In the early morning of October 27, Helen Irene Hiller passed away in her sleep surrounded by her family. She was 81 years old.
Irene was born on April 22, 1941 in Missoula Montana to Herman and Corra Walters. Her first years were spent at the family ranch, home of the Clover Leaf Dairy in the beautiful Rattlesnake Valley, which remained one of her favorite places her entire life.
The Walters family later moved to Missoula’s Westside, where she attended Lowell Elementary. While at Lowell, one of her proudest moments was breaking a window on the third floor when she hit a home run while playing baseball. During her time at Lowell she was part of Campfire Girls and had the opportunity to attend Camp Paxson where she learned the Biggity Oggity song, a ditty she loved to share with her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids always with a huge smile. Her smile and laughter only increased as she listened to them try and repeat it.
On a summer day at the Big T pool, now home of Currents, Irene met Larry Hiller, the boy who would go on to become her future husband. Their courtship lasted through her time at Missoula County High School where she graduated in 1959. She then attended, and graduated Missoula Business College for Women and went on to utilize her skills as a secretary and bookkeeper with Montgomery Ward in Missoula.
In 1965 Irene and Larry got married and began their family.
In 1972, Irene began what would become a lifetime of advocacy for Missoula’s kids. Starting as room mother and also joining the Willard PTA, Irene took on many roles. One of those roles was affectionately being known by many of the students as the “hot dog lady.” She also started the successful effort to close Longstaff Street that ran through the Willard playground. This proved to be the catalyst for her to move on to the School District #1 board of trustees, where she served 15 years from 1977-1992, many of these years spent as chairman of the board. During this time, Irene was a staunch advocate for Missoula’s kids. Her countless volunteer hours resulted in numerous accomplishments. One of her proudest being the implementation of the Community Care Program which brought awareness of youth addiction to Missoula and outlying communities. She was also instrumental in many upgrades and new construction projects within the district. While some of Irene’s causes weren’t always popular, that didn’t stop her from fighting for was she felt was best for kids.
After serving her 15 years, Irene relinquished her post on the school board and later began working for Osco Drug which later became CVS Pharmacy. During her 17 years here, she enjoyed making new friends and reconnecting with many old acquaintances who came through. She often spent just as much, if not more time visiting than she did working as she shared stories about Missoula or her grandkids. Once she left, she enjoyed her time putzing with her flowers and spending time on her front porch keeping an eye on the neighborhood and watching the world go by. Nothing made her smile more than seeing her her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids unexpectedly show up.
Irene was preceded in death by her parents Herman and Corra. She is survived by her husband of 57 years, Larry Hiller; daughter Diana Sontag, son-in-law Steve, granddaughter Amanda Knudsen, grandson-in-law Jordan, great-grandkids Charlie, Maddie, Hannah & Liam, & granddaughter Kelleigh Sontag; daughter Stacey Rossmiller, son-in-law Mike, grandson Matthew & granddaughter Kaytlin; daughter
Leslie Hiller; her brother Herman “Al” Walters; many cousins, nieces & nephews; as well as three dogs and three cats.
Services will be held November 4, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. at Garden City Funeral Home, with a reception immediately following, and burial at Missoula City Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in Irene’s name to Missoula Animeals.