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An icon of Sun River Valley, a beautiful gentle soul, Jean Carol Largent peacefully passed away surrounded by her loved ones on April 18th, 2022, six days after her 89th birthday. A Memorial Service will be held at Simms Methodist Church on Tuesday, May 3rd at 11 AM. She again is reunited with her husband Howard, parents, and many other loved ones surrounded by the Jesus’ unconditional love.
Jean’s journey began April 12,1933 in Conrad, Mt. Born to Ida and Otto K Speer, she joined six older brothers, Don, Richard, Dale, Kenneth, Robert, and Lloyd, completing the family. Her father was absolutely delighted with the birth of a baby girl, proclaiming he could now put his equipment away! Being surrounded by so many boys she was destined to grow up as a Tom Boy. She would be seen tagging along with her father learning farming skills, milking cows, irrigating, training, and riding horses. Mom did not stay in the house long enough to learn domestic skills such as cooking, cleaning, and sewing. Mom would ride several miles to attend the one room country school with her brother Lloyd. Money was scarce and it was not uncommon to eat lard sandwiches for lunch. Mom shared stories of playing in the family reservoir with neighbors, the visits of her Norwegian grandparents, eating lutefisk and of her Southern grandparents telling her stories of the Civil War and the adventures of living in a one room, dirt floor shod house. When Mom was 14, the family moved into the township of Conrad. Her older brothers moved on, joining the military, getting married and making Mom an aunt. She was especially close to Duke, Terry, and Judy. Mom had memories of Pearl Harbor where two of her brothers were stationed. It was months before my grandparents were notified of their safety, it was a very terrifying time. Mom then attended Conrad High School graduating in 1951. During her high school years, she worked at various Conrad establishments.
Mom enjoyed riding her favorite horse “Rita Ray” in the Whoop Up Parade. It was at the 1952 parade that a beautiful gal on a horse caught the attention on a handsome cowboy, Howard Largent, who quickly started courting her. They were married less than a year later on April 11,1953. Dad would often tease Mom that she could not even boil water when they married. They celebrated 65 years together at the time of Howard’s death. The happy couple settled in Ulm, MT and started their family with the birth of Carol Jean and then 10 months later the birth of Sharon Ann. In 1957 Howard and Jean moved their family to a small farm on the Fairfield Bench. The family was completed with the birth of Howard James (Jim) in 1959 and Marlene Kay 1961. Mom’s childhood “Tomboy” days paid off as she taught Dad how to flood irrigate. Memories of Mom wearing irrigating boots riding Buck (the greatest horse ever) bareback, packing a shovel irrigating was a common scene on the farm. Since there was no indoor plumbing, Mom had to pump, haul and heat water for bathing, doing dishes, laundry and drinking. Mom also tended to a large garden which yielded a huge crop of vegetables to can each fall. There were the sheep, (at least 150 head) cattle, and chickens that needed tended. During lambing season there would always be a lamb that needed special attention and Mom would keep them warm on the oven door. Feeding bum lambs was exhausting work. Mom did all of this plus all the responsibilities of raising four very active children. One last move took the Largent Family to Simms. Mom took a position at Kaull’s egg farm candling eggs for 3 years. Mom Loved working for the Kaull’s as they were lovely people. Mom took a few years off working developing close friendships with Lois Johnston, Audrey Williams, Esther Heikkila, Sue Dahl and Bernice Askeland. Mom established a small milk delivery business, milking 3 to 4 cows twice daily with early morning deliveries to many loyal Simms customers. Sharon became her sidekick as Sharon became quite a proficient milker! Many youngsters in the valley were delighted when Mom would teach them how to milk cows. Mom loved watching daytime soap operas especially “The Young and The Restless”, which she watched religiously until her death. Mom assumed the management of the Sun River Truck Stop Cafe in 1973, an ambitious endeavor for who woman who could not boil water when she married and had no management skills other than managing Howard! She quickly adapted as she enjoyed the social aspects of visiting with customers. She became famous for huge yummy cinnamon rolls and the generous servings of chicken fried steak and gravy. Truckers came from all parts of the country just to eat her cooking! The Truck Stop Cafe was where many young teenage girls began their work journey including the three Largent girls. Mom was a patient, kind employer, teaching valuable work skills which followed these girls into their adulthood. “To this day I credit my early waitress career for my becoming a public speaker” “She was great Boss!” “Always a positive flow when I’m around her”. Jean’s hiatus at the cafe ended in 1982. She was then recruited by many establishments in the Valley and Augusta but especially loved working at the Cozy Corner in Fairfield. Jean’s cooking career ended with the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and severe back pain after a back surgery. The past 20 years had been a medical challenge for Mom as she struggled with COPD and Heart issues caused by the many years of heavy smoking and breast cancer. When grandchildren would visit, she did not hesitate to warn them of dangers of smoking. Marlene was pivotal in managing Mom’s health care, spending endless hours lovingly transporting Mom to her numerous specialists, and ensuring she received the best care at home. Because of Marlene’s financial contributions and loving care, Mom was allowed to stay at home until recently. Mom loved spoiling her cat, “Kitty Cat” and watching Jeopardy with Jim. Mom’s frequent phone calls to all her grandchildren, nieces and nephews became a daily ritual. Mom always looked forward to having her nails done by Shelly. Mom never left the house without putting on lipstick even when she was sick!!!
Mom especially enjoyed visits from her 8 grandchildren, Nicole Graves Olson, Christopher Graves (Abbi), Derek (Amanda), Ashle Morris (Mike), Laura Wheeler; two step granddaughters, Jennifer Graves Sertl and Patti Wheeler; great grandchildren, McKayla, Cyrus and Matthew, Alexis, Katy, Jorja, Owen and Sage, Emmet and Briley, Walter, Addison and Sierra. “Grandma Jean ‘was the glue’ that held the family together.” She always knew how to make everyone smile and laugh, revealing her cheeky smile and sassy attitude.” Grandma Jean was a person who made you feel safe and loved no matter what the situation was. She was incredibly happy every second she could spend time with her grandchildren!
Jean was proceeded in death by her husband Howard; parents OK and Ida Speer; her 6 brothers: Don (Joyce), Richard (Ruby), Dale (Maxine) Kenneth (Louise), Robert (Dorothy) Lloyd (Evelyn); special Son-in Law Dr. Glenn M Graves; In-laws Anna and Cyrus Largent, Sisters-in laws Marvine (Oral), Arleen Stevens, Brother-in-law Russell, nieces Terry Speer Watkins and Betty Speer Spicer; and nephew Duke Speer. Jean is survived by her children Carol Graves, Jim, and Marlene, daughter Sharon Wheeler, as well as all her precious grandchildren, great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
‘Grandma is now in Heaven pain free, living the life, sipping coffee now, so happy ya’ll showed up!’
Family has requested that donations be made to the Great Falls Animal Shelter, the Sun River Historical Society, and the 4H Foundation.
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