Several years ago Barbara shared with her daughter Linda that because obituaries were expensive, upon her passing she should be listed in the Classifieds section of the paper under “Lost and Found,” since it is a free ad! She suggested it read, “Lost, our Mother.”
Barbara Berg Lester was born in Helena on December 18, 1933 to Albert “Obbie” and Lulu Halverson Berg at St. Peter’s Hospital. Her birthday was shared with her granddaughter, Suzanna. Barbara had the good fortune to be delivered by her uncle, Dr David T. Berg. She was joined by her sister about 3 years later. Barbara attended Hawthorne School and Helena Senior High. In high school, she attained the highest ranking in Girl Scouts and was a scout leader her senior year. She was also active in Rainbow Girls, a Masonic Youth Service Organization, and became a Worthy Advisor also her senior year. She was also honored to receive the Grand Cross of Color for outstanding service.
Barbara attended the University of Montana where she studied Home Economics and obtained her teaching certificate graduating in 1955. While there she pledged the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and met many lifelong friends; therefore she was delighted when her daughter, Linda, and granddaughter, Melissa, joined the same sorority.
After college, Barbara moved to Seattle and went to work at Seattle First National Bank. Her first daughter, Linda, was born in Seattle several years later. After she returned to Helena she had her second child, Lisa. During this time she was working for the Bureau of Public Roads where she was a dedicated employee. Her friends and co-workers enjoyed telling the story of a terrible snowstorm when most cars were stuck and no one came to work, except Barbara who caught a ride with the milkman.
Barbara went on to have a long career in Republican politics, initially as the office manager of the State Republican Headquarters. With her knowledge of shorthand and fine organizational skills, she worked in the Montana State Legislature in the House and the Senate for many sessions. She completed her political career in Governor Stan Stephens’s administration from 1989-1992. It was a time of greater civility in the legislature, and she made many friends.
As a child, her parents had taken her and her sister to Glenwood Park on Whitefish Lake each summer. It was a cherished tradition that she continued renting Cabin #24 for four weeks each year. She always had the deepest, darkest tan at a time when we strove for that! Her daughters and niece remember the comradery and fun they shared there. Later in life, she enjoyed visiting her daughter, Lisa, at her home in Minnesota. Her granddaughter, Melissa, remembers once when Lisa’s house was struck by lightning; it was the loudest sound she’d ever heard. In her no-nonsense way, her grandmother told her to just go back to sleep!
Many family members and friends benefited from Barbara’s talent with knitting. She was especially known for her personalized Christmas stockings which are still hung each year. Barbara loved Christmas, and in her later years when her world became smaller after losing numerous friends, she enjoyed watching Hallmark movies — especially “Crown for Christmas.”
As the family grew, her daughter Linda and husband Ed have hosted “Sunday Dinners” for many years which Barbara loved attending. She looked forward to seeing her family then and would always ask, “Who’s coming?” And “Is everyone okay?” A special thank you to Ed for all the delicious meals he created for her and the family.
In 2001 Barbara developed breast cancer. She credited her physician, Dr. Tom Weiner, with saving her life and remained forever grateful. She also appreciated the cancer support group she was a part of at St. Peter’s and mourned when the group was discontinued. Up until the last month of her life Barbara owned and managed several rental properties. They were a family affair with her father pitching in to repaint the pool yearly and her kids helping shovel the walks on the nights of snowstorms.
The family appreciates the support given by staff with St. Peter’s Hospice and Bee Hive North Assisted Living where Barbara spent the last two weeks of her life. Up until then, Barbara had lived on her own. She passed away on the sunny Friday evening of May 12, 2023, with her two daughters at her side feeling very honored to be present for the sacred event. It was miraculously the 28th anniversary of her father’s passing.
She leaves behind her daughters and sons-in-law: Linda and Ed Simmons and Lisa and Mike VonBokern. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren include: Melissa (Chris) Yates, Parker and Ryder; Marcus (Meghan) Erickson, Finley and Hannah; Suzanna (Logan) Nordahl and Ty, Easton, and Malone; Chloe and Luke Dawson; sister Beverly Fox and niece Wendy Fox. She was preceded in death by her special friend, Dick Muffick.
A celebration gathering will be held at Linda’s home on Saturday evening, June 24th from 4:00-7:00. Friends are welcome, and refreshments will be served.
Barbara supported multiple non-profits including: Camp Mak-A-Dream, Lewis & Clark Humane Society, Helena Food Share, Angel Fund, Shodair, and Shriner’s Hospital. If so inclined, memorials can be made in her name to one of these or another of your choosing.
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