Julia Belle “Judy” passed away February 9 from natural causes. She was born July 21,1929, at home in Pleasant Valley, south of Whitehall, to William and Myrtle Gillespie. Arriving two years after the death of brother Donald, she joined her older brother, Raymond. She was raised to be a typical ranch girl, helping with all aspects of that life. Judy could milk a cow, drive a team of horses, sew her own clothes, and cook or can food. She attended school in Whitehall, played basketball, was active in 4-H, and formed many lifelong friendships.
Her aspiration was to be a nurse, that changed after an incident with a team of horses resulted in a broken arm the summer prior to nursing school. It was also around that time she met William (Bill) Stratton at a dance in Waterloo, MT. They married June 26, 1948, and shared their lives together for 50 years. Their journey together began with ranching in Waterloo. They later moved to the Highlands and ran the Stratton Sawmill. In 1959, they settled at Cedar Hills, building their home and establishing the Stratton Ranch, which continues to this day.
Ranch life was her passion, always helping Bill, then son, Frank, with the cows and other chores. She enjoyed gardening, her yard, and flowers grown in her greenhouse. Judy sewed clothes for daughters, Joan, Judiann, and Jane. She also created beautiful formals, bridesmaid, and wedding dresses. After retirement she quilted, making quilts for all the grandchildren’s weddings. Judy was a 4-H leader, teaching and helping others learn to sew. She was active with the Highland Mountaineers 4-H club and a lifetime member of Eastern Star. Her crafting skills were extensive. For relaxation of an evening, she would crochet a doily while watching TV.
Even though she never acquired a nursing degree, she helped and cared for many people. From foster kids, bachelor friends and neighbors, to recuperating sick and injured family members and friends, there was always a place in our home for an extra person. A cup of tea with a homemade treat was the norm when stopping in to visit. Not only people received her attention but sick and orphaned animals as well. It would not be unusual to have a newborn calf by the basement fire or a bottle-fed calf, lamb, piglet or, on occasion, a foal in the corral.
Judy's precise and accurate tendencies guided her to be the School Board Clerk for the Highland One Room School when they lived in the Highlands. She was the School Board Clerk for the Whitehall School for 18 years and retired from St James Healthcare after working Medical Records 10 years.
Judy was proceeded in death by her parents, husband William (Bill), daughter Joan, brothers Donald and Raymond.
She is survived by son Frank (LaFay) Stratton, Judiann (Jim) Williams, Jane (Kevin) Johnson. Grandchildren Arica (Kory) Klapan, Tyson (Melissa) Stratton, Sarah Stratton, Jennifer (Matt) Van Syckle, Kristin Johnson and Lisa Johnson. Great grandchildren Kendra, Karson and Kaylee Klapan, Lexi, Trevin and Holden Stratton, Evan, Ayla and Lucy Teeples, Hadrian and Freya Van Syckle. Sister-in-law Ellen Gillespie, and numerous nieces and nephews.
For the past 7 years Judy lived at the BeeHive Home in Butte. We would like to extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to the staff there. In lieu of flowers, donations are recommended to a charity of your choice or to your local 4-H club.
Graveside services and internment will be held 1:00 pm, Friday, March 10th at the Whitehall cemetery.