On most days, you would find Jane Reger working or planting in the Sensory Garden at ZooMontana, in which she took great joy. She passed away at the age of 88, at her home, from a long battle with a rare cancer. After 20 years apart, she rejoined her beloved husband, Jim Reger, in heaven, with whom she shared 45 years of marriage.
Jane was born in Chicago on Nov. 2, 1925, to Margaret Jane and James Leeming. She grew up in the Chicago area and traveled abroad often with her Aunt Catherine. Jane graduated from the University of Iowa, where she met her husband and the love of her life, James W. Reger. He proposed on the steps of the University of their adored Hawkeyes. They ventured into the Oil & Gas business, which carried them to many different locations, before settling in Billings.
Jane and Jim truly cared about giving back to their community and were very instrumental in starting ZooMontana. Their grandchildren have memories of some of the wild animals that were actually brought to their house before heading to various other zoos. Jane especially loved the Sensory Garden at ZooMontana, where she spent countless hours of her time, as well as her many visits with the tigers. The arrival of the new tigers delighted Jane, and getting to see them was a highlight of her last days.
Jane was very involved in Billings Studio Theatre. She was a member of First Congregational Church, Junior League, PEO and Kappa Alpha Theta. She was also well-known around town as The Wicked Witch of Gregory Hills and, on Halloween, had hundreds of trick-or-treaters every year.
Jane was a faithful Cubs fan; her love of the Cubs began early on with fond memories of her aunt taking her and her brother Jim Leeming to games. Her passion for the Cubs continued throughout her life, never missing a game on television. She was also recognized for her amazing garden, in which she took great pride. She loved to travel and went to multiple places in her lifetime, including many trips to Kauai, an African safari and yearly golf trips to Tucson.
She was a wonderfully loving grandmother, and not one to miss a birthday, graduation or wedding of any of her many grandchildren, no matter where the event took place. She was always the first to witness the arrival of each grandchild and great-grandchild. There was even a story of Jane and Jim beating the expectant parents to the hospital.
Jane lived a very full and rich life. She was always a phone call away for friends and family in need, and enjoyed her weekly conversations with her grandchildren.
Jane is survived by James Randy Reger and his wife Debbie, their three sons JR (Amy) Reger, Michael (Brittany) Reger, Joe (Lizanne) Reger; Steven Reger and his wife Debbie, their five children Steven Charlie Reger, Abbie (Jon) Reger-Joseph, Jen (Tim) Reger Marron, Daniel (Allison) Reger, Samantha (Mike) Harris; daughter Maree Ryan and her husband Tom, their three children Sarah (Brad) Yarde, Casey Ryan and Katie (Drew) Hansell. She is also survived by her brother, James Leeming of Roscoe, and many great-grandchildren: Ava Fink, Flora Fink, Micah Fink, Rhett Reger, Jack Reger, Will Reger, Clark Reger, Jenacey Joseph, Jorey Joseph, JJ McNeeley, James Reger, Brooklyn Reger, Hadlee Reger, James Harris, Miley Harris, Carter Harris, Hunter Harris, Rory Yarde, Finley Yarde and Calyx Ryan. She is also survived by her best dog friend, Buddy.
She is preceded in death by her parents, Margaret and James Leeming; her husband, James W. Reger; and her granddaughter Rebecca Ryan.
We want to offer a special thanks to her friend, caretaker and gardener, David Carlson, and her caretakers Kim, Peggy, Rosa and Carol. Thank you also to Dr. Randy Gibb and Jim Duncan for their care and support.
Memorials may be made to ZooMontana, 2100 S. Shiloh Road, Billings, MT 59106, or First Congregational Church, 310 N. 27th St., Billings, MT 59101.
A celebration of life will be held for Jane on Tuesday, July 8, at First Congregational Church, at 1 p.m., with a reception to follow at Hilands Golf Club.