Madilyn “Sody” Bell Jones passed away on Sept. 25, 2017. More than our wife, mother, grandmother, sister and aunt, Sody was our best friend, brightest smile, most infectious laugh, and constant source of energy. She was the gregarious, irreverent matriarch of our family. There was never a dull moment when Sody was present and we loved her fits of laughter with bursts of raucous volume. With her signature “Sody-isms,” she taught her boys the values of family, dinner together, hard work and a love of the ridiculous. When a challenge seemed rough, you were “probably thinking about yourself too much.” Her example was to meet a challenge with a fist pump and “So, this will be fun!” She reminded anyone within earshot, “This is hard but we aren’t lazy people.” Each day, Sody made a conscious decision to choose joy as her guiding principle.
If she wasn’t working in her home, in the barn or in the pasture, she was on her horse, the ski slope, golfing or hiking a trail. “There is no bad weather, just bad gear.” A friend’s offer to go to lunch was often met with, “Let’s go for a walk.”
Sody was born Oct. 20, 1945, in Lewistown, the third of four daughters born to Karl and Joyce Bell. She grew up in Sheridan, Wyoming, where Karl was Superintendent of Schools. Upon graduation from Sheridan High School in 1963, the family moved to Missoula where her father was again superintendent. Along with her sisters, Sody attended the University of Montana and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in education. There, she met and fell in love with James Jones of Helena. They were married in Missoula in 1967 and Jim then began law school.
In 1971, they moved to Billings with their first son, Matthew, and Jim began his legal career. Two more sons, Aaron and Steven, were born in Billings. Sody taught elementary and preschool, worked in retail and raised her boys. She was a dedicated volunteer in community activities, served on boards — including 10 years on the Montana Arts Council. Like her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, she was an active member of PEO. She started a book club that is still growing after 25 years.
At age 49, Sody survived breast cancer. That experience solidified her commitment to exercise and enjoying Montana’s wonderful outdoors. The family built a home in Big Sky and, for 22 years, she spent summers and winters there sharing her activities with family and friends. Other months, she would be in Billings golfing at the YCC, hiking Phipps Park or traveling. It was a great life with innumerable friends and she didn’t waste it sitting around.
Sody’s last challenge was a battle with pancreatic cancer at age 70. She used her last year to celebrate life and say goodbye to friends and family. With Jim at her side, she conquered the effects of chemotherapy with exercise, golf, hiking, riding and even skiing. She trusted in the Lord and continued to find joy in every day. In June, the family celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
She is survived by her husband Jim of Billings; her sons, Matthew Jones (Amy) of Bozeman, Aaron Jones (Missy) of Salt Lake City, and Steven Jones (Jenn) of Salt Lake City; grandchildren AJ, Maggie, Bo and Janie of Salt Lake City and Greta and Naomi of Bozeman; sisters Carolyn Bell, Marilyn Garcia (Ernie) and Evelyn Garcia, all of Sun Lakes, Arizona; and sister-in-law Leona Whiting of Seattle.
A celebration of Sody’s life will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, at the King of Glory Church, 4125 Grand Ave., in Billings. A reception will follow at the Yellowstone Country Club.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Sody to the Billings Public Schools Angel Fund at Education Foundation for BPS, 415 N. 30th St., Billings, MT 59101; or to the charity of your choice.