The Billings Outpost

Dorothy Jean Kukla

Dorothy Jean Kukla, 86, of Billings, died Tuesday, July 9, 2013. She had been a resident of Highgate Assisted Living for six years before moving to Aspen Meadows.

She was born July 28, 1926, to Glen and Mary Smith and had eight siblings. She married Frank Kukla in Worland, Wyo., on Nov. 15, 1941.

She and her husband farmed with Ollie Kukla in Burlington, Wyo., later purchasing a wheat farm on Blue Creek by Billings. After retiring, they moved to Florida before coming back to Billings.

Survivors include a sister, Betty Johnson; daughters, Sydney Heidema and Merrylee Roberts; a son, Gerald Kukla; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Services will be at noon Thursday, July 11, at Cremation & Funeral Gallery.


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 July 2013 14:53

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Billy M. Hayes

Billy Markwood Hayes, 88, of Billings, a retired heavy equipment operator and welder who became interested in Western history and stamp collecting, died Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at St. Vincent Healthcare.

He was born Feb. 22, 1925, in Gering, Neb., the son of Benjamin and Margaret (Haney) Hayes. He graduated from Gering High School.

He worked as a heavy equipment operator in Scottsbluff, Neb., and as a welder in Gering. He married Virginia DeWitt in Sidney, Neb., in 1949. They moved from Nebraska to Lovell, Wyo., in 1985 and later to Billings.

While in Lovell, Mr. Hayes was a master Mason from Tri-Mountain View Lodge 35 and was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. He lived at the South Forty apartments in Billings.

Survivors include sons, Jerry Hayes of Cheyenne, Wyo., and Alan Hayes of Torrington, Wyo.; a daughter, Linda Elwood of Torrington; five grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and 12 great-great-grandchildren.

Graveside services were planned in West Lawn Cemetery in Gering. Arrangements are in the care of Dahl Funeral Chapel.


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 July 2013 14:52

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Robert ‘Bob’ Keller

Robert “Bob” Keller, 82, a retired printer, died June 28, 2013, at RiverStone Hospice.

He was born on March 23, 1931, and graduated from Bismarck High School in 1949. He learned the printing trade at Wahpeton School of Science and had worked at the Bismarck Tribune, Sidney Herald, Miles City Star and Livingston Enterprise. He retired from Artcraft Printers in Billings in March 1998.

He married Donna Anderson on Oct 27, 1979.

Survivors include his wife; children, Kathye Partridge of Portland, Ore., Keith Keller of Billings, Karen Tracy of Bismarck, N.D., and Kurt Keller and Kay Hotchkiss of Billings; 10 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Services are planned for next summer. Arrangements are by Cremation and Funeral Gallery.

Memorials may be sent to RiverStone Hospice or the American Cancer Society.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 July 2013 14:51

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Leon Ernest ‘Ernie’ Fritz

Leon Ernest “Ernie” Fritz, 86, who was descended from a long line of pioneers, died Monday morning, June 24, 2013, at Aspen Meadows in Billings.

His great-great-great-grandfather, Martin Luther Fritz, came to Philadelphia as an indentured servant from Alsace (now a part of France) in 1771. He fought in the American Revolution and is believed to have crossed the Delaware River with Gen. George Washington. After the war, he settled in western Pennsylvania, then in Ohio. His sons and grandsons continued moving west, through Indiana and Illinois, then to Iowa.

Mr. Fritz’s grandfather Benton moved to Billings in 1906 from Marcus, Iowa. His father, Leon Samuel Fritz, homesteaded near Duck Creek in 1912 and received a land patent in June 1917. He married Laura Baker of Tacoma, Wash., and Ernie Fritz was born Aug. 5, 1926, and grew up on the ranch.

He attended Senior High School but was not able to graduate because he was bucked from a horse and lay in a coma for several weeks. During his recovery, he had to learn how to walk and talk again. He was known for the Harleys he rode and the fast cars he drove.

He married Gail Gullard in 1951. Their sons, Kerry, Cassidy, and Shadd, were raised in the log house they built on the ranch, where they grew wheat and raised cattle.

Mr. and Mrs. Fritz separated, and he later married Ann Wargo.

In the last 30 years of his life, Mr. Fritz became a Christian, a committed recovering alcoholic and counselor for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Survivors include sons, Kerry of Billings, Cassidy of Elkhart, Ind., and Shadd of Billings; 10 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Private family services will be held. Arrangements are by Cremation & Funeral Gallery.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 July 2013 10:54

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Gloria T. Ratcliff

Gloria T. (Orlando) Ratcliff, 89, a lifelong resident of Billings, died June 28, 2013, at the Billings Clinic.

Her parents, August and Angelina Orlando, immigrated from Italy in the early 1900s, and she was born on Oct. 28, 1923, the ninth sibling in a family of 10.

She was in the first graduating class of the new Senior High School in 1941, then attended Johnston School of Business. Early employment was at the downtown Woolworth, and she also worked for an insurance firm as a secretary. She was employed with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs before getting married.

She married Edward “Eddy” Ratcliff on Jan. 8, 1955, in St. Patrick’s Church.

She was a full-time mother for many years and, starting in the early 1970s, worked for the U.S. Geological Survey (Mining Division) and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. She retired in 1985 after more than 20 years of government service and was a member of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees for many years.

She was known for her spaghetti and meatball dinners and was involved in league bowling.

She had received care from Billings Clinic and from Canyon Creek Memory Care facility in Billings.

