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MISSOULA — Mary Ellen Reese, 77, of Missoula, passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, at Hillside Health and Rehabilitation, of complications from dementia.

She was born on Nov. 26, 1941, in Penn Yan, New York, to Marjorie and William Bailey. As a young child, she lived with her mother, older sister, Barbara, and older brother, Stephen. When her father returned from World War II, her family relocated to Tokyo, Japan, where Mary Ellen spent the next six years while her father continued to serve in the military. She attended a school for military dependents and welcomed two new siblings, Carl and Elizabeth. The family’s next tour of duty was in the Washington, D. C. area, where Mary Ellen attended junior high and began her lifelong passion for horseback riding. The family was again stationed in Tokyo where Mary Ellen was able to take riding lessons in the Imperial stables. At the end of that tour of duty, Mary Ellen’s father was sent to Washington State University where he chaired the ROTC program. She graduated from Pullman High School in Washington state in 1959. Mary Ellen enrolled as a freshman at Washington State University where she pledged Delta Gamma. She met the love of her life, Gordon Reese, while working as a nurse’s aide at Pullman hospital. Gordon and Mary Ellen married on Oct. 21, 1961, and moved to Colville, WashinGton, where Gordon accepted a position in the local high school. A year later, they began the great adventure of their lives. They drove the Alcan Highway to Anchorage, Alaska, where they lived for the next 25 years. Mary Ellen worked for Wien Airlines, the Alyeska Ski Resort and Alaska Airlines while Gordon taught and coached at Anchorage High School. Their son, Scott, was born in Alaska. The family lived there until Gordon’s retirement. When he retired, they moved to Victor, Montana and were active members of the local cross-country ski club. Mary Ellen was able to raise and train her own Arabian horse. Together, they built an enviable life on a beautiful ranch in the Bitterroot Valley. In 2008, they left Victor and moved into Missoula. A loving wife and mother, Mary Ellen was a vibrant member of her church and community.

Survivors include her husband, Gordon OF Missoula; her son, Scott  of Bakersfield, California; two sisters, Elizabeth (John) Kozleski of Poulsbo, Washington, and Lynn (Zach Grenier) Bailey of Maplewood, New Jersey, and one brother, Carl (Tsuneko) Bailey of Arlington, Virginia. She also leaves behind three nieces, Michelle Potter, Victoria Murray and Heather LaDell.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Montana chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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