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Judith S StevensJanuary 30, 1934 ~ December 19, 2017 (age 83)
Long-time Great Falls resident Judith S. Stevens died at Benefis Hospital on Dec. 19th, 2017. She was 83 years old.
A fourth-generation Montanan, Judith Emily Shope was born in Missoula, Montana on January 30th, 1934. She was named after the Judith River and her pioneer, North Carolina-born grandmother, Emily A. Stinson.
She spent most of her formative years in Helena, Montana. Her parents were western artist, Irvin “Shorty” Shope and homemaker, educator, Erva Love Shope. The oldest of four red-headed Shope kids, Judith grew up surrounded by traditional art, western history and Indian lore. The family was known for having a teepee in their backyard and riding their horses in the foothills around the state capitol.
Judith attended Helena schools. She graduated from high school in 1952.
During an orientation event at MSC (now MSU Bozeman,) she met her future husband, Richard Stevens.
In the Fall of 1955, Judith and Richard were married at St. Peter’s Cathedral (Episcopal) in Helena.
She completed her education in 1956 at MSC and received a bachelor’s degree in home economics with a minor in art. Later Judith would eventually earn a master’s degree.
In the coming years, Judith and Richard were blessed with three children: David, Rachel and Mary Alice. The family resided in Kalispell, Billings and finally settling in Great Falls.
While Richard pursued a career in architecture, Judith concentrated on being a mother and homemaker. Once Mary Alice, her youngest child, was old enough to attend school, Judith began her vocation as an educator. For most of her career she taught home economics in middle and high school. On occasion she would teach a class in art--- usually drawing.
Judith was a dedicated teacher and loved interacting with her students. Many of her students remember her for their introduction to sewing; a few of them still wear the projects they completed in her class. During her career she was an instructor at Paris Gibson Junior High, West Junior High, North Junior High, and at the time of her retirement she was a faculty member of Great Falls High School.
An enthusiatic proponent of the arts, she encouraged her children to pursue creative interests--- whether it was in music or visual arts. A globalist in outlook, Judith embraced the interconnectedness of two-dimensional art, pottery and soft sculpture.
A life-long Episcopalian, she attended St. Lukes, Billings; Christ Church, Kalispell and for the last 50 years Church of the Incarnation in Great Falls. Judith served on the vestry, altar guild and was a member of Daughters of the King. She also taught Sunday school.
While not being an avid outdoor enthusiast, Judith enjoyed and honored the natural world. She attended many sessions at Camp Marshall, the rustic Episcopal Church Camp on Flathead Lake. She liked sketching outdoors and picking huckleberries. Later on in life she enjoyed watching sleeping mule deer in her backyard and was particularly fond of a cottontail rabbit who lived under Richard’s aging two-door Porsche.
In April of 2001 Judith suffered a heart-breaking loss. Her youngest child, Mary Alice died of complications of lupus. Having been dogged by melancholy all of her life, it was a major set back for her.
She endured other challenges. In the Fall of 2014 Judith suffered a stroke. It effected her speech, vision and some of her mobility. She was institutionalized. After being told she would never be able to return to her residence; stubbornly, Judith started walking, again. Ten months later, she wheeled herself out of the assisted living center and never looked back. Judith lived the last few years of her life, with some limitations, on her own terms at her own house.
She is predeceased by her husband, Richard (who passed away in 2016,) her daughter, Mary Alice Stevens; her daughter-in-law, Annette Trinity-Stevens and her two sisters: Joyce Shope Johnson and Jane Shope Hyatt.
Judith is survived by her brother, Richard H. Rhydes; son, David Rutledge Stevens and his children Derek and Emily, her daughter Rachel Stevens Hawkins and Rachel’s children Alysa and Porter. Being from pioneer lineage, she is also survived by many nieces, nephews, in-laws and first, second and third cousins.
A believer in ever-lasting life and the power of the Trinity, Judith rests on a spiritual shore somewhere. She has secured a spot on a battered, moss-covered rock. Clutched in her hand is a canvas bag containing a dozen paperbacks carefully bookmarked with balsa-like driftwood. She is looking to the West. In the distance is Angel Point. Curling down from Somers, the wind is on time. Always on time. Judith is waiting; waiting for the mast of Richard’s sailboat to break the horizon. Through the power of the Holy Spirit they will soon be reunited for eternity.
The funeral will be held at Incarnation Episcopal Church, 600 Third Ave. North, Great Falls, MT at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, January 8th, 2017. The Rev. Timothy Ljunggren officiating.