Wilhelmina Laura “Billie” Keel, 97, passed away of natural causes June 18, 2015 at Grandview Assisted Living in Great Falls, Montana.
Billie was born January 2, 1918 to Marie (Burgmaier) Willems and Jan Willems at a rural home by Rothiemay, Montana. Billie is survived by her two sons, Terry (Pam) Keel of Great Falls and George Keel of Augusta; Grandchildren Miechelle (Paul) Fulton of Prosser, Washington, Kelly (David) Thompson of Great Falls, and Rhad (Linda) Keel of Power; Great grandchildren Amiya Fulton, Malea Fulton, Rafe Thompson, Cameron and Madison Keel. She is preceded in death by her parents, husband Leo and companion Hank Jorgensen.
Billie graduated from Great Falls High School in 1937, and then attended Hood’s Beauty College and was employed in Choteau as a beautician until her marriage to Leo Keel. Billie and Leo were married October 29, 1940 and moved to a farm near Simms, Montana. They grew peas and sugar beets and raised pigs, cows and chickens. In April of 1946 they moved to California, where Leo was employed at his cousin’s dairy in Downey. Five years later, they returned to Montana to raise their two sons while helping farm at the Homberg Homestead in Power, Montana. Billie and Leo carried on the farming operation until they retired in 1981. Upon their retirement, they moved to Franklin Avenue in Great Falls and there they maintained a huge vegetable garden and grew every flower Billie could get her hands on. After Leo’s death in 1992, Billie formed a companionship with Hank Jorgensen until his death in 2008.
Of all the many thing that Billie enjoyed, her family was always on the top of the list and she greatly appreciated being surrounded by great neighbors on Franklin Avenue. She was always happy to entertain her friends and family and could do so with grace, at the drop of a hat. She enjoyed traveling to various destinations, was a member of the Elk’s Club, Eagle’s Club, and was active in a square dance club. Billie was an accomplished bowler in the woman’s league at the Elk’s Club while living in Great Falls. She also bowled in both Fairfield and Choteau while living in Power. Billie was very fond of cats and would keep any cat picture or cat knickknack that anyone gave her. She also enjoyed playing cards and was hard to beat. She had a sharp mind and played cards right up to just days before her death.
Billie will be remembered by all who knew her. Her quick wit and kind manner will live in our memories forever and her sense of humor never faded. We love you, Billie, you will surely be missed …rest peacefully.