VISTA, California — Mary Margaret Beck-Higgins, 74, formerly of Missoula, died Aug. 2 at home in Vista, California, after living strongly with cancer for nine years. From the room where she died Mary looked out over the yard where she and Jim, her husband of 26 years, grow palms, oaks, succulents, and flowers that attract birds and butterflies.
Mary was born in Bismarck, North Dakota, on Oct. 6, 1944, to Andrew P. Beck and Marie O. (Bruns) Beck, the fourth of six children. She graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in Missoula in 1963, then graduated as an art major from the University of Montana.
Throughout her life Mary worked as an artist, living in the Midwest and Montana and finally settling in southern California. She also taught special education classes in public schools. Mary worked thoughtfully with her students, encouraging and helping them set realistic goals. Some of her high school students read their first books in her classes. When she retired from teaching she returned to full-time artwork, painting the ocean, the California desert, Montana mountains, and still lifes. She was deeply committed to her artwork and to her husband, Jim, who would often join her as she walked the beach photographing the breaking waves, pulling inspiration for her paintings
In the 1980s Mary moved across the country to Tampa, Florida, to care for her sister Rita who was dying of cancer. Mary and her husband together cared for her oldest sister, Patricia, for eight years when Patricia lived in Oceanside, near Vista. These are just a few examples of Mary's lifelong generosity to her family and friends.
Preceding Mary in death were her sisters Rita Green and Patricia Peterson; brothers-in-law Gerald Green and Robert L. Peterson; and nephew John F. Peterson. She is survived by her husband James W. Higgins; Leo (June) Beck; Nan (Ray) Breuninger; and Barbara (Daniel) Ballas. She loved the younger generations of the family and involved herself in their lives: James Higgins; Michelle Higgins; Hester Peterson Triplett; Karen, Mike and Rob Peterson; Kevin, Michele, and Jason Beck; Anna and Andy Breuninger; Julia, Maria, and Susanna Ballas; and many grandnieces and grandnephews.
A memorial service will be held in Missoula in October.