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Sandra Jane Mrachek was born on June 7, 1944, in Denver, Colorado, to Dave and Jane Jones. Dave was a petroleum engineer with Shell Oil. Early on, the family moved several times due to Dave’s work, but finally settled back in Denver, where Sandy attended school. After her sophomore year at East High, Shell transferred Dave to Billings. This move began the journey that ended Dec. 31, 2023.
When the family arrived in Billings, they rented a house which happened to be a house away from this kid named Denny Mrachek. He was in the process of getting ready to start his freshman year of college in Bozeman. Before he left for college, he finally got up the nerve to ask Sandy out on a date. This started a four-year relationship which led to them being married on June 13, 1964. After graduating from Billings Senior High in 1962, Sandy attended Montana State University in Bozeman. When she returned for Thanksgiving break, her mother announced that after 19 years of being an only child, she was going to be a big sister. In June, her sister Kelly was born, which filled a hole in her life she didn’t even know was there. This led to a lifelong beautiful friendship. At the conclusion of her first year of college, Sandy decided to stay in Billings and work a year so that she and Denny would have a little nest egg when they married.
After they were married, they stayed in Billings and made plans to start a family. This was the beginning of what Sandy referred to as the best career she could ever imagine: being a mother, gramma, and great-gramma. If you ask anyone in the family, she excelled at all three. Scott was added to the family in 1966, with twins Julie and Jeff following in 1968. Nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild were added to the mix along the way. Sandy enjoyed all things related to the kids and grands. She was their greatest cheerleader. Whatever the kids were involved with, she would do her best to be there and encourage them.
She was truly a lover of traditions. This included putting out her decorations for each holiday, making special meals, and even adding green coloring to martinis for St. Patty’s Day. She had the gift of making our house a home. Many have said that her warm welcoming nature made them feel “right at home” when they came for a visit.
Some time after the kids were born, Sandy joined a bible study. This allowed her to grow in Christ and spread his love through her family. Denny was a little slow to jump on the wagon but, with Sandy’s gentle touch, hopped on board. Sandy was the spiritual leader of the family. After a while, she began spreading God’s love through the Cursillo and Walk to Emmaus movements. She and her friend Jan provided the music for the two movements for over 20 years. This faith and her trust in God’s plan sustained her and helped her to endure many years of pain and illness with incredible strength and grace.
When the kids were old enough to get out and enjoy the outdoors, the family started tent camping. This went well until a bear interrupted their sleep one night. After a quick vote, it was decided that if they were going to continue to enjoy the outdoors, it would be in a trailer. Sandy and family traveled the western part of the U.S. in that trailer, and made many great memories. Somewhere along the line, the trailer experience was traded for a cabin in Red Lodge. This began a journey of some 35 years of family fun in the mountains. Thanksgiving was Sandy’s favorite time at the cabin. The family would gather and feast on turkey and all the trimmings, and then Friday morning they would all go out and cut a tree and spend the rest of the day decorating. When we returned to Billings, she brought us together on the day before Thanksgiving for the annual pool tournament. Thanksgiving dinner was then celebrated at one of the kids’ homes. Sandy and Denny loved their time in Red Lodge. They joined an ATV group and had many fun trips into the back country. She continued to spread God’s love by playing music at church with her friend Sandy.
In 1971, Sandy and Denny were introduced to a rustic fishing resort in Northwestern Montana named Camp Tuffit. Every August, the family would make the trip for a fun two weeks of salmon and perch fishing, water skiing (now surfing) cocktail cruises, crawdad days and fun at the rope swing. This year was the 53rd visit to Camp Tuffit. Sandy wasn’t able to go out on the boat, but being the trooper she was, enjoyed sitting on the porch and enjoying the view of the lake and visiting with lifelong camp friends.
As much as Sandy loved Montana and the mountains, she loved to escape to the beach to hear the ocean and enjoy the sunsets. When we recently asked her where her favorite place was, she said, “without a doubt, Cabo San Lucas.” She and Denny loved their annual trip to Cabo with family and friends.
Several years ago, Sandy had back surgery. The fusion did not work and she developed chronic back pain. Additional operations and injections did little to alleviate the problem. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. This was a shock because neither she nor Denny had ever smoked. Throughout all this, she never complained. But Pulmonary Fibrosis is a horrible disease and eventually it took her breath away. She was on oxygen full time for the past year. On the morning of her passing, Denny asked her if she wanted to go home under Hospice care. She said she was ready to go to Jesus. That evening, her wish was granted. She passed peacefully with her loving husband of 59 years holding her hand.
There was only one perfect person to walk on this earth, and that was Jesus. But to our family, Sandy was the perfect Wife, Mom, Gramma and Great-Gramma and we miss her very much.
Sandy is survived by her husband, Denny; sons Scott (Stephanie), their children Molly and Brady; Jeff (Shelly) their children Katy, Mady and Lauryn and grandson Chandler; daughter Julie Diehl (Dave), their children Ryan, Brock, Courtney and Carson; and sister Kelly Jacobson (Kevin).
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Faith Chapel's The Camp on the Boulder or a charity of your choice.
A celebration of Sandy’s life will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at Faith Chapel in Billings.