November 1, 2023
Gretchen (Nelson) Westby was born March 15, 1941, in Glasgow, Mont., to Elsa and Clinton Nelson, the oldest of four children. She was the last person to complete eighth grade at the North Bench Country School. After she graduated from high school in Opheim and Montana State University, she became an RN and worked as a surgical nurse at the Billings Deaconess Hospital. She married Arlo "Bill" Westby on June 10, 1964, and they purchased the Westby family farm. Their first child, Karen, was born in 1966, and their son, Todd, followed in 1969. In 2004 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was a 19-year cancer survivor. Gretchen lived on the farm until the fall of 2021, when she moved to Prairie Ridge enjoying the relationships she had with the residents and staff, playing cards, and going to Bible study. She often shared, "This is the place to be." Gretchen passed away peacefully on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, of natural causes.
Gretchen was very involved in the Opheim community and had a servant's heart. She was dedicated to her church and volunteered to teach Sunday School, VBS, helped with church functions, served on the church board, participated in Ladies' Aid, and did a lot of behind-the-scenes work. She was also an essential part of the formation of the North Valley County EMT and carried the pager for many years. She was in the Legion Auxiliary and helped with their various service activities.
Gretchen was a rock, a kind soul, and always someone you could talk to. She was a top-tier farmwife and a master at preparing large quantities of food for big crews and family gatherings, sometimes in a short amount of time. She summer fallowed, hauled grain, and helped feed cows. As a true caregiver, the list of people she helped in our community was long, including her husband, Bill, during his last few years. Many benefitted from her compassion, kindness, and gracious ways. She had a special way of making people feel important and had a naturally inclusive nature. She was an unconditional supporter, a voice of reason, and always found a way to be there for people. Her loving nature was never competitive but she received the highest ranking from her grandchildren.
A life well lived!
Gretchen is preceded in death by her husband Bill; her parents, Clinton and Elsa Nelson; her brothers David and Carl and nephews Ryan, Clint; and numerous loved ones.
Gretchen is survived by her daughter, Karen (Roger) Mayhall; her son, Todd (Lori) Westby; her five grandchildren, Quinn (Madison) and Paige Mayhall, and Brooke, Blaire, and Ty Westby. She is also survived by Susanne (David Stubbs) Isakson and daughter, Faith. Other survivors include her sister Doris Moore; sisters-in-law Karleen (Roger) Kleeman, Lynette (Tom) Hagan; brother-in-law Kerm Westby; and other family and friends.
Family will receive friends Friday, Nov. 3, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Bell Mortuary in Glasgow. Funeral services will be on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 11 a.m. at the Opheim Community Church in Opheim, with Pastor Owen Childers officiating. Interment will follow at Lawndale Cemetery.
Following the service, a luncheon will be served at the church.
Condolences for the family may be left at bellmortuarymontana.com.