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Jessie Alice Henke

November 16, 1933 December 17, 2018
Jessie Alice Henke
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Obituary for Jessie Alice Henke

We said “goodbye” to Mom on Monday, December 17, 2018, when she joined her loving husband, Don, who preceded her in death in 1992. She’d be the first to say to all of us, “don’t be sad – I had a good run!” She was with her children and grandchildren when she said “goodbye” to us, and nothing gave her more pleasure, or more pride, than seeing them all together.

Mom was born in Abilene, KS on November 16, 1933. She lived an amazing, devoted 85 years, calling Montana home since 1958. As an Army brat, Mom was able to see the world, finishing High School in Japan. As a child of the depression, she grew up with values and mores that she not only practiced on a daily basis, but also passed along to her children. Mom worked in the insurance industry in Kansas as a young adult. She was in college at Kansas State when she met her husband, Don, who was in the Navy at the time. Jessie and Don were married on October 11, 1957.

Mom worked while Don finished veterinary school at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, CO. Then, they ventured off to Montana to chase their dream of raising a family and practicing veterinary medicine in Big Sky Country. Mom and Dad both ran the vet clinics that were their businesses over the years, starting in Great Falls, then to Big Timber, MT, Prairie Grove, AR, and they finished up in Anaconda, MT from where they retired to Philipsburg, MT.

Over the course of all this, she proved herself to be one heck of a businesswoman. She ran the vet clinics, cable companies, and a satellite dish business that Dad started. She liked to gloss over the “unfortunate” turkey farm he tried to start, but come on, a turkey farm in Montana – how can we let that one go without comment. However, even in failures or the face of tragedy she found the positive. After Dad’s death, she became a fixture in Philipsburg as the town’s unofficial ambassador while working at The Pickle Dish.

Mom and Dad raised five children, and have a dozen grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren – who called her “GiGi” because Great-Grandma “just took damn too long to say”, she told them. It was the type of pragmatism and straight-talk that she was known for with friends and family alike. When Dad passed unexpectedly in 1992, she simply said “Well, there went my Plan A”. As a widow, she ran two cable television companies in Philipsburg and White Sulphur Springs and worked at several different jobs in Philipsburg. She took up quilting just to pass the time and keep busy. The businesses ultimately sold, she eventually quit her small jobs around town – working until she was 80 years old – but it was the quilting that became her passion.

Getting a Jessie-Quilt was a treasure. Not only were her quilts absolute works of art, but each was made from a spark of inspiration that Mom drew or discerned directly from the eventual recipient. If a friend liked horses; a quilt would show up with a horse theme and a unique or new-design sewing pattern would be used. A grandchild liked Star Wars, next thing you know Darth Vader came to life in a quilt. She even made an “Oakland Raiders” quilt for a friend, but rumor is that inside the lining is a Chief’s logo. She challenged herself to try new and intricate quilting patterns; she gave nearly every one of her quilts away, and; she inspired others to do the same. Whether it was kids in a foster home, troops in Iraq, or just someone in need – there are a lot of warmer beds and happier faces because of what Jessie did and what she gave. Anyone can buy a blanket for someone, and many do, which is good, but Mom made keepsakes, and she gave a gift of love and compassion with every single one she made – that is what she’ll be remembered for.

Mom is with Dad now – they are both together and looking down on us all, saying: “Don’t waste time mourning. We want you to celebrate everything we accomplished, everything we were lucky enough to receive, and everything we shared with family and friends over the wonderful years we had.” That is the way she approached life; that is the message she has for those continuing on.

Mom was preceded in death by her father, Col. Paul C. Westerman (Ret.), and her mother, Margaret Westerman. She has two brothers, John Westerman, his wife Karen, in Bonita, CA and her brother David Westerman, his wife Roberta, in Olathe, KS.

Mom, as she would surely say, survived her five children. And, as her children, we agree – she survived us. But, we are better human beings because of her. Her children are: Larry and Pat Henke, Bill Henke, Linda Henke, Steve and Marcia Henke, and Karen and Joe Degel.

The love of her life was her “brood” of grandchildren and great-grandchildren: Jillian Duke, her husband Kyle, and two great grandchildren, Cody and Lily; Jessi Barkell, and great granddaughter, Lexi; Heather Jurado, her husband Alex, and two great grandchildren, Lexia and Aden William; Chelsea Henke; Christopher Walls; Eric Lubke; Sara Lubke; Keri Moore, her husband Dustin, and four great grandchildren, Nikolas, Hunter, Hayden, and Kaydence; Travis Franklin, his wife Ashley, and great granddaughter Victoria; Katie Holden, her husband Rob; Dawne Risse, her husband Ryan, and Tony Degel.

Jessie will be honored in a memorial service in the Spring, in Philipsburg, MT. She always said she didn’t want her kids, nor her friends, driving on icy roads just to see her, and she loved Montana in the Spring. So, we will celebrate her life when the snow melts in P’burg.

In lieu of flowers or donations Jessie would ask that you give a blanket or a quilt to a shelter, children’s home or veteran’s organization.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Jessie Alice Henke, please visit our Tribute Store.


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