MISSOULA – Myra Ducharme, 77, of Missoula, passed away at home, with peace and dignity, on Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014. An adventurous child, this daughter of Benjamin and Leah Edelman first expressed her feminism in the form of outrage that her younger (male) cousin was allowed to climb the backyard tree, while it was “unsafe” for her, a girl, to do so. By the mid-1960s, armed with a master’s degree in social work and, to the horror of her mother, accompanied by two toddling daughters of her own, she knocked on doors and marched the streets of her Chicago home on behalf of equal housing rights.
Her innovative career in social work spanned more than 40 years. She was one of the Mothers of the Shelter movement, helping ensure the safety of women and children who were victims of domestic violence. She helped law enforcement officials develop protocols for dealing with child victims of sexual abuse. She stood strong with other women in Missoula’s Take Back the Night movement. She developed a free program for parent or other caretakers of child survivors of sex abuse. In her private counseling practice, she used art, sand play, a therapy dog and even llamas to help her very often low-income or otherwise disadvantaged clients. To the great credit of Judge John Larson, she even allowed one of her adolescent drug court clients to lead a full-grown llama into his courtroom!
And, oh, her art. Never hampered by either the need for recognition or perfection in the eyes of others, or her husband’s ability to frame, support, lift or transport the results, she simply did what she was inspired to do. Ranging from functional tableware, to jewelry, tabletop fountains, whimsical teapots, imaginative life-size face masks, and even yard turtles and ceramic waste baskets – she did it all. She initiated and led the Living Dolls performance that was so popular during some of the earlier years of First Night Missoula.
Myra is survived by her husband, Chuck Sperry, whom she taught what it truly means to love someone unconditionally; by her daughters, Dawne Swanson (and husband Mark Cole) of Puyallup, Washington, and Gail Swanson of Maui, Hawaii, who are eternally grateful for their close relationship with their mother and best friend; by her cherished younger sister, Bryna Livingston (and husband John) of Eugene, Oregon; by Chuck’s son, Charlie Sperry (and wife Tammy) of Boulder, and daughter, Fern Harmon (and husband Mike) of Three Forks; and by our precious rescue dog, Tyler. She is also dearly loved and will be missed by Andy, Jeff, Karen and Janet Livingston (Georgia, Wisconsin, Oregon, Oregon), and Donna, Robyn and Peter Ducharme (Illinois, Colorado, Illinois), whose lives she has profoundly influenced.
The Earth will never be the same without Myra Ducharme; she will be deeply missed by all whom she touched in this life. We simply cannot imagine a world without our beloved Myra.
In lieu of other recognition, Myra would be honored by donations to the Humane Society of Western Montana. A celebration of her life will be announced in late spring. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at whitesittfuneralhome.com.