Patricia Etchart (Pat) passed away on January 23, 2013 in Billings, Montana. Wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and volunteer – she will be missed by many.
Pat was born March 16, 1934 in Billings, Montana to Fred and Margaret Staunton of Roundup, Montana. In her early years, Pat’s family lived in Roundup, Miles City, Livingston, and Billings. After her father began to work for the Bureau of Biological Survey (precursor to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), the family began a journey that would take them to Bear River Migratory Refuge in Utah, Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge, in North Dakota, and Waubay Refuge, in South Dakota. As an only child growing up on remote wildlife refuges, Pat learned to appreciate and identify birds, track game, and target shoot. Pat remembered living at the Waubay Refuge, where winters were very severe and snowplows were rare in the 1940’s. She said that often she had to cross-country ski or snowshoe several miles to the county road to get a ride to school. In 1950, the family returned to Montana, where Fred was the Manager of the Fort Peck Game Range (now called the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge).
Upon graduation from Glasgow High School, Pat attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Pat’s childhood pastime of target shooting led her to join the Women’s Rifle Team, where she became one of the first women to letter in a sport at Gonzaga. She also participated in the Glee Club and was a member of Gamma Pi Epsilon, a Jesuit scholastic honor society for women. Pat graduated from Gonzaga University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 1956. She also minored in Philosophy and History, and had an undeclared major in Education.
Pat and Leonard Etchart met through Pat’s Fort Peck connections. Donna Lee Etchart, who married Len’s brother Mitch, introduced them in 1954 when Pat was home on break from Gonzaga. Pat and Len were married on July 28, 1956, at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Roundup, Montana. After a honeymoon in Glacier Park and Canada, the couple moved to Washington, D.C., where Len was attending Georgetown University School of Medicine. Pat always said that she felt as if she went to medical school also, since she often typed up Leonard’s notes for him. While there, Pat did volunteer research at the National Archives and the Library of Congress for her former History professor. Pat found the quality and variety of Washington D.C.’s cultural life exciting, and it led her to be a frequent and avid museum visitor. Upon Len’s graduation from medical school in 1959, the couple moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Len completed his medical training.
In 1963, Pat and Len moved to Billings, Montana, where Len started his medical practice and they raised their three sons, Mark, John, and Tom. Pat was a dedicated mother and a frequent volunteer in the classroom and community. The boys recall Pat’s cooking talents, and her ability to delight them with amazing meals and treats. They also recall her love of reading, gardening, and politics.
Pat began her forty plus year career of giving tours as a Docent at the Yellowstone Art Center in 1967. Pat loved the Yellowstone Art Center auctions, especially the celebration of Montana art and artists. She was extremely proud to have served the Yellowstone Art Center (now the Yellowstone Art Museum) in many capacities over the years, ranging from Co-Chair of the Membership Drive, to Chairman of the Docent Council, to President of the Board. Pat continued to serve the Yellowstone Art Museum as an Honorary Trustee until her death.
Her work with the Yellowstone Art Museum led Pat to numerous volunteer positions with art organizations on a local, state, and national level. She served on the Advisory Committee to the Fine Arts Department at the University of Montana and was a founder and director of the 4,000 member Museum Trustee Association, dedicated to the preservation and conservation of natural and cultural history in the United States, and the education of citizens regarding that heritage. Pat also served on the National Docent Symposium Council. In 1995, President Clinton appointed Pat to be a member of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Pat’s love for art and museums was matched by her love for travel. She had special memories of her trips to Europe with lifelong friends. She blended her love of museums and travel when she served as a Delegation Leader for the People to People Citizen Ambassador Program for Museum Trustees and Docents’ trips to Russia, the Czech Republic, China, Egypt, Australia, and Istanbul.
Pat was preceded in death by her parents, Fred and Margaret Staunton, and her uncle and aunt, Dick and Ruth Staunton. Pat will be missed by many family and friends, including her husband, Leonard of Billings, her sons Mark (Lynn) of Helena, John (Jodee) of Billings, and Tom (Stacey) of Bozeman; her grandchildren, Catherine, John, and Thomas of Helena, Joseph and Jacqueline of Billings, and Graham of Bozeman; her brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Gene and Elaine Etchart of Glasgow, Mitch and Donna Lee Etchart of Glasgow, and Mrs. Mark (Delores) Etchart of Billings; her many beloved nephews and nieces and their children; and her lifelong and dear friends.
Memorial Mass is scheduled for 10:00 a.m., on Friday, February 1st at, St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Billings. The family has established a fund in Pat’s memory at the Yellowstone Art Museum, 401 N. 27th Street, Billings, MT 59101.