Jean Romine MacLeod passed away peacefully, Aug. 27, 2018, at the age of 95. While dementia plagued Jean the last few years of her life, she never lost sight of her love for family, friends, animals and even her healthcare providers.
Jean lived a long and colorful life, beginning in Saskatchewan, Canada, on Aug. 9, 1923, to Hettie and Burt Romine. At age 4, the Romine family moved to Little Owl Creek, and ranched outside Lodge Grass, where she spent a majority of her childhood. Jean’s love for animals was one of her most notable qualities, so it’s no surprise that she was often scolded for trying to sneak farm animals into the house. As a child, Jean was famous for pretending she couldn’t hear her mother when it was time to come inside and help out, instead, running off and into the hillside to play with her beloved animal friends.
She attended grade school in Lodge Grass, then on to Bozeman, to live with relatives, for her high school and college education. She graduated in 1945 with a degree in secretarial business. After graduating, she moved to San Francisco, living with family, and working for PPL.
Jean met Burg MacLeod when home visiting family in May 1946, and started a whirlwind romance, resulting in an October wedding the same year.
They moved to Billings and into their first and only house, on their first anniversary. This was “home” for 67 years. This house became an icon of stability, familiarity and nostalgia over the years. It was a place where the four MacLeod children could return during transitional periods of their lives, and eventually bring their children for holiday celebrations and sleepovers with Jean and Burg.
As an animal lover, Jean offered refuge to many four-legged friends over the years, from raccoons to rabbits to cats and dogs. Jean’s most recent pet was her beloved Tucker, whom she rescued from the animal shelter. He was her faithful companion and walking partner.
She became an active member of MSU’s Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. From there, Jean continued her activism and inspired her children and grandchildren with her duty to civic engagement. Jean was an active member of her church (First Congregational Church, Billings), where she taught Sunday School and volunteered for many events. Jean tutored school kids, volunteered for Girl Scouts, and worked the voting booths on Election Day. She and Burg offered housing to Harumi, a Japanese Rocky Mountain College student, who remained close, and an honorary family member, even after returning to Japan.
Jean and Burg were members of the 49ers Dance Club, winning first place one year, for her handmade “Yogi and Cindy Bear” costumes. Jean was a talented seamstress, gardener, canning expert and card player. Even into her 90s, Jean’s friends admired the way she played — and often dominated — the game of Bridge.
Jean loved golf. While Jean was upset with Burg for buying a membership to Laurel Golf Club, she ended up using it more than he did, and became known for her unique practice swing.
Jean often marched to the sound of her own drummer, going to college when it was not yet the social norm and becoming a recycling guru before her time. During her daily walks, Jean carried an extra bag, so she could pick up trash and recycling along the way.
Wasteful is not a word one would use to describe Jean. In addition to picking up trash, Jean saved everything she could, thinking there would be a use for it later!
Jean’s care for others ran deep. She was sort of the neighborhood “welcome wagon,” routinely welcoming new neighbors with a visit and something from the oven. This friendly gesture evoked close, endearing relationships, one of which evolved into a 25-year Thanksgiving tradition, and beyond, with dear friends, the Helmers.
Jean was preceded in death by her parents and siblings; her husband Burg (“Mac”); son-in-law John McLean; and daughter Susan MacLeod.
Surviving Jean are children: Cathy Hareland (Jack), Mark MacLeod, Patty McLean (Chuck Roberts) and son-in-law David Holt. Grandchildren, who cherished Grandma, are Scott Hareland, Beau Hareland (Kim), Katie Bennet (Chris), Allison Kazmierski (Sam), Megan McLean, Jeffrey and Henry Holt. Decker Hareland is Mom’s only great-grandchild.
Heartfelt thanks and appreciation to West Park Village (particularly Rose) for the exceptional loving care and friendship provided over the past four-plus years. Thanks, also, to the care partners at Highgate.
Memorials suggestions: Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter, Billings, MT. Or, welcome a new neighbor with a smile and some homemade cookies!
Help us celebrate Mom’s life at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 10, at the First Congregational Church, 310 N. 27th St., Billings. Reception to follow.