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Central Montana Obituaries

In memory of those we've lived with,

loved with,

and learned with.

Our finest regards.


After a life gracefully and generously lived, Leona Barta, 95, died in her home in Lewistown on April 15, 2015.  

Leona Margaret Miller was delivered by a female doctor on January 10, 1920 in Grass Range, Montana, the first in her family to be born in a hospital.

Her life would develop with some central loves:  Love of family, love of words, books, and writing, love of dancing, love of gardening, love of her faith, and love of peacefulness.

As a child, Leona thrived in her large German farm family surrounded by her parents, two brothers, and four sisters.  As she reached school age, she and her sister would climb aboard the family horse, “Old Jim,” every school day morning, disappear into the hills to Coffee Creek Elementary School, and arrive safely home at the end of the day atop Jim’s faithful stride.   She attended Fergus High School where she completed her studies in three and one half years.

Leona’s Catholic confirmation was at Saint Wenceslaus Church in Danvers, along with several other youngsters, among them one young Henry Barta who would enter her life later and become her husband.  He would describe his experience of their first meeting as adults with this reflection:  “I walked into the room and there was this dark haired, brown eyed beauty.”

During their courtship years, Henry and Leona went to dances at various nearby towns where they enjoyed dancing to live music.  They enjoyed reading books together and taking Sunday drives around Central Montana.

Leona and Henry were married on April 21, 1941 in Lewistown.  Their honeymoon began on a train ride starting in Harlowton, with Seattle as their destination.

In their early married years Henry was a bridge guard during WWII and when he was on duty Henry and Leona would drive to the spring creek trestle and read books to each other, interrupted only by Henry’s scheduled checks of the bridge for enemy sabotage.  They also continued to attend the weekend dances at the Danvers Hall, bringing their children who also danced until they were worn out.  Then Leona and Henry tucked their danced-out children in to slumber in the small sleeping rooms lining the dance hall, later carrying them to the car, fast asleep, when the dances were over.

Early in their life together they purchased a farm in Central Montana where they raised their seven children: Terri, Vonnie, Peggy, Bud, Rick, Randy, and Kim.  The family they created, along with both of their large extended families, defined their lives.

Leona was a member of the Saint Wenceslaus Altar Society and the Danvers Women’s Extension Club.  Henry and Leona celebrated 58 years of marriage before Henry’s death in 1999.

Precious among Leona’s activities after her family was raised was travelling to visit her children living away, participating in her grandchildren’s’ lives and activities, and her morning coffee meetings with her sisters Dodie Comes, Tootie Walters, Patsy Sweeney, and sister-in-law Mary June Miller. In recent years the three Miller sisters, Leona, Tootie and Pat could be seen at various restaurants in Lewistown enjoying their shared times together.  Sisters Pat and Tootie will miss Leona and their weekly gatherings which are now treasured memories that will live in their hearts forever.  

A master of the written word, Leona entered and won numerous writing contests throughout her life and demonstrated her facile vocabulary in her unwavering skill at word games and puzzles.  In her final weeks she was still sharing crossword puzzles with her children.

Leona also enjoyed the Saturday dances at the Senior Center and volunteered at the Central Montana Medical Center and the Treasure Depot.  She had an unquenchable love of learning, was an avid reader, learned how to access information on the internet, and frequented the Lewistown Library, collecting several books at a time to take home and read.  Her donated African violets grace the east windows of the library.

As a lover of gardening, Leona enveloped her home in the tender embrace of multi-colored blooms which she coaxed into being despite the deer perennially snacking in her yard.  She made her home a refuge of serenity and welcome.

Leona was reserved in her manner, yet powerfully influential on those around her due to her quiet wisdom and selfless grace.  Forgiveness came easily to her as did generosity, acceptance, intuitiveness humor, understanding, love of unity and peace, and friendship toward everyone.

She taught us how to live and she taught us how to die.  With open-hearted devotion she taught us how to love.  Unwaveringly and unconditionally.  Having Leona Margaret Miller Barta as a mother, a grandmother, a sister, mother-in-law, aunt, and friend has been an astonishing, privileged, and honored experience.   

Leona is survived by her children, their spouses,  and her grandchildren, and great grandchildren:  Terri, Shawn (Michelle, Kaelin and Teagen),and Collin;  Vonnie, Allison,(Dexter and Jayden);  Peggy, Maggie, and  Matt;  Bud, Rosemarie, Joe (Amber, Hayden and Lane), Nick (Melissa, Ashlyn, Kaden, and Colton), and Chelsie (Blake and Grayson); Rick, Doris, Janel (Rocky, Mitchell, Payton and Ryker), Jeri, and Mike;  Randy, Susan, Josh (Kathy and Samuel), and Jake (Anna);  Kim, Katie, Jonah and Laura; her sisters Pat Sweeney and Tootie Walters , as well as numerous nieces and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her husband Henry Barta, parents Mike and Theresa Miller, brothers Leo and Al Miller, and sisters Dodie Comes and Betty Walters.

Viewing will be from 5-8 PM Tuesday, April 21 at Saint James Episcopal Church. Vigil services are at 6 PM. To accommodate Leona’s family and friends, Funeral Services, officiated by Reverend Jean Collins, will be held at the First Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, April 22 at 10:30 AM.  

In a casket exquisitely designed and built by her four sons, wrapped in a quilt made by her children, Leona’s committal will follow at Mount Calvary Cemetery.  Immediately following the committal ceremony a lunch will be held for all of Leona’s family and friends at Saint James Episcopal Church parish hall.

Memorials can be donated to Saint James Episcopal Church and Hospice of Central Montana.

Service arrangements are under the care of Creel Funeral Home.  Leona’s family and friends can share memories and condolences online at