Patricia “Pat” Rehberg (nee Cooley) passed away on October 25 due to complications associated with an aggressive form of thyroid cancer. She was comforted by the many blessings that accompany a full and well-lived life.
Pat was born on November 15, 1933, on a ranch outside Lame Deer, Montana, the son of Ray and Dorothy (Herman) Cooley. He attended kindergarten at Hardin and received the rest of his education from him at Billings. She fondly remembered her time at Rimrock Elementary, where she spent recess and lunch exploring the Rims and wading through the High Ditch. He attended Lincoln Junior High and graduated from Billings Senior High School in 1951. After graduation, he enrolled at Eastern Montana College (EMC) and, to the surprise of her family, became a member of the cheerleading squad.
The course of nature derailed her studies when she (not so reluctantly) agreed to marry the neighborhood boy who was hell-bent on marrying her. On June 27, 1952, Pat and Jack Rehberg were married at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, a union that lasted 68 years and would have lasted at least 68 more if she had had the chance.
After her marriage to Jack, they moved into a trailer at Midland Guernsey Dairy. While Jack and his brother Wally handled the day-to-day operations of the dairy, Pat put the finishing touches (tarring the walls and installing a proper kitchen) on the cabin high up in the Rims that would become the home where they would raise their children. While raising his two children on the family ranch, Pat helped Jack out when he needed her by baking pies (from scratch) that were a staple at Milky Way Drive-In, a local restaurant owned and operated by Jack and the family. mother of him
When her children finished elementary school, Pat re-enrolled at EMC and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She spent the next eight years teaching first grade at Miles Avenue Elementary before becoming an itinerant reading specialist guiding new teachers on the fundamentals of reading for elementary students. During these years she enjoyed spending the summers camping and boating with her family in Yellowstone Park and Yellowtail.
Despite her claims that she was the “field side” of the marriage, as opposed to her more “sophisticated” husband, Pat will always be remembered by friends and family for her consummate poise and grace. She enjoyed and took pride in many of life’s simple pleasures, reading, knitting, cooking and providing boundless love to her family and friends. She was an active member of PEO, Chapter E, a member of several book clubs, an accomplished hand and machine knitter, and the person who could effortlessly prepare a feast suitable for a group of twenty people at any given time. She hosted family dinners on Sundays well into her eighties, an event that was opt-out rather than opt-in, thus giving those who would not attend the unfortunate duty of notifying her personally in advance.
Throughout her life, Pat took time to remind the people around her how much she loved them. There was no gift received, no kind gesture offered, that she did not receive a handwritten thank you card. During the first night of a NILE rodeo, one of the cowboy’s shirts ripped, so she took it off and threw it to Pat, who was sitting in the front row. That night she washed and mended the shirt, folded it neatly, and returned it to the young man the next night with a handwritten note expressing her gratitude and offering some kind advice.
Despite their reluctance to travel by plane, Pat and Jack traveled the world extensively, often following their mutual admiration for figure skating. They attended several World Figure Skating Championships where they became friends with many of the skater’s family members through their conversations in the stands. Pat enjoyed the relaxed lifestyle aboard a cruise ship. She and Jack shared her love of cruising with her family, taking all of her grandchildren on a cruise for her eighteenth birthday. It was on these cruises that most of them learned the true depth of their grandmother’s love and patience. Granny was, after all, equal parts Mary Poppins and Ms. Manners, with a dash of Calamity Jane.
Pat is survived by her children Shanna (David) Henry and Dennis (Janice) Rehberg, her brother Robert (Sheri) Cooley, her five grandchildren, Jaclyn, Ryan, AJ, Katie and Elsie, and seven great-grandchildren.
While the service will be private for the family, everyone is invited to attend a reception on November 25 at 12:30 at Pat’s home. Memorials can be made in Pat’s name at the Eugene Herman Language Clinic of the Scottish Rite, 514 14th St. W, 59102.