Barbara Jo Eidel, 65, died in the early morning hours and surrounded by her family on Wednesday May 11, 2022, from endometrial cancer.
Barb was born on February 1, 1957, to Jack and Betty Eidel in Great Falls, MT and was the youngest of four children. She attended Roosevelt and Franklin elementary schools, West Junior High School, and graduated from CMR High School in 1975. During those formative years, Barb was involved in Girl Scouts, Manchester Baby Beef 4-H Club, was Honored Queen of Bethel #9 of Jobs Daughters, a People-to-People Student Ambassador to Europe in 1974, and a Senate Page for the Montana Legislature in 1975.
She went on to attend Montana State University in Bozeman, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 1979. During her college years she was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority, was a Little Sigma Chi, and participated in Semester Abroad, in Avignon, France in 1977. It was during this time that her adventurous spirit and love of travel was cemented, and the world became her playground.
Upon graduation from college, Barb taught elementary school in Geraldine, MT from 1979-1984, when she left to substitute teach in Great Falls for two years. After attending a job fair, she took a job in Barstow, CA in 1986 for one year before she settled in Apple Valley, CA, where she taught for the next 29 years. While in California, Barb became a huge Los Angeles Dodger Super Fan, and enriched her life with the hundreds of people she met and called friends.
Barb developed a passion for photography early on in her life, and she spent the last 45 years honing those skills. She loved to photograph animals and nature, and living in California, took advantage of photographing the creatures of the sea, especially whales. She became a volunteer with the American Cetacean Society as well as a volunteer with the Gray Whale Census. Barb’s love of photography, coupled with her passion for travel, provided her many opportunities to work on her bucket list. She wanted to photograph whales on every continent, missing only Asia. She still had a huge bucket list of places to travel, and some of her ashes will be spread in those locations eventually.
Barb was the best dog mom to Bear, Megan, Bonnie, Malcolm, McKenzie and Broderick. She also enriched the lives of the hundreds of students she had in 37 years of teaching. However, nothing could compare to the relationship she had with her nieces and nephews. When each of them turned 11 years old, she sent them a ticket to California for a one-on-one week with “Auntie B.” She planted that seed and nourished it throughout the years with her amazing ability to relate to young people. Those “brats,” as she called them, were with her as she left this world.
Upon her retirement on June 1, 2016, Barb moved back to her beloved Montana, to Bozeman, where she could be closer to Yellowstone National Park and the animals to photograph there. She made the most of her retirement by traveling to New Zealand for her 60th birthday, Maui, Argentina, Chile, Antarctica, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia, all in three years!
Barb wrote that she loved family, learning, photography, friends, whale watching, travel, wildlife, nature, children, music, books, camping with her dog in her Rpod, and spending time at the family cabin on Placid Lake, where her presence will be missed by many.
Barb was a people person and never met a stranger. She was the life of the party, and genuinely cared about people and their stories. Those of us who love her will miss her curiosity, smile and generous heart.
Barb was preceded in death by her parents, Betty and Jack Eidel. She is survived by her siblings: Marcia Eidel, Helena; Patti Ashmore (Wiley Kendle), and Jay Eidel, all of Great Falls. In addition, she is survived by her beloved “brats”: J.P. Eidel (Lindsay, Cullen and Claire) of Minneapolis, MN; Matthew Ashmore (Kelsey, Keira and Jack) of Missoula; Lindsay Amundson (Matt, Jack, Conner and Liam) of Fargo, ND; Sarah Goldsmith (Jeff, Olivia, Isabella and Ellie) of Great Falls; several cousins, and her goddaughter, Jacqueline L’Heureux, of Las Vegas, NV. Her friend of 45 years, Darcy Saunders, along with her husband Godfrey and their children Paige, Trent and Shae and their families, were like family to Barb, and were with her these last 10 months with love and loyalty. We are so thankful for them. She also leaves her beloved dog, Broderick, who was her constant companion after she rescued him eight years ago.
A Celebration of Life will be held on June 25, at 4:30PM in Great Falls, at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Barb requested memorials to organizations benefitting children or animals. Suggested memorials are Eagle Mount of Great Falls, PO Box 2866, Great Falls, MT 59403; Scottish Rite Childhood Language Clinic 1304 13th Ave South, Great Falls, MT 59405; Pacific Whale Foundation 300 Maalaea Road, Suite 211, Wailuku, HI, 96793; or to your local animal shelter or Humane society.