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Maureen Booth was a force of nature. Born October 26, 1931, in Mitchell, South Dakota, she died peacefully in her sleep on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, in Billings, Montana.
Maureen was a South Dakota girl. An only child, she grew up in Pierre, South Dakota during the Depression. She had a favorite closet where she loved to play, a dog that started her love affair with animals and a house full of music. She had a gaggle of wonderful friends, who remained true blue all of her life.
Growing up, she spent most of her summers in Mitchell with her beloved grandfather, Paul Smock, and her grandmother, Lillian. It was with her grandpa that she learned to fish, and to love baseball and the Chicago Cubs. In fact, she remained an avid Cubs fan her entire life, watching as many games as she could during the MLB season. Her fondest childhood memories were filled with her grandfather.
She began playing violin and piano at an early age, and found herself, at age 16, the organist at the First Congregational Church in Pierre. She loved it. She loved the organ so much that, when she arrived at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, she chose to double major in English and Music, Organ performance. She was the campus organist at USD during her time there, as well as the timpani player for the band and orchestra. She joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority, the PEO, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She also had a lot of fun in college — she was tight-lipped about her antics, but they always included her childhood friends.
In 1953, Maureen married a Yankton, South Dakota boy: Darrell Booth. He was managing the Chamber of Commerce in Pierre. According to her, they met in a bar. Another story is that her mother set them up. Regardless, they headed west and, on July 4, 1953, Darrell and Maureen eloped to Riverton, Wyoming and tied the knot. They then set up their home in Casper, where Darrell had been hired to manager the Chamber of Commerce. Maureen settled into her new role as wife, and soon welcomed their first daughter, Marian, followed two years later by Marilyn, daughter number two. In 1960, the family moved to Riverton and Maureen welcomed their son, Michael.
In 1962, Darrell once again embraced a new location as manager of a Chamber of Commerce: Billings, Montana. Packing up her family of five, Maureen settled into a new home in Billings. She soon became the organist at First Methodist Church and immersed herself in music and making things grow. In 1964, her life pivoted again, as Darrell joined a fledgling company called Kampgrounds of America. Hired to build a robust, successful franchise out of an idea, Darrell traveled. A lot. And Maureen found herself a de facto single mother. During the building years of KOA, she maintained a home, played the organ, volunteered with the Billings Symphony and lived all summer in her gardens.
Maureen never liked to fly. She was terrified. Darrell was a pilot; she refused to fly with him. But, she found herself a widow at the young age of 48. And she found a way to get on an airplane. Only big ones. And she traveled. She visited China and Kenya as a tourist. Most meaningfully, she toured as a working musician, traveling with a choir group to Norway, the country of her heritage.
After satisfying her travel bug, Maureen settled fully into her new home of Red Lodge and immersed herself in the community, playing organ for the Community Church, directing a community choir, lunching with friends and tirelessly planting gardens, both at home and at the Red Lodge Wildlife Sanctuary. In her later years, she found a companion in Leon Odegaard, who preceded her in death.
Maureen was a passionate and accomplished musician, a master gardener who could make anything grow anywhere, a seamstress whose flat-fell seams were the envy. She had a keen eye for a fabulous pair of shoes, and she always found room in her heart and home for abandoned or abused animals. She left the world a better place for the beauty and music she shared.
She leaves behind her children, Marian, Marilyn, and Mike; seven grandsons and one granddaughter; and three great-grandsons. She is preceded in death by her husband, Darrell Roy Booth; and her parents, Merle Margaret Sorenson and Waldemar Gustavus Sorenson.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial service and celebration of life will take place at 12 noon on Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Red Lodge Community Church, 308 S. Broadway. A reception will follow in the church Fellowship Hall.
Instead of sending flowers, please donate to one of your favorite charities. Maureen was especially fond of organizations that helped underprivileged children and animals. Or donate to Mom’s favorite Red Lodge organizations: Beartooth Humane Alliance; Red Lodge Senior Citizens Center; Beartooth Wildlife Sanctuary.
Maureen’s family wishes to extend a heartfelt thank you to the staff and volunteers at RiverStone Hospice Home, for taking such wonderful care of her during her brief stay.