Leona Mamie Maki, age 90, passed away on Aug. 12, 2017, at the Beartooth Healthcare Facility in Columbus of natural causes.
Mom, grandma and great grandma was born on April 16, 1927. She carried on the 100 percent Finnish heritage as the third child and only daughter of Mamie and Otto Nikula. On her day of birth, there had been a huge spring snowstorm and unable to go to the Red Lodge hospital, she was born in the family farmhouse, located on the Fox Bench area just north of Red Lodge. Her father walked to a neighbor and got the assistance of a midwife.
Leona attended grade school at the “Fox” country school located between Red Lodge and Roberts through the eighth grade. She rode her pony, “Lady,” to school every day she could. She attended and graduated from Red Lodge High School. After graduation she worked for a law firm in Cody, Wyo., and then in Red Lodge.
She met her true love and life-mate, William “Bill” Maki, at a dance in Red Lodge. They married on March 14, 1948. For all of Bill and Leona’s married years, they lived, farmed, ranched and raised their children on Whitebird Creek in Stillwater County, located south of Columbus.
Her life centered around her family She was a very loving and caring wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She had built-in “Sisu” (a Finnish word meaning extraordinary endurance and perseverance). The Maki doors were always open to family and friends where coffee and “korpua” (Finnish cinnamon toast) was offered and available. Her homemade “Finn” bread was to die for. She ground her own wheat from the family’s wheat acreage. Every family member devoured that great bread every change they got. It was a family staple. Several family members have tried making it — never like Mom’s, however.
Mom discovered years ago (in the 60s) she had a hidden talent when she attended some acrylic painting classes. Only a few classes and she was off creating some amazing and beautiful scenery paintings on canvas, as well as saws, bones, mailboxes, cream cans, shovels and any other surface she discovered would look great with a painting. She also managed to do crocheting, her specialty being elaborate dresses on dolls that are on display on a support stand. She managed to do several other types of arts and crafts, too numerous to mention.
In her middle-age years, she worked for the Clerk of District Court in Columbus for over 10 years, while still keeping her role as mother, housewife and right-hand partner in the farm/ranch business.
Survivors include daughters Charla (Steve) Lethert of Columbus and Susan Schaff of Billings; sons Charles (Chuck) Maki of Columbus and Dennis Maki (group home in Missoula) and daughters-in-law Tracey Maki and Bonnie Maki; grandchildren Brian and Kelli Lethert and family, Jeffrey and AnnMarie Lethert and family, Kobi Schaff and family, Camen Schaff, David Maki and family, Donald and Kelley Maki and family, Janell and Rusty Gibson and family. In this count of survivors she has 20 great-grandchildren.
Leona was preceded in death by her husband William “Bill” Maki (2007); son Roger Maki (2015) and grandson Gregory Lethert (1995).
The family wishes to thank all the doctors, nurses and supporting staff of the Billings Clinic hospital, Beartooth Healthcare Community and the Campassus Hospice and Palliative Care for the kind, caring and loving tenderness shown to our Mom.
Friends and family are invited to a graveside service on Friday, Aug. 18, at 2 p.m. at the Mountain View Cemetery in Columbus.
Condolences may be sent in Leona’s name to the family at 32 Whitebird Creek Road, Columbus, MT, 59019, or a direct memorial to the charity of your choice.
Mom was a gentle, loving soul and we cherish the 90 years we had her with us.