Mary Alice Bargfeld

Aug. 9, 1920 – May 18, 2013

Mary Alice Bargfeld was a smart, compassionate and fiercely independent woman who made the most of a hard life.

Born a farmer’s daughter on Aug. 3, 1920, in Norris, Mont., Mary worked with her parents, Albert Farwell Fisher and Anna Caroline Fisher (Kennedy); her five brothers, Abe, Bill, Art, Roy and Gene; and two sisters, Betty Patton and Alberta Duford, on the family homestead at Round Butte, Mont. She milked cows, raised chickens, stacked hay and helped with the inside chores as well. The family wasn’t wealthy– they had to till the fields with horses.

After graduation from Ronan High School in 1938, she married Henry Knight and bore a son, John. When World War II broke out, Mary moved to Portland, Ore., to learn to weld battle ships, while her husband fought overseas. Because of her light weight, she stood on a platform that was raised and lowered by co-workers from above by hand. She was truly a “Rosie the Riveter.”

After the war, she moved to Bell Crossing, Mont., and ran a service station with her husband. Times were tough and they were unable to make a go of it. Mary moved back to Ronan, Mont., and taught herself accounting.

She worked at Gold Medal dairy as an office manager.

After a divorce, she pretty much raised her son by herself. She moved to Missoula, Mont., in 1953, where she worked as the office manager and served as an officer at Meadowland Dairy.

In 1955, she married her second husband, Rusty Bargfeld, in Missoula. There they built two houses while working at their regular jobs. In 1977, she and Rusty decided to return to farming.

They bought a ranch at Arlee, Mont., and built a third house there, where they raised cattle, sheep, chickens and pigs – only this time she got to use tractors to cultivate the land. In spite of the bitter cold winters, Mary loved the ranch. She had a huge garden. Lots of the produce went to the neighbors, plus she had one of the valley’s most beautiful rose gardens. Mary helped deliver calves (she was once hospitalized by an angry mother), vaccinate cattle and set hand sprinklers, all while cooking and making homemade cherry pies freshly picked from the tree in back of the house. While at Arlee, she served on the water conservation board.

After Rusty died, the ranch became too much for her. In 1985, she moved to Waukesha to be near her family. She continued to garden, do volunteer work and help people do their taxes. But she didn’t like the snow and ice of Wisconsin, so she moved to Las Cruces, N.M., in 1994. She bought a house and started another garden. She joined a quilting group (you had to take a sewing test to become a member) and made several prize-winning quilts. One of her favorite activities was to walk along the Rio Grande River with family and friends.

She was greatly loved and will be missed by her son, John Knight (Lynn) of Waukesha; sister, Alberta Duford of Pablo, Mont.; grandsons, J.T. Knight of Las Cruces and T.J. Knight (Erin) Pasadena, Calif.; great-grandson, Ian Solt of Seattle; great-granddaughter, Olivia Knight of Pasadena, Calif.; and other extended family.