Clara Elizabeth Bessler


(May 21, 2004)

Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday, May 21 at St. Barbara's Catholic Church for Clara Elizabeth (Gregory) Bessler, 96, who died Sunday, May 16 in Powell.

She was born April 12, 1908, in Bay City, Mich., to Simon (Gregoire) Gregory and Louise Hebert Gregory. She entered a convent at age 16, but returned to her family when she became homesick.

She worked for a while as a telephone operator, but her father had other plans. The family's landlord, Joseph John (J.J.) Bessler and Clara's father conspired to introduce their adult children by sending Clara to pay the rent. Bessler's son, Leo, thereafter always wore a sprig of lily of the valley in his hatband when he courted Clara. It must have charmed her. They were married on April 12, 1928, in Chicago.

By 1931, Leo's parents and brothers had homesteaded in Powell. Leo and Clara packed themselves, everything they had and their first child, Dorothy, into a Model T Ford and traveled to Powell to join the family on the East Willwood. J.J. Bessler died in 1933 and in 1941, Clara and Leo purchased the farm from Grandma Bessler. They worked the farm, raising crops and kids, until Leo's tragic death in 1966.

Clara is survived by two daughters and five sons: Rita Peterson (Pete) of Laurel, Mont.; Helen Brandes (John) of Moses Lake, Wash.; Leo E. (Nick) Bessler of Powell; Paul Bessler (Barbara) of Clancy, Mont.; Denis Bessler (Pat) of Helena, Mont.; Francis Bessler of Laramie; and Bob Bessler (Linda) of Powell; 22 grandchildren; at last count, 35 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents; three brothers and four sisters; her husband, Leo P. Bessler; her daughter, Dorothy Chapman; and her great-granddaughter, Teri Jo Bradish.

Clara is remembered by her family as a faithful member of St. Barbara's Catholic Church and a woman of great faith. She served as a founding board member of Powell's Senior Citizens Center and was active in the Willwood Women's Club and VFW Auxiliary for many years. She loved reading and participated in the Library Club, loved music and supported the Wyoming Fiddlers Association and loved to dance and did so beautifully and at every opportunity.

As the mother of eight children and a farmer's wife, Clara was a mom who accepted teasing and was known to dish it out as well. Her first language was French; for years she referred to the "little house out back" as "ma petit maison." She gardened and always had a row of flowers amongst the vegetables. She canned cupboards full of food every fall and was an excellent cook. She baked mountains of bread and patched a sea of blue jeans. She enjoyed sewing, hooking rugs, embroidery and ceramics. Well into her 80s, Clara committed herself to visiting "the old people" at the nursing home. She carried funny stories, cartoons, prayers and words of encouragement around in her purse (it was a really big purse!), just to share with her family and friends, all of whom will miss her loving presence very much.

Rosary will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, at St. Barbara's Catholic Church. Visitation will be one hour before the Thursday rosary and one hour before the Friday Mass. Christian burial will be in Crown Hill Cemetery. Memorials may be made to St. Barbara's Catholic Church or the Powell Senior Citizen's Center. Arrangements are by Miratsky-Easton Funeral Home of Powell.