|Lola Jean Whitehead|
Lola Jean Whitehead, 64, of 205 42nd St. S., a longtime Great Falls educator, died of cancer Thursday at Peace Hospice.
Cremation has taken place and a memorial service was held Thursday at Peace Hospice. No further services are planned for Great Falls, and burial will be at Mountain View Cemetery in Rapid City, S.D. Croxford Funeral Home and Crematory and Behrens Wilson Funeral Home in Rapid City are in charge of arrangements.
She is survived by her niece Michelle Tschetter and her grandnephew Geddy of Fort Collins, Colo.; uncles Clark and George Whitehead of South Dakota and Frank Whitehead of North Dakota, aunts Martha Nelson, Faye Haas and Jean Nesbitt; and cousins Karen Nelson and Joyce McIntosh. Lola's lifelong friends from South Dakota who kept up correspondence and visits include Sandy McCambridge, Linda Laughlin, Margaret Sager and Gary Crippen; and special friends Bob and Dee Haddock, Carol Entner and Donna Martz, all of Great Falls.
Lola was born the first daughter of Vivian (Bennett) and William L. Whitehead in Fort Wayne, Ind., on May 4, 1943. She was raised and gained her early education in South Dakota, earning her bachelor's degree in education from Black Hills State College in Spearfish, S.D. She later earned a master's in education from Northern Montana College.
She taught for two years in Belle Fourche, S.D., before heading west to Great Falls to begin her career with the Great Falls School District. She taught first at "Old Paris Gibson," then in the new building, and finally finished her career at Great Falls High School.
During her tenure, her expert teaching aided many students along their path to an education. Lola specialized in helping students who had a hard time with math, and many of them remember her fondly. She was especially close to Wendy Milligan, who every day for four years brought a lunch to "Ms. Whitehead," at her third-floor room in a campus too extensive for Lola to get around in. She retired from teaching in June of 2000, having spent 35 years in education.
Lola's teaching specialty was math, but her life's specialty was making new friends. She was short on family in Great Falls, but her circles of friends were many. She served as a mentor for several of the new math teachers starting in the district, some of whom were former students who had gone on to become math teachers themselves. One of them, Becky Frisbee, commented that Lola "made my transition (into teaching) so easy." To Michelle Flanagan, a fellow math teacher, she was "Lola Baby," and she loved the repartee among colleagues. So many people will remember Lola's easy laugh and generous ways.
Another circle of friends was her sewing club, which met regularly every week. Each member took turns hosting, but Lola's turn always meant pots of fresh coffee, refreshments galore and much laughter. That circle included Char Bell, Enid Ikeda, Anne Baack, Terri Reynolds, Linda Donovan, Debbie Kelly, Dee Haddock and Bonnie Jevne.
Lola also had a circle of gentlemen callers who spent hours at her house visiting, watching television and reading the paper. Phil Hanify, Earl Spong, Mike Hocevar and Ken Kelley were among those "callers" who sought friendship and Lola's wonderful hospitality. When she needed handyman help, she called on either Mike or her friend, Carl Rosenleaf, for whose children she was an honorary aunt, remembering their birthdays and special events.
A wider circle of people experienced Lola's generous hospitality during the Great Falls teachers' strike of 1989, when she opened her home, situated directly across from East Middle School. Lola made many new friends and earned the gratitude of fellow teachers for her endless line of treats and her bottomless pot of coffee during those difficult days.
The closest of Lola's friends was the court in which she had resided from 1972 to the end of her independent life. Those families were Lola's support group and her extended family. She was the "hostess with the mostest," holding many dinners and parties in her house. One of her friends commented that Lola put on a fresh pot of coffee every day and there was always someone there to help her drink it. Those families of the court include Nobby and Betty Johnson, lifelong friends who first welcomed Lola as a renter into their home; Lola's protectors and caregivers, Florence and Max Schumaker, for whose six children Sarah, Sandy, Kelly, Jimmy, Steven and Joey, Lola was an honorary aunt; Willy and Colleen Daniels; Mary Pat and Jerry Smith, dear friends to whom Lola talked every day and whose grandchildren and children, Jamie and Jeremy, loved Lola as an aunt; and Alice Klundt and Suzy Poole.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister, Dolores Whitehead; her longtime friend and companion Jeannette Underdal; and friends Diane Dailey and Chris Veatch.
Memorials in Lola's name are suggested to Peace Hospice of Montana, 2600 15th Ave. S., Great Falls, MT 59405, where Lola spent her last days in comfort and serenity, surrounded by the care and solicitude of the staff.
Family and friends would like to especially thank Drs. Handwerk and Guter, who cared for Lola during her 18-month illness.
Condolences may be posted online at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or www.gftribune.com/obituaries.
Funeral services will be 2:30 p.m., Friday Sept. 21, 2007 in Rapid City at Behrens-Wilson Funeral Home with Pastor Bruce Baum officiating. Interment will follow at Mt. View Cemetery. Visitation will be 1 hour before the service.