MISSOULA — Missoula lost much beloved Rebecca “Becky” Hazelbaker Deschamps, 74, who passed from complications of ALS on Aug. 5, 2019, in Missoula. In her last days and through her death, she was surrounded and held by her family.
Born on Sept. 13, 1944, in Miles City, Becky grew up in Dillon after her mother Agnes Striker married Frank W. Hazelbaker. Frank and Agnes loved being Becky’s parents, and Becky forever loved her life in Dillon, her brother Craig, and stepbrothers Frank and John.
Deeply intelligent, Becky developed an interest in medicine and wanted to become a doctor. Sadly, in the 1950s and '60s many professions, including medicine, were not welcoming of women. Becky was told that if she wanted children she should abandon any idea of being a doctor, which may have been the last time anyone convinced Becky there was something she could not do!
Still very interested in medicine, Becky enrolled at the University of Montana (Skaggs) School of Pharmacy in 1962. Her affiliation with, and love for, the University of Montana did not end with her graduation. She served as a Faculty Affiliate, two terms on the University’s Board of Visitors, and on the Presidential Advisory Board. She supported and mentored students as a central part of her professional identity.
While at UM, during 1963’s Homecoming while making a float, she met the love of her life, Robert L. “Dusty” Deschamps, III. They married in 1965 and were a few weeks short of their 54th anniversary at the time of her death. Together, they created a life marked by community and public service, art, travel, and a deep love of family. They influenced each other, and perhaps in no more significant way than, as the Dillon Tribune reported, Dusty “stealing away” the good Republican Becky, and turning her into a forever Democrat!
Becky had an exemplary 50-year career in pharmacy, specializing in pain management. Her work history includes 20 years at St. Pat’s Hospital, six years at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, and nine years at Missoula Community Medical Center. She was very active in the Montana Pharmaceutical Association (MPA), and was a widely respected leader of the pharmacy profession. In 1979, Becky was elected the first female president of the MPA. Becky received every available state and national professional award, she was appointed by several governors to serve multiple terms on the Montana Board of Pharmacy, she devoted five years to service as the Pharmacy Board’s executive director, and she was elected by her peers as an officer and committee chair of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. She had several publications and contributed to the body of research. A naturally funny person, Becky believed in the power of humor, and she spent time researching the effects of humor on pain management. She continued both hospital work and service on the pharmacy board until the symptoms of ALS forced her to retire in 2017.
Becky’s commitment to service was not limited to her professional life. She personified altruism. Deeply committed to good government, Becky was elected to the Missoula County Government Study Commission in 1974 and served as the chair. She was a Brownie and a Girl Scout Leader, as well as a founder of the Medical Explorers for the Boy Scouts. She served as an outreach volunteer for the Missoula Crisis Center, a volunteer pharmacist at a low-income clinic, and she was active in Missoula’s Christ the King Catholic Parish. She was especially proud of her time working as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. Becky proudly supported many conservation efforts and was a devoted animal lover. If any animal found its way to her home, that animal found a new home with her.
Perhaps no greater symbol of Becky’s altruism was her participation in ALS research at Cedar-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She underwent a major surgery and endured multiple trips to Los Angeles even as she knew her time was short, and knowing the study would never help her, to help advance ALS research.
Becky’s professional and civic commitments were important, but without question, her primary focus and greatest love was her family. She and Dusty welcomed four children, Krystin (Scott), Mikal Terou (Steve), Robert “Bob” IV (Marnie), and Jean-Marc (Natalee), who each had special relationships with their mom. With Krys, Becky shared her emotional heart. With Mikal, her devoted motherhood. With Bob, her willingness to always help another in need, and with Jean-Marc, her passion for flying and her commitment. Her 11 grandchildren brought her deep joy, and they were a light in the last two years. Additionally, Becky loved her sons and daughters-in-law very much, and appreciated how much her daughters-in-law helped her in her last months of life.
Becky was fearless. She skydived and stayed awake during a double-knee surgery so she could watch the procedure. She was irrepressible, and full of laughter. She wrote poetry, some serious, most humorous. She was determined and independent, and rarely took no for an answer. She was adventurous, and saw as much of the world as she could. She was an artist, and in addition to writing poetry, she earned a welding certificate so that she could make metal art. Becky was very generous with her time and money, always showing up for good causes, her family and her friends. Becky loved life. Her light still shines brightly in those who knew her.
Becky is preceded in death by her parents and step-brothers as well as her parent-in-laws, Robert Jr. and Dorothy. She is survived by her loving husband, Dusty, her four children and their spouses, her brother Craig, her 11 grandchildren, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews.
The family wishes to express deep gratitude to Partners in Care Hospice, and to those from Hestia who helped provide such important and loving care.
A Funeral Mass and celebration will be held on Sept. 13, her birthday, at 2 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, followed by a reception at the University of Montana’s Canyon Club. Should you like to honor Becky’s memory, please consider donating to the Evergreen chapter of the ALS Assn., any animal society, or the University of Montana Skaggs School of Pharmacy.