Hearts Love 04

Janie and Rich Petaja

May 14, 1941


George Richard “Rich” Petaja passed away on February 20, 2019, and was joined by his wife of 52 years, Janie Jo Petaja, on March 24, 2022. 

Rich was born May 14, 1941 in Bonner, Montana to Doris (Lincoln) and George Michael Petaja. He grew up with his two younger sisters Joanne (Stein) and Donna (Sloane). Janie was born in Missoula, Montana to Jean (Hurly) and Gordon White. Both Rich and Janie spent their early years in Montana; Janie grew up in Glasgow, and Rich in Bonner, where he became an Eagle Scout after his father started the first Boy Scout troop in Montana. 

The two met while attending the University of Montana in Missoula, and were set up on a blind date by one of Janie’s fellow Delta Gamma sorority sisters (at this point, Rich was still going by his childhood name Dick, but the day he turned 40 he put his foot down and changed it). They were married in 1967. Soon after, Rich was sent to serve as a Captain in the Army during the Vietnam War, and they moved together as needed, including several years spent stationed in Vicenza, Italy, where their first child David was born. Rich’s last few years of enlistment were spent in Huntsville, Alabama, where they welcomed their first daughter Amy. 

After Rich received an honorable discharge from the Army, their young family moved back to Montana and spent a few years in Missoula. Though they weren’t there for long, they accomplished quite a bit: Janie and Rich bought their first home, Rich completed a Master’s degree in Sociology, and they welcomed two more children, daughter Susan and son John. They then moved to Helena, where both Janie and Rich’s careers flourished. Janie worked in offices all over town, including God’s Love Shelter, Blue Cross, the DEQ, and US West. Rich had a 30 year career in the Department of Corrections. He had a second career working for FEMA after retiring. Their lives were full with work, children, and their own passions. They both had a love of art, and Rich learned to create calligraphy and stained glass to restore the Queen Anne Victorian home they shared.

In January of 2014, Rich retired after suffering a stroke, and spent his last years at home under the care of his loving wife. Janie was the constant, trustworthy rock of the family, and took care of everyone. She was a funny, quick-witted lady who loved a good pun and who loved people in an unshakeable way that is a surprise in this world. She never gave up on the people she loved, even when some of us sorely deserved it, and continued to support and encourage her family in success or failure. Rich left a legacy of kindness and dependability, and the family encourages everyone to honor him through finding a way to help someone who doesn’t expect it. Rich and Janie were beloved by their family and community, and are dearly missed.

A Celebration of Life for Janie and Rich will be held on June 18, 2022 at 11:00am, at Simple Cremation Montana (648 North Jackson Street, Helena, Montana, 59601).


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Janie and Rich Petaja, please visit our floral store.

Memorial Tree
A Memorial Tree was planted for Janie and Rich

We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Simple Cremation

Join in honoring their life - plant a memorial tree


Celebration of Life
June 18, 2022

11:00 AM
Simple Cremation MT (Spencer)

© 2022 Simple Cremation. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS & TA | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Accessibility