Mildred Charlene Niebel Townsend passed away peacefully at home on Saturday, March 14, 2020. The second of four children, Charlene was born December 17, 1934 to George Wentworth Niebel and Mildred Olive (Sexton) Niebel.
Charlene’s early years were spent on the family ranch ten miles west of Bozeman on the Gallatin River Road. One of the family hay fields is where the Cottonwood Golf Course is now located and Charlene always said she fell off a runaway horse on the eighteenth hole. She had many happy memories and stories of life on the ranch and it was there she earned her nickname, “Tuffy”. When Charlene was six, the family moved to town to the family home on South Grand but kept the ranch until 1952.
Charlene attended grade school at Longfellow School and then junior high at The Emerson. During these early years she was active in 4-H, Brownies, Girl Scouts, and Rainbow Girls. She attended and graduated from Gallatin County High School in 1953. While in high school she belonged to the Future Homemakers of America where she was District President and State Historian, and she enjoyed playing her accordion and performing in a small musical group with friends. Charlene went on to attend Montana State College where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Home Economics Extension in 1957. During her college years she became a member of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority (AOII), and later she was a member of Home Economics Graduate Club, American Association of University Women (AAUW) and was a charter member of the Mountain View Home Extension Club.
During her school years and beyond Charlene worked various places such as F.W. Woolworths, Kiddieville, Mode O Day, and the Krafty Korner, and for a time she was a Tupperware dealer. Charlene volunteered for twenty years in the Montana Winter Fair Food Division and judged food entries at the summer 4-H fair. For two years she was in charge of the “Make It Yourself with Wool Contest” for Gallatin County.
On June 20, 1957, Charlene and Ronald Lee Callantine were united in marriage at the Grand Avenue Christian Church in Bozeman by the Reverend John E. Weston. Ron and Charlene lived in Seattle, Washington for five years where they both worked for Boeing Airplane Company. Charlene was a Clerk/Typist and typed manuscripts on the KC135 Jet Tanker and on the first Bomarc Missile.
In 1961 after their son, Kim, was born, they moved back to Bozeman to be closer to their families and to raise their family. In 1964 their daughter, Kendra, was born. Charlene put her children and family first with family dinners and gatherings, special holiday and birthday cookies and cakes, Sunday fried chicken dinners, and taught her children about the importance of tradition and family. Ron and Charlene built two homes south of Bozeman and enjoyed working with Kim and Kendra with their 4-H projects, including raising registered Hampshire sheep. In 1989 Ron and Charlene divorced.
In 1982 Charlene began working at Montana State University in the Res/Life Department. She worked eight years in the dining room at Miller cafeteria and fourteen years in the dining room at Hannon Hall, retiring in May 2004. She made many good friends during her time at MSU. After retirement, she continued to work at Hannon by decorating for their special dinners.
Charlene enjoyed many activities including gardening, canning, baking, snowmobiling, picking huckleberries, fishing, cross country skiing, and bowling. She kept an immaculate home and was always proud of her home and enjoyed entertaining. Charlene loved cats and had three special cats in her life – Ma Meow, Reverend Mr. Black, and Pretty Lady. In her later years she began collecting teddy bears and was very proud of her collection. She also loved photographing every family gathering and every trip and adventure she went on. Not only did she photograph everything, she meticulously organized, labeled and cataloged every photo.
A lifetime member of the Grand Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Bozeman, Charlene was active in church functions and the life of the church. There she became very good friends with James Lee Townsend who had previously lost his wife to cancer. On January 1, 2006, Jim and Charlene were united in marriage in Belgrade, Montana. Jim was the love of her life and was a wonderful friend and companion. They enjoyed many outings together with their boat and RV including spending a few winters in the southwest. They took many enjoyable trips both in and beyond the United States including New Zealand, Australia, and Mexico. One of their favorite past-times together was playing Rummikubs on Sunday evenings. Jim passed away in January of 2019 and soon after, Charlene decided to downsize and moved to a condo in town in the spring of 2019, just after having her annual family Easter dinner.
Charlene loved to travel and throughout her life she traveled whenever and to wherever she could, spending part of 2019 traveling with her daughter, Kendra, to a family wedding and other favorite destinations including Las Vegas and Yellowstone. She would visit her children and grandchildren wherever they lived and enjoyed road trips and other traveling adventures with them, including baseball tournaments, winery tours in St. Louis and attending the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Charlene was looking forward to more travel this spring and summer, including travel to attend a family wedding in Oregon and one in White Sulphur Springs.
To say that Charlene was immensely proud and loved with all of her heart her two grandsons, Adam and Aidan, is an understatement. Watching them grow up she attended every activity when possible, including their band concerts, baseball games and other sports activities. She loved to hear about what was going on in their lives and was so proud to watch them both graduate from high school, to see Adam graduate from Montana State University in 2016, and was looking forward to seeing Aidan graduate from MSU in May.
Charlene always looked forward to the fun family get-togethers at the holidays and birthdays with her siblings, Connie, Marilyn, and George, and their families, with Kim and Kendra and their families, and with other family and friends.
A supportive, kind and generous woman, she was always there to do what she could for her children, grandchildren and family. Her children loved her dearly, and she them, and they loved spending time together and with others enjoying a meal, playing Mexican Train, or just visiting.
Charlene was preceded in death by her parents; younger sister, Marilyn Carter; and her husband, Jim. She is survived by her sister, Connie (Herb) Townsend of White Sulphur Springs; brother, George Niebel of Bozeman; son, Kim (Leanne) Callantine of Missoula; daughter, Kendra Callantine of Bozeman; grandson, Adam White and his fiancé Lindy Henry of St. Louis, Missouri; and grandson, Aidan White of Bozeman; as well as many nieces and nephews and cousins.
Visitation with the family present will be Friday, March 20 at Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service from 4:00 to 7:00 P.M. A private family graveside service will be held on Saturday. Due to the current community health concerns, a Celebration of Life and Memorial Service will be held at a later date.
Memorials may be made to Grand Avenue Christian Church or the Gallatin History Museum.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com [dokkennelson.com]