Irene McNamee helped build warships during WWII
Irene Helen McNamee, 95, passed away Oct. 31, 2013, in Laurel, Mont.
Irene was a uniquely independent woman whose life spanned nearly a century. She was born on July 31, 1918, on a homestead in Grant County, N.D., to German immigrants Joseph and Susanna Gross. She learned to speak English at the country school she attended for four years. She was the second of 13 children. At an early age, she began domestic and farm duties, as many children did in those times. The late 1920s and ‘30s were very difficult times for the large family, but it was then that she learned the lessons of hard work, courage, thrift and perseverance that shaped the person she became.
She left the farm in her early 20s and went to Shields, N.D., to work. There she met William McNamee, who had moved there with his father from Brooklyn, N.Y. They were married on Feb. 2, 1940, at Wibaux, Mont. Soon after, they moved to Denver, Colo., where she worked as a waitress until her first child, Pat, was born in 1941. They then moved to Seattle, Wash., where Helen worked in orchards and gardens at first, and later became a welder, fabricating warships at the Kirkland Lake, Wash., shipyards. When WWII ended, they returned to Shields.
Helen went into business for herself, operating a café in Shields, then they moved on to running cattle on shares and finally purchasing land that became “home.” Her second child, Mike, was born there in 1950.
In 1965, they moved to Mobridge, where they built a new home and she operated an egg business and worked as a waitress at the Sereno Café. She was widowed in 1976 and moved to Park City, Mont., soon after. She moved from her home to Tender Nest Assisted Living facility in Laurel, Mont., in October of 2013.
Helen loved the outdoors and worked outside doing whatever needed to be done. She always had large gardens, canned, quilted, collected arrowheads and was an avid reader.
She was a lifelong mother to the members of her family, beginning with her brothers and sisters, then to her own children, and finally to her grandchildren. She was always giving and enabling with her hard work, sacrifice and support.
Helen is survived by two brothers, Adolph Gross of Bismarck, N.D., and George Gross of Mandan, N.D.; two sisters, Barbara Turgeon and Susan Jueth of Bismarck; two children, Patricia McNamee Gant of Cascade, Colo., and Michael McNamee of Park City, Mont.; five grandchildren, Shaun Gant of Missoula, Mont., William Gant of Chicago, Ill., Daniel Gant of Ocoee, Fla., Patrick McNamee of Eagle Mountain, Utah, and Casey McNamee of Park City; and six great-grandchildren, Maxmillion Smith, Wyatt and Ruby Gant, Daniel Gant Jr., and Ethan and Cloe McNamee.