin Sweeney; a sister, Nancy Keyes; children, Shana Silvestri, Charles, Michael, Darrel, Robert and Brett; a stepson, Seth Blades; and nine grandchildren.

Services were Jan. 11 at Dahl Funeral Chapel.

Donations may be made in his name to Special Olympics Montana, P.O. Box 3507, Great Falls, MT 59403.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:34

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Joseph Maheras

Joseph Charles Maheras, 76, a longtime Billings physician, died Jan. 10, 2014, of cancer.

He was born June 14, 1937, to Celia Argenta Miles Maheras and Peter John Maheras in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was raised on the family farm with five siblings.

He graduated from Idaho Falls High School in 1955 and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Chicago. He studied chemistry at the University of Oregon and received a master’s degree in chemistry from Idaho State University.

He entered medical school at the University of South Dakota in 1963. He married Mary Gugin on Aug. 20, 1966, and they both received their doctor of medicine degrees from the University of Washington Medical School in 1967. Internship and residency in internal medicine took them to Hennepin County General Hospital in Minneapolis.

During the Vietnam War, Dr. Maheras served in the Medical Corps as the surgeon for the 172 Infantry Brigade at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He was discharged as a major in 1972 and returned to Hennepin County to complete the residency program.

The family moved to Billings in 1975, and he began his 36-year medical career at the Billings West Medical Center. He served at both St. Vincent Healthcare and the former Deaconess Hospital, and his practice led him from Billings West to the Broadwater Clinic to temporary retirement in 2005.

He then assisted until 2013 at the Sleep Center at St. Vincent Healthcare. He was elected a Fellow of the American College of Physicians in 2008.

Dr. Maheras served in numerous leadership roles in the Boy Scouts of America and received the District Award of Merit, the Silver Beaver Award, and the God and Service Award. He was a member of the Order of the Arrow.

He played the accordion, clarinet and concertina and sang for more than 30 years in the chancel choir of Grace United Methodist Church. He had recently joined the Big Sky Chorus. 

Since his initial retirement in 2005, he had been building a cedar strip canoe. It will be launched when warm weather returns.

Survivors include his wife; sons, Andrew and Toby; a daughter, Amy; three grandsons; sisters, Elaine, Ruth and Joy; and a brother, Ted.

A time of fellowship and greeting will be held at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15. Services will be at Grace United Methodist Church, 1935 Ave. B, at 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, followed by a luncheon in the church Fellowship Hall.

Memorials may be directed to Doctors Without Borders or St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:32

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John Rea

John Herbert Rea, 71, of Billings, a designer, woodworker, mechanic and builder, died Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, from complications due to pneumonia.

The oldest of four children, he was born to John and Delores Rea on March 16, 1942, in Walla Walla, Wash. He graduated from Touchet High School in 1961.

He earned a degree in diesel mechanics from Oregon Technical Institute in 1964. He married JoAnne Hilde in 1975 and they lived in Touchet before relocating to Billings in 1976.

Mr. Rea worked in manufacturing and sales of trailers until he retired in 1995. He spent his free time designing and creating woodworking projects and camping.

In 2007, a spinal injury left him a paraplegic. He spent countless hours building historical wooden model ships while confined to his bed.

Mr. Rea was an active member of Billings Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Survivors include his wife, of Billings; mother, Delores Dodd Rea of Touchet; a brother, Robert Rea of Touchet; sisters, Joan McCracken of Queen Creek, Ariz., and Leisha Synoground of Kennewick, Wash.; children, Jonathan Rea of El Mirage, Ariz., Troy Rea of Layton, Utah, and Trent Rea of Kennewick; stepchildren, Jeff Hilde, Melodi Drake, Kurt Mende and Kent Mende; a foster daughter, Shellee Roberts; 26 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Services will be at Billings Seventh-day Adventist Church, 3204 Broadwater Ave., at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18. Arrangements are by Cremation and Funeral Gallery.

Memorials may be made to Three Angels Broadcasting Network, P.O. Box 220, West Frankfort, IL 62896-0220.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:31

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Ronald R. Sanchez

Ronald Rafugio Sanchez, 55, who had most recently worked at Olive Garden, died Jan. 10, 2014, at his home in Billings.

He was born April 26, 1958, in Billings, the son of David and Phyllis (Ontiveros) Sanchez. He grew up in Billings, graduating from Billings Senior High School. He moved to St. Louis, Mo., in the ’90s.

Mr. Sanchez liked motorcycles and customizing cars. He worked for Associated Foods for about 10 years before working at Olive Garden.

Survivors include his wife, Carrie Ann; stepchildren, Sheila, Michael and Daniel Peltier; six grandchildren; father; and siblings, Dennis Sanchez, Diane Parrott, Ben Sanchez and Gary Sanchez.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, at Dahl Funeral Chapel. Interment of ashes will be in Holy Cross Cemetery.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:31

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Marieanne Hanser

Marieanne Hanser, 81, a music teacher who also was active on conservation issues, died Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, in Fischer Cottage at St. John’s Lutheran Ministries.

She was born to Charles and Cecelia (Zent) Carroll on March 30, 1932, in Billings. She grew up in Billings and Hysham, attending St. Patrick’s High School and graduating from Hysham High School.

She received a degree in music from the University of Montana. She taught music in Anaconda and Park City schools before setting up a piano studio in Billings where she worked with children and adult students for more than 50 years.

She recently retired as a church musician for St. Patrick’s Parish. She was a lifelong member of the local, state and national music teachers’ associations.

