Patricia Ann (McKerlie) Rapkoch

Patricia Ann (McKerlie) Rapkoch, 90, passed away on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 at Grandview. 

A vigil service will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 15, 2017 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 201 44th Street S, Great Falls. Funeral liturgy will be at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 at Holy Spirit. Rite of Committal will be 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Lewistown, with a reception following at the Lewistown Senior Center. Arrangements are in the care of O’Connor Funeral Home.

Patricia was born to Victor Ray and Helena (Wernli) McKerlie on Jan. 23, 1927, in Lewistown, and she grew up there. 

As a child, she enjoyed time on her grandmother’s (Gran) ranch, accompanying her father on his grain elevator construction trips around the state, playing French horn, piano and cello in the school bands and orchestras, as well as at the Presbyterian Church. 

Coming from a family of strong, well-educated women, Pat bravely boarded a train for California to attend Mills College, a women’s school in Oakland. There she received her BA in music, training as a concert pianist, studying under the likes of Darius Milhaud. One semester, Dave Brubeck was on campus, as his brother was on faculty.

While at Mills, Pat met a handsome young man named Pete on a blind date, and they were together for good. They married just days after her graduation from Mills, poor as church mice. Living in California, Montana and Oregon, and Oklahoma when Pete was activated for the Army Reserves during the Korean conflict, they welcomed children as God gave them. When Pete graduated from law school in Missoula, the family included five children. They moved to Lewistown that day, and began life in the legal community the next. Six more children joined the family over the years.

Words and brain games were very important to Patricia - she and Pete pored over the Sunday crossword puzzle, she was the original Grammar Police, and she was unbeatable in Scrabble and Boggle. Receiving a card or letter in the mail particularly pleased her, and she kept many of them over the years.

Displaying a streak of impish trouble-making and fun-seeking, Patsy threw the first volley, establishing the annual Easter breakfast food fight. She introduced the family to Yahtzee and the practice of beating on the table in victory. All the kids were summoned by the dinner bell heard throughout the block, as well as the litany of names. Never ask her “Why?” when she said “No”, and do not refer to her as “She”. 

The best housekeeping was done with a cap plopped on her head and the Beach Boys blaring from the stereo. The wee hours of the morning were her most productive time - she was a night owl, playing the piano as the family drifted off to sleep, then cleaning pots and pans, or sewing, until the tenor art songs on public radio told her it was time for bed.

The soul of an artist resided in Pat. An accomplished seamstress, she sewed most of the girls’ clothing and much of the boys’, satisfying both her frugal and creative natures. Prom dresses were unique and skillfully tailored. Following one wedding, she returned to the dress to sew on buttons that had been overlooked. Pat Rapkoch, like one of her many hand-sewn prom dresses, was cut from rich fabric and stitched to last.

Her idle doodles were pieces of art, and she never lost her eye for color - homes were designed and decorated with vibrancy, and she loved wearing bright colors, claiming that “no one listens to me when I wear beige”.

Putting her music education to use, Pat taught choir for a couple of years at St. Leo’s in exchange for tuition for her children. She taught piano lessons to young people til she was in her 80s, and played organ and piano at St. Leo’s in Lewistown for 43 years before moving over into the choir to sing alto. Pat played for weddings and countless funerals, and accompanied many a young performer for Festivals and recitals. Her own students performed in the spring, followed by a reception at which she served her famous Aunt Ethel cookies. The chewy goodness of the buttery cookie topped with coconut, chocolate and nuts enticed the would-be virtuosos back for the next year of lessons.

Cooking was a necessary annoyance, something Patsy thought needed spice. “Fixing” everyday meals was punctuated by burst of experimentation ~ she tried various recipes, especially from her beloved old Regional Cookbook, often just once. Watermelon rind pickles, sauerbraten, California tongue, Asian food before it was a thing, bacalao for a lonely exchange student from Portugal, the infamous pfeffernusse, pumpkin pie with a layer of mincemeat on the bottom ~ these kept her creative juices flowing.

Patricia was very proud of her Scottish and Swiss heritage, and of the Polish into which she married. She honored her mother, mother-in-law and elderly aunt by caring for their needs as they aged and their affairs after their death. Her sons-in-law were highly favored, sure to receive one of her small jewel jars of jelly.

Raised a Presbyterian, Patricia became a Catholic before marrying Peter, and embraced the faith life and culture of the Church. Nightly Rosary was the habit, begun as supper was finished, and followed by the family singing together. Years later, Mom admitted it was less of devotion than it was crowd control while the kids were at home, but the two of them continued to pray the Rosary together every night. They were deeply in love with one another. Even though Mom was chronically late, Dad said it was one of the endearing characteristics she had. True to form, he waited 19 years for her to join him in heaven. They are together again.

Pat’s life changed dramatically with three events - Pete’s death at 72, a slight stroke and daughter Vicki’s move in with her. She gave Vicki the 10 best years Vicki had ever had, a package deal along with a pooch, Leesha. When Vicki died in 2011, it was time for another change. Mom moved up to Great Falls, to live with Mary for two years. Her mobility necessitated a move to the Goodnow Cottage at the Grandview. The family is grateful to Holy Spirit for welcoming Mom into the parish and the choir, and to the staff at the Goodnow, for pampering and loving “Patty” for the last three years of her life. She was content and happy, and that is a great comfort to her children.

She is survived by sons, Christopher of Weston Oregon, Joseph (Nina) of Shelby Montana, John (Michele) of Western Australia, Mark (Kim) of Laurel, Montana, and Thomas (Amanda) of San Francisco, California, daughters Antonia (Rob) Dean of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mary (John) Dupuis of Great Falls Montana, Gabrielle (Mohammad) Taheri of Tacoma Washington, Kathleen (Terry) Hogg of Lewistown, Montana and Margaret Rapkoch of Tacoma, Washingtong. Also surviving are grandchildren Libby, Patrick, Ryan, Pete, Francois, Genevieve, Jacques, Cassie, Victor, Emily, Reza, Guita, Brad, Lindsey, Kevin, Colin, Matt, Grant, Noah, Jeremy, Kyle, Mariah, Brandon, Megan, Sydney, Eva and 11 great-grandchildren.

Pat was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Peter, daughter Victoria, two infant children, Patrick and Rosalie, and brother John.

Condolences may be shared with the family online at OConnorFuneralHome.com.

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