Amy Wilma Orser Swoboda
July 1, 1923 - Feb. 8, 2018
Amy Wilma Orser Swoboda was born on July 1, 1923 at her grandparents' Peaceful Heart Ranch at the base of the Pryor Mountains, five miles from Pryor. She was the daughter of Artie Orser, world-champion bronc rider, and Esther Burger Orser. She died of cardiac arrest on Feb. 8, 2018, within just a few miles of where she was born. She was interred at the Joliet Cemetery surrounded by her family members.
Amy was a lifetime member of Sons and Daughters of the Montana Pioneers. She was a direct descendent of Otis Crocker Whitney, one of the original homesteaders in the Madison Valley. The Whitney homestead still stands near Whitney Point near Ennis, Montana. She lived her life with a fierce love of Montana and pride in her pioneer background.
Amy's early years were spent in and around the Pryor Mountains, and she forever loved the land beneath the Pryor Mountains. She loved the prairie grasses, flowers, birds and meadows, and she forever felt at home hearing the song of the red-winged blackbird or meadowlark. She was a real cowgirl, and she loved to ride horses. Her life on the ranch gave her an education far beyond what could be provided in the usual schoolroom.
She attended her first two years of school at the Roosevelt School in Billings, following her mother's divorce and remarriage. Amy was only seven when her mother died, however, and after a tumultuous but brief time of custody changes, she returned to the ranch where she was born, and she was raised thereafter by her grandparents, Elmer and Maria "Rye" Whitney Burger. During the school years, she lived with her aunt Mabelle and uncle Dale Petit while attending the Upper Pryor School. She often shared her memories of the years she spent in this small one-room schoolhouse, and the various enthusiastic and motivated young teachers who educated their small group of students in many grades. During harsh winters, she rode her horse two miles to and from school. In the fall of her eighth grade, she moved to Billings with her aunt and uncle, and she graduated from the first graduating class at Billings Senior High in 1941. Following graduation, as she had done every summer of her youth, she returned to her family ranch to assist her grandmother in running the ranch. Since her grandfather had died, it was very challenging for two women to run the ranch during the war, when it was impossible to hire help, and, in 1942, they sold the ranch and moved back to Billings.
In February of 1944, she traveled across the United States by train and bus and she married her high school sweetheart, Rudy Joe Swoboda, in New Bern, North Carolina, where Rudy was stationed at the Cherry Point Naval Air Station. After Rudy was deployed to the South Pacific as a Marine pilot, Amy returned to Billings and lived with her grandmother while working at the Midland National Bank. Upon Rudy's return to the United States, Amy moved to California to be with him until the end of the war. After the war, they moved to Bozeman, Montana, where Rudy attended Montana State College. Amy attended college classes and worked part time. After Rudy's graduation, they returned to Billings where Rudy first worked for and then owned and operated Montana Steel and Supply. After his sale of that
business, Rudy got an opportunity to work for Morrison Knutsonin Boise, Idaho. They both moved to Barranquilla, Columbia for 18 months, where Rudy worked on the Cerrejon Mine Project while with Morrison Knutson. They enjoyed traveling throughout South America during this adventure, and Amy made many friends among those she met on this trip.
Amy perfected the art of home-making. Until her death, she collected recipes of interest. She was always eager to have a good meal out, and loved to try the new restaurants of Billings. She was an enthusiastic traveler, and she enjoyed several trips with the Friendship Force. She enjoyed her trip to Central Europe when Rudy consulted on projects there. She enjoyed trips to visit her children and grandchildren who lived in distant locations.
Amy and Rudy's first child, Patti Lynn, was born in Bozeman in 1948. Their son, Jaye Thomas, was born in 1953 in Billings. Amy was proud of her children's professional accomplishments. Patti graduated from law school in 1979, and thereafter worked as a trial lawyer and then judge, until her retirement. Jaye graduated from medical school, and he is currently a practicing doctor with the Veterans Administration in Bozeman, Montana. She left her entire family with a deep sense of the importance of and appreciation for family.
In January of 2005, she and Rudy sold their home and moved into Westpark Village. Rudy died about a year later. Amy continued her residence at Westpark until her death. Amy's courage and resilience in the face of adversity that she learned as a child continued throughout the rest of her life. She fiercely maintained her independence as long as she possibly could, and she fought back from a stroke that would have completely disabled a lesser person. She refused to give up walking, albeit slower as time went on, until the date of her death.
Amy and her children are forever grateful for those who visited her during her years of widowhood. The First Baptist Church community continued supportive visits. Christi Timmons made Amy feel beautiful, even in her last journey. Amy's cousin David Orser and his wife Ossie Abrams were the solid rocks of support for her, and Amy's family will never forget their service. Profound thanks also go to the caring support staff at Westpark Village who enriched Amy's final years. Amy's loving family plans a celebration of Amy's life on her 95th birthday, July 1, 2018, at noon, at chief Plenty Coups State Park in Pryor, Montana. We plan to celebrate the many good things she left us all.
Amy is survived by her half-sister, Murial Anderson of West Jordan Utah; her daughter Patti and her husband Ray Hunter, who live in Santa Barbara, California; her granddaughter Whitney and her husband Miles Clarke of Lyle, Washington; and her great grandson, Theodore Rudy James Clarke. She is also survived by her son Jaye and his wife Metta Ravenheart of Ennis, Montana; her grandson A.J. Swoboda and his wife Quinn of Portland, Oregon; and her great grandson Elliott; her step grandchildren Matt, wife Georgia and daughter Isabel, Sara and Gen of New Mexico.