Mrs. Hanser served as the urban representative on the Yellowstone Conservation Board for 29 years. She also served as chairman of the Education Committee for the Montana Association of Conservation Districts and was instrumental in establishing the Canon Envirothon program for Montana.

She is survived by her husband of 58 years, Harold Hanser; three children; grandchildren; and great grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12. Rosary will be recited at 5:30 p.m. Monday with Vigil to follow at 6 p.m. at Dahl Funeral Chapel. Funeral Mass will be at noon Tuesday at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral. Committal will be in the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery in Laurel.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:30

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Jeannine Vondra

Jeannine Marie Vondra, 84, who with her husband had owned Vondra’s Exxon and Carbon County Oil Co., died Jan. 7, 2014.

She was born Feb. 13, 1929, the first of two daughters of Irene and Irvan Powers in Chicago, Ill. She married Donald Vallee Vondra on May 21, 1949.

They moved to Boulder, Colo., in 1951 and to Red Lodge in 1966. There they owned and operated Vondra’s Exxon and Carbon County Oil Co.

Mr. Vondra died in 1982, and she sold the business in 1986. She retired to Billings in 1988 and joined the ministry of CareNet Pregnancy Center (Now called LaVie). In 2006 she became a resident at Aspen View Retirement Center.

Survivors include a sister, Celeste Hartmann; nine children, Tom, Mary Jo Oppegaard, Donald, Buck, Anne Jetmore, Christine Tronson, John, Margaret Asay and Catherine Henning; 38 grandchildren; and 31 great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life was held Jan. 12 at Faith Chapel.

Donations may be made to LaVie Care Centers, P.O. Box 80146, Billings, MT 59108.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:29

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Edward Joseph Weller

Ed Weller, 86, who had been the owner of Baumgartner-Weller Photography Studio, died Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, at RiverStone Hospice House.

He was born Aug. 9, 1927, in Spokane, Wash., the son of Peter and Agnes (McKenna) Weller. He graduated from Gonzaga Prep High School.

He served in both the Marines and the Navy and moved to Billings in 1953. On June 6, 1953, he married LaDonna Freter.

Mr. Weller was owner of Baumgartner-Weller Photography Studio from 1966 until retiring in 1995. He was an active member of the Montana Professional Photographers Association and won several awards.

He had been a member of the Breakfast Exchange Club since 1969 and served as president from 1979-1980. In 2011, he was awarded the Book of Golden Deeds award for his years of service to help disadvantaged youth and was honored as a life member of the National Exchange Club.

He was a charter member of St. Pius X Parish in Billings. He was known as “Grandpa Mato” and specialized in growing tomatoes.

Survivors include children, Nancy Smith, Carol Timm and David Weller; nine grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren, with two more on the way.

Memorial Mass was held at St. Pius X Catholic Church on Jan. 7. Ashes were laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery with his wife’s following the service. Arrangements were in the care of Dahl Funeral Chapel.

Memorials may be made in his name to St Pius X Catholic Church or Breakfast Exchange Club Foundation.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:21

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Marcella (Sally) Giorno

Sally Giorno, 84, who had been a real estate broker, died Dec. 31, 2013, at Tender Nest in Billings, where she had resided for the past year.

She was born Dec. 17, 1929, in Ellsworth, Minn., the fifth of 10 children of Charles and Sena Henrichs.

In 1955 she married Les Martin, and they had three children. In 1981 she married Al Giorno. He died in 1996.

She was a life master at duplicate bridge.

Survivors include children, Jeff Martin, Jackie Rose and Jennifer Vossler, all of Billings; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A celebration of her life will be held later to give out-of-state guests a chance to attend. Arrangements are by Dahl Funeral Chapel.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:20

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Lila Espeseth

Lila Espeseth, 86, who had worked in department and fabric stores, died early in the morning of Jan. 5, 2014, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

She was born in Casper, Wyo., on Aug. 9, 1927, to Rose (Steinle) and Hedrick “Sarge” Nelson. She moved to Billings with her mother and sister when she was a teenager, and graduated from Senior High School. She married Ty Espeseth in 1947.

Mrs. Espeseth had a gift for sewing and had worked as a window dresser at Hart Albin’s department store. She also worked in other department and fabric stores.

When her children had grown, and after she divorced, she and a friend, Ron Davis, traveled and lived throughout the Southwest, including Taos, N.M., where they ran an art gallery, Tucson, Ariz., and Las Vegas. They also spent time in San Francisco and Portland and visited New York City.

She returned to Billings in the late 1980s and cared for her father-in-law, Ferd Espeseth, at the end of his life.

Survivors include four children, Linda, Gayle, Karen and Scott; and four grandchildren.

Services were pending. Arrangements are in the care of Dahl Funeral Chapel.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:20

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Eileen Gullion

Eileen Gullion, 90, of Billings, who had ranched with her husband, died Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, at St. Vincent Healthcare.

She was born in Roca, Neb., on Jan. 30, 1923. The family moved to Penrose, Wyo., in 1937.

She married Virgil R. Gullion on Oct. 8, 1940. They lived on Pryor Mountain before moving to Melville, and they were ranchers in both places. Eugene, Ore., became their home from 1966 until Mr. Gullion’s death in 1989.

She was a member of the Lutheran Church and sang in the choir at Melville Lutheran Church. She had received care the last three years at St. John’s Lutheran Home.

Survivors include Ron of Portland, Ore., and Deanna Whittington of Billings; brothers, Wally of Bozeman and Stan of Greybull, Wyo.; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at Valley Bible Church, 36030 O’Shea Circle, the old Perfect Place in the Briarwood Subdivision.

Memorials may be made to St. John’s Lutheran Home.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:19

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