Julia Dorcas Edwards Ashcraft

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Julia Dorcas Edwards Ashcraft ended her life’s journey at her home in Moccasin on June 5, 2019, attended lovingly by her daughters and a grandson. Julie was born on July 10, 1921, to Charles Dickson Edwards and Lina Belle (Shelby) Edwards. She was a native of Buffalo, where her Scottish paternal grandparents had homesteaded in the 1890s, and spent her childhood with a much-cherished extended family of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents. The eldest daughter among seven children, Julie was given substantial household responsibility, and was a hard and conscientious worker from a young age. Her entire family, and many of the town folk, affectionately and respectfully called her “Sis.” She attended Buffalo School until her later teens, when her parents and siblings traveled to Washington to visit family and to work. She stayed on to live with and help an orchard-owning family near Yakima, and attended and graduated from Selah High School in 1939. Julie had many happy memories and life-long friends from her time there.

Upon returning to Montana, she took nurse’s training in Lewistown and provided care giving in several homes around the Judith Basin. She met her future husband, Cecil Ashcraft, of Moccasin, at a dance in Utica Hall. As their oft-told story goes: a sudden power outage made the hall go dark, so the ever-resourceful Cecil fetched a flashlight. When its roving beam caught Julie, he asked her to dance to San Antonio Rose, and every song after that. By the end of the evening, Cecil had proclaimed to friends that he had met the girl he was going to marry. They were wed on Sept. 5, 1942, and spent 50 years together, raising two sons and four daughters.

For the first few years, the couple lived in Polson, where Cecil was a teacher and coach, and Julie worked for a time at a retail shop. After the war, they left Julie’s beloved Mission Valley to return to the Judith Basin and take up residence in Moccasin. Apart from two years in Chester, and a summer sojourn in the Portland, Oregon, area, Julie lived for the rest of her life in Moccasin, most of them in the home where Cecil was born.

Julie had a kind and generous spirit and a great sense of humor. She believed in God, and was an avid reader and student of the Bible. She demonstrated Christian values, visiting and nursing the elderly and infirm, helping struggling families, and taking the needy under her wing and into her heart and prayers. She was a dedicated member of the Methodist Church, served as delegate to Conference several times, and as a liaison for Global Missions. She felt deeply about her faith, with a commitment to “pass it on.” She loved unconditionally and supported her family in all their endeavors. She especially encouraged young people, and followed closely the activities of her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Julie had a passion for being in nature and growing things. She loved camping in the mountains, riding horses, flying kites, foraging for wild berries, collecting wildflowers for May baskets, and lingering to take in the glory of a Montana dawn or sunset. Julie planted trees, as she would say, “for those who come after,” and tended the flowerbeds around the landmark Moccasin town pump into her 80s.

She was a skillful quilter, tailor/seamstress, and painter of landscapes, and took up fiddle playing in her later years. Proud of her Scottish heritage, Julie thrilled to the sound of bagpipes, quoted old Scots sayings and songs, and visited her ancestral home in Scotland. Her adventurous spirit also took her, along with various family members, on travels to Samoa, the Caribbean, California and Alaska.

All of her hard-working life, with its share of challenges, Julie remained an optimist, attuned to joy. She inspired and lifted the lives of countless friends, family and strangers with her ready laugh, gracious welcome, and sincere interest.

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Cecil, brothers Chuck and Bill, sister Ruth, and an adopted grandson, Keith. She is survived by three sisters - Marian Grant, Barb Moore, and Shirley White - and her six children: Joe (Sheila) of Ketchikan, Alaska; Ned (Janice) of Missoula; Arden of Moccasin; Susan (Harley Hughes) of Moccasin and Stanford; Harva of Bozeman; and Sally (Alasdair Fraser) of Nevada City, California; and their families, including 13 natural and adopted grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

The family is grateful to the staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings, and CMMC Hospice. In lieu of flowers, those who are inspired are invited to make donations in Julie’s name to Great Falls Rescue Mission or Scottish Fiddlers of California.

A memorial will be held at a later date.

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