Mary Louise Hildreth Bearden, our sweet Mary, “Mary Lou” to some 😊, has found what her heart yearned for and Tuesday, February 14, 2023, she entered heaven! In spite of the challenges she faced throughout her life, she lived every day to the fullest, loved fiercely, and shared her love of Jesus every chance she got. Though our hearts are breaking, we are comforted knowing she is in heaven. Her prayer was that she see YOU there someday and that was one reason she so boldly shared her faith.
Some of the greatest life lessons she shared with her daughters, were…
1) Everyone is important – she showed love to EVERYONE, provided new shoes to strangers that needed them, was kind even when others weren’t kind to her, and celebrated important moments with those in her life.
2) Don’t hold too tight to things you can’t change, focus on the positive – that’s why cancer had no chance to win. She made the best of every day, and saw medical appointments as the opportunity to hug new and old friends.
3) Be generous with hugs – she loved giving and receiving them!
4) When you can, use real butter 😊 Nothing more needs to be said here.
5) Work hard – during her life she worked as a waitress, bookkeeper, hairdresser, P.E. Teacher, sporting goods store manager, batting cage operator, front office manager, and she took in laundry and ironing when her daughters were babies. She firmly believed in the importance of making a difference in this world wherever you can.
6) It matters where you spend eternity – know where you’re going. Her favorite verse:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)
Mary was born January 3, 1942, in Dillon, Montana, to John and Mabelle (Ryan) Hildreth. They briefly lived in Deer Lodge (MT), before moving to Seattle (WA). In Seattle, both of her parents worked in the shipyards at the beginning of WWII. Her mother’s illness brought the family back to Montana, where her mother died a short time later. Her father took a job with the Dillon Police Department as a Police Officer – and her love for him led to a lifelong support of and respect for law enforcement.
Now that it was just the two of them, Mary spent the work week in the home of a Dillon family and weekends with her dad. She had wonderful memories of the time she and her dad spent with her Uncle Bob & Aunt Bess Hildreth and their sons. The boys thought of their cousin “Mary Lou” as a little sister, a bond that defined their relationship throughout her life.
Sadly, her father died suddenly when Mary was just 13. She was always thankful for the years they had together and the valuable lessons he taught her. He was her hero and she was determined to make him proud through the way she lived out her life.
After her father’s death, Mary’s cousins, Boyd & Maysel Koenig and their 3 children, became her family. No longer an only child, she now had a sister and two brothers: Cathy, Kerry, and Kim (her baby brother lovingly called her Mary Lou-igi).
Church became an important part of her life, especially music. Mary participated in the church choir, leading the children’s choir for a time, at the Dillon Methodist Church.
Mary graduated from Beaverhead High School in Dillon. She had a blast in high school, loved writing, cheered on school teams at every opportunity, and had great friends. After graduation, Mary moved to Seattle and enrolled in Cosmetology School. She made a lot of friends and enjoyed life in the big city! Most of this time included a “what happens in Seattle, stays in Seattle” policy.
Mary and Coy met while she was working as a waitress at the Lettuce Inn in Salinas, California, and he was a truck driver for Vegetable Growers Supply. They married March 26, 1971, and blended their families. Their church home was Bethel So. Baptist Church. She and Coy were involved in church life as a team, participating in youth activities and many church events. Throughout their marriage, Coy and Mary remained active in church life, finding ways to encourage others and share the love of our Lord.
Usually mixing volunteer work with fun, she was a driving force behind the development of children’s baseball fields at Manzanita Park in Monterey County, CA, a leader in Senior League Baseball for a number of years, President of North Monterey County Little League for several years, and for 17 years she joyfully organized Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection in Dillon, Montana. She and Coy supported the BOA work at Dillon’s Kids Pond Father’s day fishing event, the annual Dillon city-wide vacation Bible school, and the Dillon Relay for Life (which led to her purple hair!). The lavender ribbon is used to represent the battle against all cancers – and she was a fierce warrior! If you plan to attend her Celebration of Life, start planning your lavender/purple colored accessories!
After retirement, Coy and Mary moved to Dillon where it quickly became home. They spent a lot of their summers in the mountains, just enjoying the beautiful surroundings, and Mary ENJOYED cutting sage brush at their cabin. They also encouraged visits from family and friends, attended family reunions, hunted, travelled back to California for visits, and explored Montana.
Always an independent, strong, caring woman, she supported and cared for people continuously, adapting her methods as her mobility changed. When she couldn’t do as much physically, she loved on people by baking various desserts and cakes. She remembered birthdays and anniversaries with cards and/or personal notes. At some point, she started sending morning text messages of encouragement to anyone who would accept them.
She remembered what it was like to be a heartbroken, sassy, 13-year-old orphan, so she encouraged and loved everyone God put in her path. She became an 81-year-old, Jesus-loving, purple-haired, cake-baking example to all of us. If she made a difference in your life, in her honor, please pay it forward.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents, and Coy & Mary’s youngest child in their blended family, Coy Dale Bearden, Jr. Mary is survived by her husband, Coy; daughters: Tami (Rod) Creel, Dora McKean, Cathie McKemie, Margie (Herbie) Farmer; grandchildren: Courtney Creel, Jeff McKean, Tiffani Roche, Billy (Nicole) Roche, Michael (Emily) Winters, Keri (Grant) Perkes; great-grandchildren: Kyle, Collin, Cayden, Kohen, and Jaxton Roche. Coy and Mary enjoyed daily videos for the past 4 years of “Action Jaxton.” Her brothers: Kim Koenig and Kerry (Ginny) Koenig. She is survived by her Hildreth cousins, who loved their “little sister,” Lowell, Ray, and Barton. She is also survived by numerous cousins, and friends.
A note of appreciation from Coy, Dora, Tami and her entire family:
Thank you to everyone everywhere who supported Coy and Mary throughout her 24-year battle with cancer.
Our heartfelt thanks to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (Dillon, MT) and everyone in the community who provided dinners the past few weeks.
Our gratitude to everyone who was a part of her medical care – you gave us bonus years with her!
A special thanks to nurses Debbie Hawkins, Becky DeBoer, Debby Hursh, Kathy Kirkley, and Catherine Mee who provided the most incredible support to her and to us this past month and made it possible for us to care for her at home in her last days.
There are no words to express our appreciation and love for Dr. Sandra McIntyre, Lori Butori, and Debbie Hawkins who, in addition to providing excellent medical care over the years, offered loving care and support to each of us as we said goodbye to her. She loved you, and we know you loved her. And we love you too!
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Samaritans Purse Operation Christmas Child or your favorite charity.
A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.