Bowling legend Dorothy “Dot” Lee (Birdsong) Callender, 101, died of natural causes at her home in Choteau on June 10, 2021 — just two months shy of her 102nd birthday.
Dorothy was born on Aug. 5, 1919, in Butte to Ione (Ellis) and Ralph Schermer. Her father left the family when she was an infant, and her mother later married a man whose surname was Birdsong, the name Dorothy took for her own.
In her younger years, Dorothy spent a lot of time in Texas with her grandfather’s family. In about 1930, she and her family returned to Butte, where she attended school, and at age 16 went on to Montana State College in Bozeman, where she took a secretarial course.
She then came back home to Butte and was working selling ice cream and rollerskating in her free time. While she was working, she met a miner named Allen Bruce Callender Sr., the love of her life. They were married in 1938 in Butte.
During World War II, she worked briefly as a military secretary for the 7th Ferrying Group at Gore Hill and East Base (now Malmstrom Air Force Base) at Great Falls, but when Allen needed to go to Spokane, Washington, for work, she went with him.
After the war, the family moved to the Castle Mountains near White Sulphur Springs, where Allen and Dorothy both worked for the Manger Ranch on what is now the Galt Ranch. Dorothy was pregnant with their first daughter, and they were working in the remote mountains, where Allen was mining a tract.
After the mine didn’t prove out, they both returned to the Manger Ranch, where Dot learned to run a team of horses and a rake in the hayfields.
She loved to go fishing with her family on the Smith River and nearby creeks and reservoirs, catching brook and rainbow trout and cooking them on the campfire.
The family then moved to Great Falls where Dot held a number of jobs. She briefly worked for the U.S. Postal Service and then became a legal secretary for the firm of Great Falls attorney (and future lieutenant governor of Montana) Ted James.
After that, she worked as Great Falls businessman Frank Buttrey’s private secretary. Buttrey owned food and clothing stores in Great Falls. After he retired, Dorothy continued with the business, working as a secretary for Buttrey Realty.
She and Allen raised their children in Great Falls and were active in their community. They both belonged to the Fraternal Order of the Eagles Post #14, and Dorothy participated in the Eagles Drill Team, marching in parades. She was captain of the team from 1961 to about 1973, and she and Allen also participated in the FOE clown club.
She and Allen also belonged to the Elks Club and took part in Elks activities as well.
In about 1983, she and Allen moved to Choteau, where their son, Bruce Callender and his family, had settled. Dorothy went right to work here for insurance and land agent Carl Field and stayed with his office in Choteau until his death.
Dorothy was an avid bowler for 60 years of her life. She and Allen bowled frequently in Great Falls, and when they moved to Choteau, they kept up their activities first at A&K Lanes and then at The Alley Cat.
In December of 2008, the Choteau Women’s Bowling League recognized Dorothy as one of the four “Grand Duchesses” of bowling in town: Dorothy, Elsie Agee, Kay Zier and Edith Southard. Dorothy bowled from 1956 to 2007 and never missed a day and served as a scorekeeper in Choteau from 1988 to 2005. She also served as league secretary.
Her husband passed away in 1991 and she continued to live independently in Choteau. A few years after Allen’s death, her daughter Peggy Archer moved in with her to help her stay in her home.
Family and friends will always remember Dorothy’s best in the country apple pie, chocolate fudge cake and homemade lemonade.
Dorothy is survived by her children, Barbara Grilley (Tim Tabert), Peggy (Phil) Archer and Bruce (Barbie) Callender, all of Choteau; her nephew, Bob Callaway of Reno, Nevada; two nieces, Margaret and Elizabeth; 12 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
Gorder-Jensen Funeral Home of Choteau is handling funeral arrangements.
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