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Beva Louise (Lester) Bingham
December 23, 1918 – March 13, 2019
100-year resident of Montana
Beva Louise Bingham, 100, of Shelby, Montana passed away peacefully on March 13, 2019 with her with her loved ones holding her hands. Beva was born to Henrietta Elma (French) and William Beverly Lester on December 23, 1918 in Kila, Montana. She grew up on a small ranch near Ashley Lake in Kila, attended Kila grade school and graduated from Flathead High School in Kalispell. Summers were often spent camping in Glacier National Park, where the family fished and picked huckleberries for the coming winter. Her father owned a small country store. After this burned, he later operated the Kila Mercantile & Post Office. In her senior year of high school, Beva worked at the Woolworth Five & Dime Store in Kalispell, MT. She had the clever marketing idea of warming chocolate on a hot plate behind the candy counter. The tantalizing aroma led to a jump in candy sales, as predicted by Beva.
On September 17, 1937, she married Nelson Garrett Bingham and settled in the Sweet Grass Hills near Whitlash, Montana. Beva and Nelson ranched for fifty-nine years on land that was homesteaded by Nelson’s grandparents, Nelson and Nora (Fulton) Bingham, and parents, Jim and Achsa (Parsell) Bingham. In addition to the usual ranching pursuits of raising crops and animals, Beva and Nelson branched out a bit. Nelson’s study of geology as a young man spurred Nelson and Beva to also explore and participate in early oil and gas development in the Sweet Grass Hills.
A woman of strong faith, Beva served for 58 years in the Whitlash Presbyterian Church, twenty-seven of those as Clerk of Sessions. A member of the Laurel Chapter #99, Order of the Eastern Star, (Galata), Beva served as Worthy Matron five terms, and she was also a long-standing member of the Whitlash Extension Homemaker Club. It was Beva’s opinion that with all the lectures and workshops provided by the Extension Service over the years, covering topics as varied as home finances, nutrition, food preparation and preservation, and home decorating, that she had as good an education as if she’d gone to college. Many who knew Beva would undoubtedly agree with that opinion. Beva was an active member of the community, participating in many projects at Liberty Hall, and the local school and picnic grounds.
Visitors at their ranch were welcome, and some of Beva’s fondest memories included family visits with the grandchildren and great grandchildren. Cooking, canning, gardening, accounting and other ranch tasks kept Beva busy during her ranching years, though she still managed to crochet afghans and sew quilts for each family member. One ingenious way she squeezed a little more out of her days was her habit of crocheting afghans during the hour-long drives to town. Beva moved off the ranch in 1996 after Nelson passed away, into a home in Shelby that she and Nelson had previously purchased and furnished.
In her retirement years in Shelby, Beva enjoyed volunteering for the Visitors Center and the Lutheran Church Latch Key Program. As the “Latch Key” kids gradated the program, they would still collect one of her famously warm and engulfing hugs whenever they encountered Beva around Shelby. Beva attended the Shelby Community Methodist Church and participated in UMW for more than 20 years. In the Fall of 2016, Beva moved into the Marias Heritage Center in Shelby.
Beva is survived by daughters Carol (Marvin) Belcher, Marjorie Tenney, and Judith (Gary) Wentling, grandchildren Carrie (Eric) Goodwin, Rick (Lois) Belcher, Candice (Pat) Payne, Rob and Jim (Aree) Tenney; Deborah, Patrick (Annmarie), Mike (Mary), and Mark (Lori) Hurley, Beverly (Joe) St. Sauver, C.B. and Dana (Brandy) Wentling; 25 great grandchildren and 7 great great-grandchildren. Beva was preceded in death by her husband Nelson Bingham, grandsons Jerry and Danny Belcher, sisters; Virginia Monaghan, Wilna Shepherd, and Pauline Marr, and brothers; Robert and Jack Lester.
Beva’s family thanks Connie Flesch for her loving companionship the past eight years, the compassionate and supportive staff at Marias Heritage Center for their exemplary service, and Dr. Melanie Hardy and Lisa Leck for their excellent care.
The funeral service will be held at 11 AM, Thursday, April 4 at Shelby Community United Methodist Church 413 Second St. S, Shelby, Montana. The burial service will be at Noon, Friday, April 5, at Conrad Memorial Cemetery, 641 Conrad Dr., Kalispell, Montana, where Beva will be laid to rest next to her beloved Nelson. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Asper Funeral Homes. Beva herself hoped that in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the Montana Children’s Home, the Carousel Rest Area of Shelby, or a charity of the donor’s own choosing.
PO Box 283, Shelby MT 59474