Helen May Rice

September 22, 1931 ~ August 4, 2020 (age 88)


Helen May Rice (née Tangen) was born September 22, 1931 at Choteau, MT to Pearl and Gregor Tangen and passed away August 4, 2020.  Her father was a clever and fun Norwegian from the village of Bø in Telemark Norway and her mother a very collected and fastidious person from a Quaker family. She took after both her parents—she kept a perfect and organized house, but was also fun-loving and with a quick wit.

Helen graduated from Choteau High School in 1949.  She married Donald Charles Rice from Pendroy March 18, 1950 in Choteau, MT.  They farmed and raised a family on the Pendroy Bench, north of Choteau. Son Jay was born in 1951, followed by Dorothy in 1954, and Shirley in 1957. In 1986 Helen and Don retired and moved to Choteau, to their lovely home across from the school with beautiful flowers out front and a big garden behind.

Helen loved to quilt, bowl, and play cards, bingo and Pokeno at the Senior Center.  She had an astonishing memory for the history and families of Teton County.  Her memory for details was so sharp that her family liked to play a game of asking her a question, then racing to see if they could look up the answer more quickly in the local Teton County or Pendroy community history books. Helen’s memory was always quicker and full of more detail than the books, but it was fun to try.

Christmas each year brought out Helen’s Norwegian heritage.  She would make lefse, krumkake and rosettes. She also liked lutefisk and pickled herring, which were less enticing for her grandkids. Helen and her daughters enjoyed a trip to Norway where they visited many cousins and the home where her father was born.

Helen contributed countless volunteer hours to the Methodist Church, the Choteau Senior Center and Teton County 4-H, first as a 4-H leader then as a longtime judge at the county fair. She was a very active member of both the Pendroy and Choteau communities.

Helen is survived by her sister Judy (Leonard) Ober of Helena, son Jay (Linda) of Choteau, daughter Shirley (Terry) Ernst of Lewistown and son in law Mike Knodel of Hayden, ID. She is also survived by grandchildren Tucker (Elicia) Rice of Lewistown, Tara Rice (Patrick Holmes) of Helena, Heather Ernst of Bozeman, Brady Ernst (Carlynn Schwalm) of Bozeman and Jeffrey Ernst of Portland, OR. Helen also has five great grandchildren and was looking forward to number six due this fall. She is also survived by sisters in law Una Coleman of Conrad and Lucille Rice of Bynum plus numerous nieces and nephews.

Helen was preceded in death by her parents Gregor and Pearl Tangen, husband Don, daughter Dorothy, brother Herb Tangen and sister in law Patty Tangen.

A celebration of life will be Sunday, August 9th at 2pm graveside at Choteau Cemetery. You are welcome but due to Covid19, we don't expect you to put yourself in harm's way. We anticipate a small gathering of family and friends. God bless

Memorials in Helens name may be sent to Choteau senior Citizens Center, Choteau Methodist Church, Montana 4-H Foundation or a charity of your choice.

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