Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Elsie R. Gierke-Locke, 91

| June 27, 2024 12:00 AM

Elsie Rebekah Holmes Gierke-Locke, 91, died peacefully at home in Polson of natural causes.

Elsie was the youngest of five siblings (Charles, Evelyn, Ethel, John and Elsie) of Louis and Susan (Watkins) Holmes from Belt.  She was raised on a ranch in Brigman Coulee where you could find her on her horses, Sandy or Watcheye.

Elsie graduated from Belt Valley High School in 1949 and later graduated from University of Montana Eastern College of Education with a diploma in 1951. Elsie attended summer school for multiple years at Northern Montana College in Havre, and continued teaching during the school year until she was able to complete her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She graduated in June 1967.

Elsie continued her education, attending the University of Utah where she received credits toward her master’s degree for Curriculum Development. She was selected to work with a group of 20 teachers from across the United States to develop standardized curriculums for elementary, middle and high school students. 

Education was very important to Elsie; it was a way to get ahead.

Elsie met Earl, her husband of 51 years, at a community dance in Belt. Earl was smitten with Elsie’s auburn hair, her smile and compassion. They were married Christmas Eve 1951 in Belt.

Elsie and Earl had three children, David, Patty and Fred. Earl farmed and ranched while Elsie taught school.

The family took educational vacations yearly to see family and to learn about our national history. A few travel destinations were to Kentucky, Indiana and Washington, or to see the national wonders including Glacier, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, Lewis & Clark Caverns, the Badlands, Devils Tower, and Montana sights like Canyon Ferry, Belt and the Highwood Mountains, etc. 

Elsie and Earl enjoyed travel, gardening, horseback riding, country living and dancing. They also were proud to attend their kids’ and grandchildren’s sporting events, concerts, and activities. Elsie was active in the Rebekah lodge, and she was a Theta Rho Advisor in Fort Benton.

Elsie’s first teaching position was in Waltham, in a one-room schoolhouse.  She also taught in Geraldine, Choteau, and Fort Benton, and retired after teaching 35 years in 1988.

Elsie was a member of NEA, MEA and Delta Kappa Gamma, an international organization for professional development of women in education. She loved teaching children and being a teacher. Some of her additional teaching experiences were at Great Falls Public schools, Riverview Hutterite Colony, Polson Public schools and the Boys and Girls Clubs in Polson and Ronan.

Elsie and Earl operated the Tiber Marina near Chester (1986-1990), and owned and operated Nick’s Funnel Cakes (1986-1994) concession trailer in Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Elsie and Earl provided property management for Davis Amusement in Oregon City (1995-1999); and in the spring Elsie was active in the Golden Dragons Dragonboat team. 

They moved to Woodland, Wash., to manage Kallaco Feed & Supply (1999-02) for their son (Fred) and daughter-in-law. They were campground hosts at various locations in Washington, Oregon, and Montana. Elsie’s favorite was at Lake Mary Ronan near Proctor. Elsie retired from being a campground host and her volunteer work in 2010. 

Sadly, Earl passed in 2004; sons Fred passed in 2002 and David passed in 2011.

Elsie met Richard (Dick) Locke in 2009 and they married Dec. 1, 2011. They moved in with daughter Patty in Polson shortly after. Elsie and Dick enjoyed square dancing, day trips and watching wildlife. Dick passed in 2022.

Patty retired in 2022 to care for her mother, and they were able to take short trips to Washington/Oregon and a trip back to Fort Benton and the Belt area where Elsie grew up.   They played cards, would drive along Flathead Lake, and did word-finding puzzles. 

Elsie was grateful every day for Patty’s devotion to her care; for the family and friends that came to visit, and the daily time she shared with Patty. Elsie was loved by all, she had a welcoming smile, she was kind, thoughtful, generous, loving and happy.

She is survived by her daughter, Patty Gierke (Steve Normandeau) of Polson, daughter-in law Teresa Gierke (David) Missoula, daughter-in law Jeanne Gierke (Fred) Woodland, Wash., and stepdaughter Gwen Block, Great Falls; four grandchildren, Chris (Karmella) Gierke, Michelle Gierke, and Kevin Gierke, all of Missoula, and Kalla Gierke Huntley, Vancouver, Wash.; and three great grandchildren, Maria, Gavin, and Kian; as well as nieces, nephews and cousins.

Remembrances can be sent to: River and Plains Society, PO Box 262, Fort Benton, MT 59442 for restoration of the old Fort. The family frequently would picnic, play tag, and tell stories on the grounds while enjoying the unique history of Fort Benton’s Fort. 

There is no memorial service planned; but if interested in attending the graveside service in Fort Benton please contact Patty.