Obituary: Ruth McClain (Speer) Steele

Posted at 11:26 AM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 13:26:46-04

Ruth McClain (Speer) Steele passed away May 17, 2020. She was born on Christmas Day 1923 to Otis Huston Speer and Anna Emma (McClain) Speer near Glasgow, Montana. The area where she was born and the family farm where she lived as a child are now under Fort Peck Reservoir. She had two brothers, Otis Eugene “Bud” Speer and Lemuel Pine Speer.

When Fort Peck Dam was built, the family moved to Billings. Her dad then moved to Alaska and her parents subsequently divorced. In later years, her mother married Lutcher Arthur Payant and they had one son, Lawrence “Larry” Arden Payant.

Ruth graduated from Billings High School. In the late ‘30s, her father came back in summers to visit the family and supported her through Billings Business School. She subsequently worked at Northwest Airlines and Carter Oil (now ExxonMobil).

She met William Joseph Steele of Billings who served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. When Bill was home on leave before going overseas, he and Ruth eloped and were married June 20, 1943 in Roundup. They were both 19. After the war, the couple moved to Bozeman, where Bill attended Montana State College and worked for the Department of Highways. During this time, Ruth was a legal secretary at several law firms in Bozeman. Ruth and Bill had two children, Lynda Kay and William Edward. When her son, Bill, started college, Ruth went back to work as an administrative secretary at MSU. After her children both graduated from college, Ruth and Bill traveled extensively all over Montana and through much of the west.

Family was extremely important to Ruth all her life and when the children were young, Ruth and Bill were heavily involved in PTA, both serving as PTA President. She taught Bible School at the Bozeman Presbyterian Church and served on the Board of Deacons. Ruth was active in civic affairs including March of Dimes and Jayceens, where she was President in 1959-60. During that time, Jayceens sponsored the college rodeo in the Fieldhouse and the rodeo parade. She was also involved in Cub Scouts, Bluebirds (Campfire Girls), and enjoyed lots of picnics and other outdoor day activities with family. Ruth’s life was very full and she enjoyed it completely.

Ruth was preceded in death by her husband of 67 years, Bill, and her son, Bill. She was also preceded in death by her parents and stepfather, and her brothers, Bud and Larry.

She is survived by her daughter, Lynda of Bozeman; brother, Lem of Billings; goddaughter, Ashley Jane Holland of Mesa, AZ; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Cremation has taken place and services will be announced at a later date. Memorials may be made to Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, PO Box 11390, Bozeman, MT 59719.