VICTOR — Earlene Mae Roberts Gaudin, a loving and devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, special Aunt, friend, and lover of life passed away on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, in Hamilton, due to natural causes at the age of 90 after living a long healthy life. Earlene was born at home in Philipsburg, early in the morning on April 30, 1927, shortly after her parents completed their weekend dance band gig. Her father Earl was so excited about the news of his newborn daughter he boasted to his friend Henry who asked what her name was. Earl proudly announced we named her Earlene Mae. Henry quickly responded why didn’t you call her Late in April? Her name sake always reflected this endearing story, and epitomizes her quick whit and loving humor. Leaving the “Burg” as they fondly remembered it, Earl and Alice and Earlene all returned to the family roots in Victor where her grandparents had homesteaded.
Earlene was a fourth-generation Bitterrooter, completing her high school years in 1945. Throughout her youth she lived a simple life enduring the struggles of the Depression, all the while living rural life to the fullest. Following high school, Earlene committed herself to aiding the war effort by traveling to San Francisco to become a stenographer. Upon completing her stenographer training, Earlene was transferred to Olympia, Washington, where, as fate would have it, she met a young army soldier who became her partner for life (even though her mother had warned her to not get involved with "those soldiers"). The soldier she fell for was from Convent, Louisiana, named Melvin J. Gaudin.
Earlene and Mel were happily married on Aug. 30, 1946 at St. Mary's Mission, in Stevensville, by Fr. Leonard Jensen; they were one of the last couples married in the original St. Mary’s Mission. Earlene's and Mel's enduring love as husband and wife will carry on as they have been reunited in Heaven.
Early in their married life, Earlene and Mel ventured south to Louisiana in their 1917 Model T Ford, a trip that took 11 days traveling at breakneck speeds of 22 mph. The newlyweds resided in New Orleans for a short time, and while many exciting stories survived the trip, Earlene's and Mel’s love of Montana and family beckoned them back. Earlene worked at the Missoulian and Mel attended the University of Montana. While Mel went on to get his bachelor's degree and later his master’s degree it was always recognized that she also completed her education with an HHD (helping husband degree). They resided in Bridger for six years where their son Michael Earl was born. Earlene longed to return back to the Victor area and so they purchased a 160-acre ranch west of Victor where Earlene tended to 200 head of sheep while Mel taught school in Stevensville. Cheryl Ann was born during this time in 1957. On weekends, they performed with the Roberts-Gaudin Family Orchestra playing dance jobs throughout the Bitterroot Valley.
Earlene and Mel transitioned from the sheep ranch to join Earlene’s father and mother where they operated Roberts Realty. Earlene worked as licensed real estate agent together with her father Earl and husband Mel. While in the real estate office she always had the passion to open a gift shop, which she did on the Northside of the real estate building. The C’est Bon Gift shop (meaning it’s good in French) was delightful but not profitable as she sold to her friends and family at her wholesale discount! Earlene and Mel’s children Mike and Cheryl also joined the family business.
Earlene volunteered many hours with the American Cancer Society at the local and state level, coordinating and encouraging every rural route homeowner in Victor to donate to cancer research and learn the seven signs of cancer. Earlene also endeared and loved her faith deeply, she played the organ at St. Mary’s in Stevensville, and was a member of the altar society and taught catechism.
As an only child to Earl and Alice one would have thought she grew up with multiple brothers and sisters. She was so giving, never self-centered but always concerned about everyone else. She never missed saving a good recipe and pasting it to the inside of her cupboard, or putting a friend's or family’s accomplishment on the outside of the refrigerator, clipped with pinking shears. She loved a good box of Russell Stover's and a quick trip to the store to pick up her Power Ball ticket. She loved to fish and one time laid down and cried right on the banks of Sweathouse Creek when the biggest German brown ever slipped off her hook. She always had time to rock a grandchild, (all five granddaughters never went to a babysitter), and make a quick batch of southern pralines for someone that needed a little something.
Earlene and Mel, the "Irish" and "Cajun," always enjoyed making the rounds whether it was a run in the Minnie Winnie motorhome or heading south to Jackpot, Nevada, to pull a few handles. The pair also traveled to Europe and Nova Scotia and enjoyed visiting Mel’s family in Louisiana, whom Earlene loved dearly.
Earlene is survived by her son, Michael Gaudin (wife, Sherri); daughter, Cheryl Gaudin Smith (husband, Butch); and granddaughters Chelsey Smith Kukuk (husband, Erik, daughter Savannah Mae); Chenelle Smith; Paris Gaudin Dickerson (husband, Drew); Cierra Smith Facey (husband, Mike, daughter Lennon June; and Sedona Gaudin. Additionally, Earlene is survived by cousins, nieces and nephews.
To celebrate a life well lived a Vigil will be Friday, Dec. 22, at 7 p.m., at Daly-Leach Memorial Chapel in Hamilton. A funeral Mass will be on Saturday, Dec. 23, at 11 a.m., at St. Francis Parish with Father Jim Connor and Father Jack Darragh officiating. A private interment will be held immediately after Mass at the Victor cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Victor Heritage Museum, P.O. Box 610, Victor, MT 59875. Condolences may be left for the family at dalyleachchapel.com.