Bea Burnham (Beulah Burnham)
January 28, 1925-August 12, 2022
Bea Burnham, 97, passed away of natural causes at Riverside Health Care Facility on August 12, 2022.
She was born in a cabin at Turtle Lake, near Polson, the third child of Homer and Ruth Clowes. She weighed only three pounds, and her parents placed her in the bread warmer of the cabin's wood stove. In 1927 the family relocated to Tampico Road, on the Milk River near Glasgow. She and her six siblings started school in a one-room schoolhouse at Cherry Creek and then attended Glasgow schools.
She graduated from Glasgow High School in 1943 and worked as a bank teller. In May 1945, she had a whirlwind romance with a meteorologist who worked upstairs in the Weather Bureau. “Bea and Bernie” (Beulah and Asahel) were married August 2, 1945 at the First Baptist Church of Glasgow.
Bernie and Bea moved several times before settling in Missoula. They lived in Boise, Spokane, and Kalispell. Bea had a stillborn daughter, Jackie, and this broke their hearts. Along the way, three daughters were born, first Roxane, then Jane and finally Mary Anne. In 1967 the family adopted a seven-year old boy, Gary.
In 1959 the family moved to a house on Daly Avenue in Missoula, where Bea remained for nearly 60 years. Bea and Bernie were fixtures in the Missoula Music Friends group, which supported the early grade school music programs. They also were active in the local civil rights movement and supported other social causes, mostly through their longtime membership at University Congregational Church. They were early patrons of the Civic Symphony and took their girls to every concert. They made sure all the kids got music lessons—and practiced! The family enjoyed the outdoors and went camping, skiing, and hiking.
After all the kids were in school, Bea returned to work as a bank teller, this time at Southside Bank near Rose Park. She worked, with the exception of one year, in order to provide money for the kids' college funds. She did not work during the 1966-67 school year because the family hosted a foreign exchange student, Clara Ararat, an Armenian-Iranian student from Teheran.
Bernie retired in 1978. Just as they were getting the hang of retired life, Bernie died suddenly. Bea, at age 54, became a widow. She barely remembered anything that happened the year after Bernie died, because of the shock. Her family and friends remember a remarkable, brave woman who ended up inspiring others. “Just keep busy, whether you feel like it or not.”
After about 8 years she met a widower, George Stokes, at square dancing. They married at University Congregational Church in 1985. George passed away in February 1988. Again, Bea hunkered down and dealt with her grief by staying busy.
She started a widow's support group at her University Congregational Church, and met a retired lawyer, another widower, Robert Parker. They were married in 1991. Bob passed away unexpectedly in April 1996.
In 2008 she married a longtime family friend from church, Dick Baldwin. The newlyweds continued to give dinner parties and travel the US. After over 50 years on Daly Avenue, Bea moved with Dick to Grizzly Peak Senior Residence. Dick died at Grizzly Peak in 2017. Bea continued to live at Grizzly Peak and, even though her memory was failing terribly, she was always well liked. In 2020 she moved
in with her daughter Roxane. In 2021 she went to Pearl Garden memory care unit at Village Senior Residence, where she remained until three weeks before she died. She had a glimpse of lucidity, lost her pain, and slipped away quietly.
In addition to her husbands, Bea was preceded in death by her daughter Jackie, son Gary, and five of her six siblings (Arthur Clowes, Mary Ann Moen, Henry “Hank”Clowes, David Clowes, Donald Clowes). She is survived by her daughters, Roxane (Bill) Weikel of Missoula, Jane (Arthur) Shigley of Hamilton, and Mary Anne “MA” Bellingham of Emigrant, sister Helen (John) Dekker of Mansfield, Texas, and daughter-for-a-year Clara Ararat, of Stockholm, Sweden. She is lovingly remembered by three grandchildren, Robyn (Kye) Nuttall, Brad (Emily) Weikel, Brynn Bellingham (Brendan Casey), and six great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Montana Food Bank Network, 5625 Expressway, Missoula MT 59808, or University Congregational Church, 405 University Avenue, Missoula MT 59801.
Thanks to those who cared for her in the last year of her life: the staff at Pearl Garden, Saint Patrick Hospital, Riverside Health Care, and Big Sky Palliative and Hospice.
A private burial service has taken place. There will be a memorial service at University Congregational Church at 4:00 p.m, Friday, September 16, 2022. Please wear masks, if you are able.