Grace Miles Richter passed away Wednesday, December 28, 2024, at the age of 93
after a long struggle with complications from Parkinson disease.
Grace Fern Miles was born December 9, 1930, to homesteaders Russell and Alba
Miles north of Joplin, Montana. She always said she was the daughter of a
homesteader, born at home with the help of a mid-wife. She was the last of five
daughters born into the family. Sometime before the age of 5 her father was out of
the home and she never really remembered him. Alba never remarried so it was
Alba and five daughters that kept the homestead going and even expanded it
through time. The original homestead is still in the family and is operated by one
of the sons.
Grace attended grade school at the Alma Country School near the farm. She
claims she burned all the report cards so we were never able to confirm that! As a
little girl she often walked about two miles to the school and remembered she was
afraid because she had to cross one fence into a pasture with a bull in it…. until the
neighbor was kind enough to move the bull. High school was in Joplin Montana
where farm kids stayed in the dorm particularly in winter months. She graduated
from Joplin High School in 1948 and then attended school to become a beautician
and whether we liked it or not she cut a lot of her son’s hair over the years. She
worked in beauty shops in Cut Bank and Great Falls for a short time. On January
21, 1950, Grace married Frank Louis Richter, her high school sweetheart, and the
young couple moved to the Miles homestead to take over the farming operations.
They remained on the farm raising three sons and one daughter before retiring to a
home in Joplin in the early 1990s. Frank and Grace remained married for 64 years
until his passing in 2014.
Frank had lost his dad at age 7 and as noted above, mom never really knew her
dad. They both grew up without a “father figure” in the house in the depression
years and no loose coins lying about. Then the war(s). And we sometimes think
we’ve got it tough now. Like many folks of that vintage they learned to be frugal,
canned everything that could be canned then tried to can things she thought maybe
could be canned, bought in bulk, milked cows, plucked our own chickens (us kids
can still remember that smell), ran with equipment older than it should have been
but it worked, fixed everything rather than buying new, shopped in the thrift stores
or wherever they could get a deal, had a work ethic that puts us to shame… but
some of it has rubbed off on us kids.… and the grandkids too. Like many a
daughter in that era, she helped on the farm, driving truck and handling chores.
She claims she used to milk three cows a day to sell the cream so she could buy
something extravagant… like nice silk stockings. And later as a farm wife she
would be moving the fuel pickup, unloading a combine on the go, usually with a
little kid in the seat beside her, then running home to make lunch and dinner. Later
when the sons were managing the farm, she would make it out to the field every
year to ride with the boys or girls on the combine and help with dinner…up until
the last few harvests when Parkinsons complications started to take its toll.
Some things that you might remember about mom was that if she said we were
meeting at 2 and you weren’t there by 1:30 you were late! And in the era before
cell phones, she would call around to find out where you were until she found
somebody who knew. If you were one of the kids and weren’t there 30 minutes
early you heard about it, but if you were just a friend from the community you got
to skate by…. and you probably never knew that. In later years, she was always
afraid about being left behind, which we discovered was a result of being left at a
deserted train depot in Chester late one night with no one to pick her up…. that
was an interesting story she told us one evening and we understand how a young
teenage girl would have felt at the time! She was a seamstress and later in life
quite a quilter, often making quilts with the church or community ladies and
making quilts for the grandkids.
None of us can ever remember her missing one of the kids or grandkids ball
games, wherever it was, for over 50 years. She often fed the grandkids’ team
before or after a game. She loved good card games, in particular pinochle and the
winter card parties and teaching the games to kids. She had a great recipe for
crème de menthe homemade ice cream that we used to hand churn on holidays.
Mom and dad were good dancers and often went out with friends. The kids all
“kinda” learned how to dance with some of her instruction. Lawrence Welk was a
staple on the TV menu and not to be missed. She always gave time for making
meals for community events and always was willing to help clean up or prepare the
church or community hall. And if you showed up at the house you WERE going to
eat. It’s something you HAD TO DO, even if you tried to explain you were trying
to lose a few pounds or had just eaten, the fridge was open, the oven was on and
the plates were being set as you were trying to get the words out.
Mom never left the house before she had herself very nicely “adorned”. It might
be 20 degrees, the wind howling 30 mph and she was headed to a football game
but by golly her hair was fixed and she was well dressed when she walked out the
door! Even in her older age when she could afford shopping at nice stores, she
continued to shop at a bargain store or thrift shop when she could and would often
come home with very nice clothes, maybe once worn, that looked terrific on her!
She would kinda brag about the deal she got on an outfit and you usually wouldn’t
have known if she didn’t tell you.
Mom and dad were not world travelers. They made an occasional trip to see
relatives in California or Missouri or chased the oldest son’s grandkids to Texas
and Louisiana once or twice. In retirement, they were part of a trailer camping
club until dad became incapacitated. But mom lived a vigorous good life near the
soil which she was born on, soil they nurtured to life, soil that feeds her family
today, and within miles of which she passed away. The grass is sometimes pretty
darn green right where you are. And the friends and family were near and dear.
She lugged all us kids to Sunday School every week even in the face of a good old
Montana blizzard and we remember having to sleep over one night at a farm house
near the church. She taught Sunday School for many years at Immanuel Lutheran
Church north of Joplin. Us kids owe it to her for starting us on our faith journey as
best as she could… she at least pointed us in the right direction and if we are
somewhat “wobbling” along the right path today it is because of her.
She is survived by four children: son Del and his wife Dena of Bozeman (with
their children Meredith, Matt, and Kelly); daughter Delia Lybeck and husband Kip
of Joplin (with their children Drue Ann, Bryony, Josh, and Laine); son Rick of
Joplin (with his children Shay and Kylie); son Bruce and his wife Heidi of Joplin
(with their sons Brandon, Cory, and Spencer). She leaves behind the twelve
grandchildren and was blessed to see sixteen great grandchildren born into the
family. Grace was preceded in death by her parents, Russell and Alba Miles, her
husband Frank, and all her sisters: Refa Joy, Lillian Dyrud, Pauline Sciuchetti, and
Memorial donations can be given to the Joplin Community Hall, the Joplin
Community Park, The Golden Triangle Center in Joplin, or the organization of
your choice. She always liked supporting the local community.
Mom and Dad….. you set some pretty high standards for us kids to live up to.
Thank you and God Bless.
Services will be held Wednesday, January 3, 2024 at 11:00am at Bethel Lutheran Church in Joplin.