MISSOULA — Theresa Marie Willems Nugent passed away April 10, 2019, at the age of 91.
Theresa was born Feb. 20, 1928, at home during an old fashioned blizzard, in Hedgesville to Henry Willems and Bernice Cunnington Willems. When she was six they moved to a small dairy farm in Judith Gap, Wheatland County. Theresa said the 1979 movie Heartland, filmed in Wheatland County, captured the atmosphere of her formative years. She attended school in Judith Gap, graduating in 1946. Theresa moved to Butte to attend Butte Business College. While waitressing at a local cafe she met James Patrick Nugent who had recently returned from serving 29 months with the army in Ireland, England, and Europe. They were married June 3, 1947, and had five children. In 1954, during a major strike in Butte, the family, with three children, moved to Missoula. Theresa was a homemaker, sewing most of the family’s clothing, baking bread and desserts, volunteering at her children's school and St. Francis Xavier church while supporting her husband's work for the Montana Power Company, as a City of Missoula Ward 2 alderman and a representative from Missoula to the Montana State Legislature. James died suddenly in 1970, leaving Theresa with two young children. In 1974 they moved to Stevensville. Theresa worked at the Stevensville Nursing Home and attended the University of Montana. In 1979 they moved to Helena. She graduated from Carroll College in 1981. Theresa was a social worker for 12 years, eight of which were at Montana Developmental Center in Boulder. She retired in 1993. In 1994 she joined the foster grandparent program and was assigned to Jim Darcy School in Helena where she tutored children in math and reading. She loved working at her Helena grandchildren’s school. In 2013 she retired and moved to Missoula, living at Grizzly Peak until her death.
Theresa crocheted lovely blankets for grandchildren and great-grandchildren and showered the family with baked goods. She loved to read and read extensively. One of the highlights of her life was visiting, on more than one occasion, the Turn the Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland, where she met, had pictures taken with and received autographs from best-selling novelist Nora Roberts.
Theresa was preceded in death by her parents, husband James, brothers Harry, Stanley, and Joseph and her beloved daughter in law Janet. She is survived by her sisters Rose and Bernice and her children and their spouses: Jim and wife Janice, John, Teri Fellon, and husband Dale, Joe and wife Nancy and Tina Bright and husband Gary. She is also survived by 14 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
Memorials may be donated to the City of Missoula for a memorial drinking fountain or to Jim Darcy School in Helena.