Jun. 2, 2008 Toston Broadwater County Montana, USA
Grace Margaret Berberet, a 70-year resident of the Toston area, died after an illness of several months on June 2, 2008 at age 92.
She was born in Glendive to pioneering parents, Patrick and Jane McGovern, who moved to Montana from Minnesota to claim a homestead farm in 1910. Grace was the third child in a family of six sisters and one brother. She attended grade school and high school in Glendive and went on to receive her lifetime teaching certificate at Western Montana College in 1936. After graduation, she returned to Glendive, where she was employed as a teacher until 1938.
The lure of a better paying teaching position in 1938, led her back to western Montana to teach in a one-room school, in the small railroad junction town of Lombard, five miles up the Missouri River from Toston. There she met and fell in love with a dashing young Toston rancher named Bill Berberet, who acted as chauffer to drive a priest up the treacherous road between Toston and Lombard for Sunday Mass. Grace and Bill were married at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Glendive on Dec. 28, 1940, then took up residency on the Berberet ranch where they raised a family of nine children.
In addition to her family, this woman of quiet resolve and strong commitments devoted her life to servant leadership in the Catholic Church, Farm Bureau, the Republican Party, 4-H, Toston Bridge Club, garden club and square dancing. Her remarkable energy and selfless goodwill in assisting others benefited countless youth, the vitality of her church and community, and the civic, religious, educational and political life of Broadwater County, the dioceses of Helena, and the state of Montana.
Her church activities included teaching religious education, participating in Bible study, serving on the Townsend Holy Cross church council and presiding over the Helena Deanery of the diocese. Grace served on the board that undertook the renovation of Montana's third oldest Catholic Church, Saint Joseph of Canton near Townsend, relocated to high ground on the east side of Canyon Ferry Lake following construction of the Canyon Ferry Dam. She worked for many years with several likewise dedicated local community members to preserve this historic church in its original character.
After her marriage and the end of her career as a full-time school teacher, Grace served as the leader of a Toston 4-H Club for a number of years before the needs of her growing family forced her to turn the 4-H leader reins over to Bill. Then, in the 1980s, Grace and Bill joined the board of the Montana 4-H Foundation, where Grace served for seven years before retiring in 1996. She was inducted along with Bill into the Montana 4-H Hall of Fame in 1995. During these years the foundation experienced highly successful fund raising drives; Grace and Bill played leadership roles in establishing the 4-H Director's Endowment Fund. All of the Berberet children were active 4-H members.
Bill and Grace were long time members of the Montana Friendship Force citizen exchange program and traveled extensively, including visits to France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Philippines, England, Ireland and the state of Alaska. They were also lay missionaries at an isolated Indian mission in Guatemala established by the Diocese of Helena, under the leadership of Rev. James Hazelton, originally from Townsend. They made five trips to Guatemala, spending several weeks each visit. Each time they brought hundreds of pounds of clothing with them for needy children and their families and returned home with large quantities of native weavings and crafts to sell to benefit the mission. In Guatemala, Grace assisted with cooking, sewing and teaching young mothers sanitary procedures with infant children. Until her death, she continued to donate funds for scholarships for students in Guatemala.
Grace Berberet was engaged in Republican Party politics throughout her married life. Although she never ran for elected office, she actively supported party candidates in local, state and national elections. For many years she was chair of the Broadwater County Republican party central committee and participated for a final time earlier this year in the Montana Republican party primary presidential caucus in Broadwater County.
Grace was preceded in death by her parents; brother, Gerald; sister, Lucille; son, Steve; and grandson, Luke DeMartin. Survivors include her husband, Bill, of Toston; sons Jerry (Cheryl) of Carroll College and San Diego, Dick (Pat) of Stillwater, Okla., and Bert of Belgrade; and daughters Jane (Bill) Peacock of Cove, Ore., Jeanni (Jerry) Balint of Jackson, Wyo., Barb (Rick) DeMartin of Toston, Meri (Bill) Bond of Newman Lake, Wash., and Trish (Ken) Vazanko of Spokane, Wash.
Her commitment to education was reflected in all nine children continuing their education beyond high school, seven earning college degrees, and three earning doctorates. Five of her children attended Carroll College in Helena. She is survived by nineteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, as well as her sisters, Elaine, Ruth, Helen and Mary all of the Glendive area.
Graveside rites will be held immediately after at Holy Cross Cemetery