Rev. Cathy McLean

Cathy Lynn Tarpley McLean, 66, passed away peacefully at home in Billings, surrounded by her loving family, on July 24, 2020, of metastatic uterine cancer.

She was born in Toledo, Ohio, on Dec. 28, 1953, and was immediately adopted by B.C. and Vesta Tarpley. Her family traveled for B.C.’s work and she lived in Arizona, Nashville (where she peed on Little Jimmy Dickens’ knee), and Texas City, Texas, where she graduated from Texas City High School in 1971.

She went on to study at the University of Texas in Austin, where she worked three part-time jobs to pay her own way through school. There, she met her lifelong friend, Rebecca Clay, who taught her how to drive in her ’69 VW Bug. She took off a year to work and travel with the Carson Bailey Circus, where she loved working and caring for the animals. She then returned to Texas City, Texas, in the fall of 1977 to care for her ailing father, where she fortuitously met and fell in love with her soul mate, Kurt Oliver McLean, the “damn Yankee.” They were wed six weeks later on Jan. 6, 1978, and became parents 11 months later (her mother liked to point out) to their first child, Heather Myriah McLean. She went to nursing school at St. Joseph’s hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, where she graduated at the top of her class and achieved the second highest score on her board certifications. In the fall of ’83, she gave birth to her second “Magnus Opus,” Kurt Nicholas McLean in Fort Worth.

Shortly after, they moved to Billings, where she was an Oncology Nurse at Deaconess Hospital for two years. After an injury, she began working for the State of Montana, helping local citizens apply for and receive benefits. She and her sister-in-law Martha McLean became business partners and opened the “Budget Framer,” where they enjoyed learning and mastering the art of picture framing for almost a decade.

She felt the calling to serve the Lord and became a Certified Lay Pastor, where she had the honor of serving a life-changing year at the First Presbyterian church in Dillon, where she made lifelong friends and a sister.

At the age of 50, she returned to school and attended the Seminary of Dubuque in Iowa, where she graduated with her Master’s Degree in Divinity and answered a call to serve the Federated Church of Forsyth. She faithfully served her church and community of Forsyth for almost 10 years.

She is preceded in death by both of her parents, and leaves behind her husband, Kurt McLean; daughter Heather McLean; son Kurt Nicholas (Kate McLean); and granddaughter Emma McLean, whom she treasured.

She was a lover and collector of books and a lifetime student. She never passed up a “good deal” and loved a bargain. She was a Valkyrie for social justice and believed in and fought for Peace. Over the years, she took in innumerable strays (animals and people) and effortlessly folded them in to her family. She and Kurt were foster parents for over 20 at-risk youth in the Billings area through Youth Dynamics over a period of 13 years. Some of her favorite family memories were made on summer camping trips with the kids and the dogs and later with her Stillwater Sisters, who each held a special place in her heart.

She was an amazing mother who was on every PTA board, attended every game and event and made birthdays some of the most special days of the year. She was always the Team Mother and was the one who “had it all” from snacks to Band-Aids and birth certificates. She hugged with her whole heart and soul and valued her family and the Lord above all else.

She was a good and faithful servant whose loss, in the words of her sister MerryLee, we will “grieve to the soles of our feet.”

In lieu of flowers, Mom would ask that you donate in her name to your local shelters or food bank and her final request was for each of us to pay it forward in random acts of kindness.

Memorial services will be at 10 a.m. Friday, July 31, at First Presbyterian Church, 2420 13th St. West. It can also be attended via Facebook Live by visiting the First Presbyterian Church Facebook page.

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