MISSOULA – Ethel Caras Diettert died peacefully Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, at St. Patrick Hospital, one day after celebrating her 88th birthday.
Ethel was born Nov. 28, 1926, to Samuel and Grace (Phillips) Caras. She was raised in Missoula, and her early years were spent helping her father at Garden City Floral and enjoying activities at the Orchard Homes Country Life Club. She attended Missoula County High School and graduated from St. Patrick's School of Nursing in 1947. She worked for St. Patrick Hospital from 1947 to 1950.
She met her future husband, Gerald Diettert, on a blind date and they were married nine months later on June 12, 1949. In 1950, they moved to St. Louis, where she worked at Marine Hospital and Barnes Maternity Hospital. She received a certificate for a “PHT” (Put Husband Through) Medical School. Together they raised four children and have 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
They returned from St. Louis in 1958, and Ethel became a homemaker with her primary focus on her husband and four children. She was a great cook, but occasionally resorted to “catch-as-catch-can." In 1970, the family opened Doc’s Dockyard, selling sailboats and marine accessories. Ethel grew the business and was responsible for many of the early sailboats that were enjoyed on Flathead Lake. In 1980, she returned to nursing, working the night shift at Community Medical Center until her retirement in 1988.
She enjoyed golfing and reading, and loved to play bridge. She belonged to the Cloverdale and University bridge clubs. She was an accomplished seamstress, quilter and knitter. She made blankets, quilts, Christmas stockings and clothing for her children, grandchildren and children’s shelters. In retirement, she was an expert at planning vacations, including sailing in the British Virgin Islands, eagle watching in British Columbia, a Panama Canal cruise and a polar bear excursion in Churchill, Manitoba.
She and her husband received many awards, including the University of Montana’s Missoula Community Citizen Award in 2007. The salutation from her Points of Light award in 2007 stated that Ethel exemplified the true spirit of senior service. Ethel served in the RSVP for more than 16 years, contributing an astonishing 2,800 community service hours to more than 20 Missoula nonprofit agencies, including American Heart Association, American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, First Night Missoula, Missoula Youth Homes, Missoula Cultural Council, A Carousel for Missoula, Ronald McDonald House and Watson Children’s Shelter, to name a few.
During the school year, Ethel was a deeply respected tutor at Hellgate Elementary. She helped Jo Fix’s third-grade students with reading, math and other subjects. During her life, Ethel was aware and responsive to the needs of family, friends, neighbors and the entire Missoula community. She led a life of caring, commitment, generosity and distinction for her children and grandchildren. She had an infectious smile and sweet, kind spirit that touched the hearts of all she met. She will be dearly missed by all.
Ethel is survived by her husband, Gerald Diettert; her four children, Craig (Beth) and Carol Knieper (Ken) of Missoula, Scott (Debbie) of Spokane and Bruce (Lynn) Rocklin, California; 15 grandchildren, Brandon, Josh, Kristin, Lauren and Morgan Diettert, Lacey Heidler, Brian, Allen and Jennifer Knieper, Jamie Williams, Jackie Myer, Erin and Michael Welch, and Stephanie and Jennifer Wilson; eight great-grandchildren, Hailey and Donald "Bubba" Heidler, Charlotte, Danika and Harper Knieper, David Gibson, Riley Welch and Drake Wilson; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. She was preceded in death by her father and mother; infant brother, Robert Caras; and sister, Grace Thomas.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at Garden City Funeral Home, 1705 W. Broadway, where a reception will follow. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Ethel’s life. Donations may be made in her honor to A Carousel for Missoula or AniMeals. The family would like to thank the caregivers and staff at Riverside Healthcare for their kindness, care and devotion to her during her recent stay.