Mary E. Willick Baird

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
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Mary Baird, 96, passed away Nov 14, 2021, to be with her Lord and her family that had went before her.

She was born July 10, 1925, to Albert (Al) and Lena Willick of Dutton.

She went to school in Dutton and graduated in 1943 as valedictorian. She rode the bus to college at Bozeman, as it was WWII and gas was rationed. Graduating in Home Economics in 1947, she took a job as the home demonstration agent for Choteau County in Fort Benton. The job was wonderful, and she enjoyed the people. In about 1950, both she and Agent Keith Newby were moved to Lewistown in Fergus County. It was one of the most active Extension offices in the state, with a very strong 4-H program and more than 20 community clubs. She loved the job, and would have stayed there forever, had it not been for meeting and marrying Howard Baird.

She married Howard July 1, 1953, and she resigned Sept. 1 and moved to the East Fork ranch. The lease on that ranch was not renewed, so they started looking for another place. They purchased a ranch east of Judith Gap in the spring of 1954. Mary became the ranch bookkeeper and homemaker and started raising three boys. She did all the registered cattle paperwork. She was very involved with the Judith Gap Methodist Church, hauling the boys into Sunday services, and teaching Sunday school. She was also one of many who started the fall smorgasbord, which is still going on today. She was a member of the Mary Stranahan chapter of the Eastern Star.

For many years the ladies around Bercail (20 miles east of Judith Gap) had a garden club. Mary loved gardening and flowers and knew most of the local wildflowers. She even knew the two spots on the ranch where you could find the state flower, bitterroot. It’s a very short flower that only blooms for a short time in the spring, and you must pay attention if you are to catch it in bloom. She was always involved in 4-H leadership and helped judge cooking and gardening in both Lewistown and Harlowton. She was involved with the Montana Angus Auxiliary and may have been a founding member. She was the Judith Gap correspondent to the Lewistown News-Argus and the Harlowton Times for many years in the 1970s and 80s.

Howard made the decision to retire in 1976 and David took over the ranch, which allowed Howard and Mary some time to travel. They traveled to Australia and New Zealand with Farm Journal tours and made wonderful friends. The next year they traveled to the World Angus Forum in Avemore, Scotland. In 1978 Howard and Mary celebrated 25 years together. She lost her youngest son Mike in a vehicle accident in 1982, and it was the hardest thing she ever experienced. Howard passed away in 1987.

In 1989 Mary joined a Methodist group on a tour to Israel and Egypt. The bible took on a whole different meaning, after seeing where everything took place. She talked about it for years. In 1992 she moved to Lewistown and became involved with the Methodist church there. In 2010 she had an 85th birthday party at the ranch, with lots of friends and relatives attending. Many of those close friends are now gone. She lived in the Eagles Manor for several years and was very thankful for that time and the friends there. The last three years or so was spent in Strawberry Roan in Judith Gap and then the last few months in Lewistown. The family would like to thank them for her care.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Howard, and youngest son Mike. She is survived by her sons, Philip and David (Connie) and grandchildren, Shane, Nathan, and Theresa; step-daughter, Noma Baird Bolick Gardapee, and her five children, Cynthia, Carol, Chris, Clint, and Corrie; three grandchildren, Jeff, Jason, and Janelle; and one great-grandchild, Riley; step-daughter, Marjorie Baird Fries, and her daughter Linda.

Mary was an only child and didn’t have much family, but was always accepted by the many cousins of Howard as one of their own, and she always felt lucky for that.

Funeral services will be at the Judith Gap Methodist church at 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, assisted by Cloyd Funeral Home. Gravesite services and meal/desert following. Memorials can be made to the Judith Gap Methodist Church, Judith Gap Endowment Fund, or the Judith Gap Fire Department.