Survivors include sons, Dave of Ellensburg, Wash., and Joe of Billings; a grandson; a great-grandson; a stepgreat-granddaughter; and a sister, Margaret Pickett, and a brother, Bob Orlando, both from Billings.

Visitation was July 1, and Vigil Service was July 2, both at Dahl Funeral Chapel. Funeral Mass was at 10 a.m. July 3 at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church. Rite of Committal will be in Mountview Cemetery. Reception will follow committal at St. Thomas. Arrangements are in the care of Dahl Funeral Chapel.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 July 2013 10:53

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Harold E. Bishop

Harold E. Bishop, 74, who operated his own construction company, died June 27, 2013.

He was born in Sheridan, Wyo., to William and Bernice Bishop. He married Georgia (Hunt) in 1958 in Sonoma, Calif., and they settled in Billings in 1966, where their four children still reside. They built their home in Billings and lived there for 47 years until Mrs. Bishop’s death in 2009.

Mr. Bishop worked as a contractor for many years before he started his own construction company, where he worked alongside his two sons, Will and Dean Bishop, and a son-in-law, Roger Wagner. He eventually retired and sold the business to his oldest son Will, who is carrying on the tradition with his son Christopher.

Survivors include four children, Tammy Wagner, Will Bishop, Terrie Webster and Dean Bishop; 15 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren; and a sister, Thelma Nash.

Services were pending. Arrangements are by Cremation & Funeral Gallery.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 July 2013 10:53

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David Roy Morledge

Billings services will be held Saturday, June 29, 2013, for David Roy Morledge, 86, a retired physician who died Feb. 28.

He was born Oct. 25, 1926, in Columbus, Ohio, to Dr. Roy Vernon and Julia Alvida Terihn Morledge. After his father completed his medical training in 1929, the family settled in Billings.

At the age of 15, David Morledge attended the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, Calif. He was accepted at age 17 to Stanford University but left in 1943 to serve with the Army during World War II.

After his honorable discharge as a sergeant at the end of the war, he returned to Stanford in 1947 to complete his undergraduate degree in biology. He graduated in 1948, then earned a master’s degree at Montana State University in bacteriology. He graduated in 1954 from Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, completed an internship at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 1954-55, and completed a general surgery residency at University of Oregon (Portland) Hospital in 1960.

That year, Dr. Morledge started a practice of surgery and general medicine in Lewistown. In 1961, the family moved to Billings, where he continued his practice for eight years.

Dr. Morledge was a captain for 10 years in the Medical Corps, U.S. Army Reserves, and in the U.S. Air Force Reserves from 1954-1964. In 1969, he and his family moved to the Los Angeles area to complete a residency in otolaryngology - head and neck surgery and facial plastic surgery at the University of California Los Angeles.

He completed the residency in November 1972 and accepted a position at the University of Vermont College of Medicine as assistant professor of otolaryngology - head and neck surgery. In August 1973, he accepted a position in Bakersfield, Calif., where he established a practice.

In July 2005, Dr. Morledge and his wife retired to Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz mountains of California.

Survivors include his wife, Renate-Verena of Boulder Creek; children, Vivian Diana Timperman of Mansfield, Ohio, David Eric Morledge of Boise, Idaho, Thomas Joseph Morledge of Chardon, Ohio, John Charles Morledge of Vacaville, Calif., Michael David Morledge of Boulder Creek, Donna Michelle Morledge Istvan of Newport, Wash., and Daniel Louis Morledge of Azusa, Calif.; 14 grandchildren; a brother, Thomas Edison Morledge; and nine stepchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 29, at First United Methodist Church, 2800 Fourth Ave. N.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 12:04

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Frann Sommerfeld

Frann Sommerfeld, 76, described as a teacher whose lesson plan centered on the knowledge that our Creator is an integral part of this life, died June 16, 2013.

She was born Mary Frances Fowler on April 21, 1937.

Services were held June 24 at South Forty in Billings. Arrangements were in the care of Dahl Funeral Chapel.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 12:03

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Clinton Charles Wigen

Clinton Charles Wigen, 63, of Billings, who had worked on a farm and driven tractor-trailer rigs, died Saturday, June 22, 2013.

He was born Oct. 7, 1949, in Havre to Robert and Ella Wigen. He attended high school in Chester and graduated from Hobson High School in 1968.

He married Colleen D. Fagan of Cut Bank in the spring of 1970, and with short interruptions he worked on the farm until the mid-’80s. Mr. Wigen then drove tractor-trailer rigs until an accident disabled him.

He then completed a bachelor’s degree through Montana State University Billings in 1994.

Survivors include sons, Nathan Wigen of West Yellowstone and Jason Wigen of Johnston, Iowa; three grandchildren; his father, Robert Wigen of Great Falls; a brother, Jon Wigen of Great Falls; and a sister, Bodeil Wigen Burke of San Antonio, Texas.

Private family services were held. Arrangements were by Cremation & Funeral Gallery.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 12:02

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Lula Esther Nikula

Lula Esther Nikula, 89, of Billings, died Tuesday, June 18, 2013.

She was born Sept. 2, 1923, in Brophy to John and Alida (Berg) Lammi. On March 16, 1941, she married Rayno F. Nikula in Red Lodge.

Survivors include daughters, Rena Mill and Rita Walter; a son, Randy Nikula; eight grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.

At her wish, no services will be held. Arrangements are by Cremation & Funeral Gallery.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 12:01

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