Our partner, mother, grandmother, and friend, Eileen Gail Eustice Hansen, passed away at her home in Bozeman, MT, on November 30, 2023. She was the heart and soul of our tight-knit, beautiful family, and we will miss her deeply and forever. There was nothing as important to Eileen as her family. She gave us everything and never wanted anything in return except for our own happiness. We are eternally grateful we were able to be by her side at the time of her passing.
Eileen was born in San Mateo, CA, on October 9, 1950. Her early years were spent in California before she and her mother and stepfamily frequently moved to different Air Force bases around the country. She maintained her love for her brother, Craig, and biological father, Blaine Eustice, and stepmother, Wilma, even as they lived apart in different states. Eileen was raised as a Mormon and when it came time to decide on where to go to college, she chose Utah State in Logan instead of attending the easy choice of BYU. While going to school in Logan, she met her life partner, Dennis Kay Hansen, of Tooele, UT, and they married on August 28, 1970.
By the time Eileen was 26 years old, she had three children: Aaron, Matt, and Heidi. Dennis’s career in the oil business had them residing in Cody, WY, Billings, MT, Denver, CO, and mostly in Salt Lake City. Eileen’s children were the love of her life, and she raised them to be active, athletic, self-sufficient, and kind to all living things.
Eileen loved going on long walks in the mountains. She would often lead our family on what came to be known as ‘death marches,’ in the Wasatch, Uintas, and Tetons. When it rained, she would break out plastic garbage bags to keep her kids from getting soaked, but the hike went on despite nearby lightning. Her love of nature left an indelible impact on all of us, and it continues to drive us today.
Owing to her Mormon heritage, our mother was an exquisite baker and cook. She purchased her wheat in big buckets from the local co-op, and would grind the wheat into flour at home. Then she would bake the most delicious homemade bread to go along with pot roasts, roast turkeys, pies, cookies, or whatever else she had in mind for her family. Her cooking was an expression of her love, and she rarely, if ever, partook in her own creations; it was always for the rest of us. Her homemade birthday cakes were a thing of beauty.
During football team dinners, her lasagna was the hands-down players’ favorite. At school, other kids would try to tempt her children into trading their homemade Eileen lunches for something ordinary. They never bit.
Eileen was also a talented sewer. She would ask her kids what they wanted to be for Halloween, then go to the fabric store and sew it together at home.
Eileen would not accept complacency or laziness. Whether it was swimming, football, baseball, wrestling, diving, cheerleading, or piano classes, she made sure all three of her kids were always active, and supported them in victory or defeat. If someone wanted their laundry done, they had to do it themselves–Eileen’s rules. Dishes were not to be left dirty–Eileen’s rules. She could be tough and strict, but it was always from a place of love. And she never, ever missed any game, swim meet, team dinner, or ride to practice.
Eileen always supported her kids’ dreams and Dennis’s career, even if it meant them leaving home to explore new adventures, schools, and towns. She always remembered what you liked—from peanut M&M’s and comfy socks to fuzzy fleeces and Patagonia base layers—and made sure that was in her next round of gift giving. She never forgot any detail, and her handwriting on cards and notes was as delicate and perfect as a wildflower.
Though most of her adult life was spent raising her children, and then showering her three grandchildren—Nadine (14), Milo (9), and Colin (7), whom she adored—with love and gifts, she still worked: at the cosmetics counter at ZCMI, the front desk at the University of Utah history department, the front desk at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, and later in life, volunteering at the Bozeman hospital. Her smile and gift of gab helped her make many f friends in these areas and she cherished them all.
In 1998, Eileen and Dennis moved from Salt Lake City to Bozeman and watched the small town grow up around them. Even in declining health, she continued to walk the trails around her neighborhood, visit her favorite grocery stores, and see her family. During her down time, she enjoyed watching sports and British television, such as the Great British Baking Show and anything on Masterpiece Theater. She always knew what was going on in the NBA, her favorite player being Lebron James.
In the last few years of her life, she reconnected with her Mormon faith in her own way, and days before her death she chose to receive a blessing.
We will always remember our mother, wife, and grandmother as a beautiful light who sacrificed everything for other people’s happiness. She was funny, thoughtful, smart, generous, caring, loving, and artistic. She was our guiding light, and we will carry her spirit with us, always.