Edna Lucille Reese, 103, passed away February 4th, 2024, at the Liberty County Nursing Home in Chester, MT.
A memorial service will be held at the Gildford Community Church at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, February 17th, 2024, in Gildford, MT. A livestream of the service can be found on the "Community Church of Gildford" Facebook page.
Edna was born April 27, 1920, to Frank and Maria Lemieux, who were homesteaders and part of a French-speaking farm community in Eastern Montana. She was born 11th in a family of 15 children who were one of the first in their community to attend high school. After her junior year of high school in nearby Circle, she and two of her sisters enrolled in beauty school in Chinook, MT. She began her career as a cosmetologist during the Great Depression after graduating with her cosmetology license at age 18.
While working in Chinook, Edna and a sister, Agnes, met and married two Reese brothers who had moved to Montana from Missouri to find work. After Wade and Edna were married, they began farming in the Havre, Kremlin, and Gildford communities, raising four children along the way alongside her sister's family with the "double cousins" living in Havre.
Throughout the years, Edna continued her practice of fixing hair for women along the Hi-Line, first in Chinook and Havre before establishing her own beauty salons, first in Kremlin and later on in Gildford. Several young area cosmetologists practiced their trade in Edna's salon as they were just starting out. In 1970, Edna and Wade moved from the farm into Kremlin, and, in 1973, they moved to Gildford, where Edna maintained her salon until moving to Sweet Grass Lodge in Chester in 2011.
Edna continued to fix hair until 2015, when at age 95 she tripped while carrying a load of towels after giving a permanent wave. The fall caused her to break her hip, bringing an end to her licensed career that spanned 77 years. Even after this, Edna lived an involved life at Wheat Country Estates in Chester, doing crafts, playing cards with residents, quilting with the Lutheran ladies, attended a local Bible study, entertained residents by playing songs on her keyboard, and made knitted hats for orphanages, school children, missionaries and homeless shelters. Estimates are that she made over 7,000 hats, earning blue ribbons at the Toole County fair for her handiwork.
Edna was one who always challenged herself to learn new things. In her early years she became an accomplished seamstress, making many of the clothes worn by her young family. When her oldest daughter, Beth, was married, Edna made the dresses for the bride and bridesmaids.
She loved to garden and raise flowers, hauling water from Kremlin to keep them alive when living on a farm where the well water was unsuitable for plant life. Edna was also nearly impossible to stump with spelling words. She was an ace speller who was the McCone County spelling bee champion in grade school.
She learned oil painting while in her 40s, and taught herself to play the organ while in her 50s. In her 90s, she learned how to use an iPad to stay connected to family and friends.
Throughout her life, she was very involved in various church activities, serving on various boards, teaching Sunday school and Bible studies, and was a Gideon Society auxiliary member. While Wade was alive, they often sang duets at church, with Wade providing the accompaniment on the guitar. Her faith in God was an essential part of her life, which was understood by anyone who came in contact with her. She often said that "We were put on this earth to be a blessing to others" and she lived this motto with her life, one example being her championing an effort to establish a Christian radio station (KXEI) in the Havre area.
She loved music, and encouraged her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to learn an instrument or to develop vocal skills, and in many cases providing the resources for them to do so. Many of the musicians in Edna's extended family can attribute their skills to Edna's encouragements.
Edna was preceded in death by her parents; 14 siblings; her husband, Wade, and daughter Beth Warwick.
She is survived by her children Glen (Catherine) Reese, Margie (Jerry) Williams, and Ken (Loreen) Reese. She had nine grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren, and four great-great grandchildren as well as numerous dear nieces and nephews.
She leaves behind a legacy that spanned over 100 years and enriched the lives of hundreds of people.
Memorials may be given to KXEI Radio, PO Box 2426, Havre, MT 59501 or the donor's choice.