Helen Brewer Orestad, age 97 of Miles City, passed away at home with family by her side on October 10, 2021.
Helen Brewer was born on the farm three miles south of Elk Point, S.D. fifth of nine children, on Feb. 23, 1924. Her father was a well driller, her mother, a teacher.
She met Peter Edward Orestad (Ed) at a dance at the Town Hall north of Sioux City, Iowa. He returned to Montana and they corresponded for a year. Returned to his sister’s in Sioux City. They were married on August 8, 1941
Bad luck struck again. After the Friday wedding, he was taken to the Hawarden hospital with appendicitis on Saturday evening. He recuperated at Helen’s sisters and they left for Montana where Ed could get a job herding sheep where no heavy work was involved. They were offered a job on the old Biddle and Ferdon ranch owned by Hank Dykes. He ruptured his surgery, and they went to work for Charles Miles herding sheep. Car payments, Doctor bills and hospital bills were met. At Christmas, the weather was too severe for her to stay in the sheep wagon, so she went home with her parents. Ed came down in February. They stayed with his sister and he picked up odd jobs at the hide cellar and packing houses. In April Ed was hired by a construction company to build a bomber base for the government at Sergeant Bluff, where they rented an apartment. Joseph Edward was born on May 26th. The base was completed in August and they moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to help his sister. Ed got a job in the Milwaukee railroad shops. First of December, he transferred to Miles City Milwaukee Railroad shops, and they rented an acreage. Here they raised a garden, fryers and bought calves. Madonna Mae was born. The war ended and Ed took a ranch job working for Harry Brown at Powderville, taking their cattle along. The next move was to Sid Richardson’s where they managed the 6 mile ranch until Sid’s father passed away and Sid moved back there. They returned to Harry Brown’s where James was born. Harry’s son returned home, so they helped Walter Elgin move to Biddle, trailing up his herd of cattle and a band of sheep. They lived in the Fred Rue Cabin until the next spring when they sold their cattle and bought the Walter Romasko Section. No building, no fences, no well. Ed worked for Albert Brown in the summer. In the winter, they went to Sioux City where Ed worked for the Milwaukee railroad and she cleaned houses, saving their money to make a home on the section. Albert Brown donated an abandoned homestead shack which they disassembled and moved to the section. They lived in a tent, cooked on a campfire, put up the log house, dug a well. The family moved up to their section in Sept. 1949 and Joe and Donna started Spring Creek School. Helen was rushed to Miles City on Sept 26 with an appendix attack. They had started to fence posts cut from the cottonwood trees which Helen had cut while Ed was at work. Browns and hauled up weekends with the old 1927 Chevrolet truck. Neighbors helped finish the well and some of the fence. Lillian was born in 1955 and Mary Ann in 1957. They bought a set of logs erected to the eaves in Miles City and moved them to the ranch. They had it put up and were shingling the roof when Helen returned home with Mary. In 1960, they bought the Rob Mann holdings from Harvey Carter and moved to the road and modern conveniences. Later they bought the Frank Moths place, trading it later to the Krutzfelds and buying the Thulesen holdings. In 1988, they bought some WL ranch sections. In 1980 when Ed got cancer, Tom and Lillian Ostendorf bought the Thulesen part of the ranch. Helen purchased the Mosby homestead in 2007. Helen began teaching when a teacher was fired in 1955. She taught for 18 years in rural schools. She graduated from Miles Community College and Eastern Montana College through workshops, correspondence courses, summer schools, and extension courses.
She was a member of SEMRTA, Range Rider’s Reps, Farm Bureau Century Club, First Lutheran Church, and Waterworks Gallery. She was a local area news reporter for the Miles City Star and the Powder River Examiner for 40 years and served on District 16 election board and Custer County Board for 40 years. She was the author of a history book of the area, a biography and a cook book. A copy of her Powderville history was placed in the Mansfield library in Helena. She was influential in having a highway sign erected at the former town of Beebe. Helen made quilts, her children’s clothing, gardened, cooked, fenced, ranch work, crafts, oral and acrylic painting and was a fair mechanic.
She is survived by three daughters: Madonna Balsam of Miles City, Lillian (Tom) Ostendorf of Powderville, Mary Ann (Dan) Johnson of Forsyth; one son James (Darla) Orestad of Great Falls; one brother Harold (Beverly) Brewer of Phoenix, AZ; one sister Hazel Kneebone of Elk Point, SD; 11 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren, and 3 great great grandchildren . She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Ed and son Joseph, four brothers, two sisters, and a son in law Charley.
Should friends desire, memorials may be made to the Powderville Hall, First Lutheran Church, Imagination Library of Eastern Montana, 2200 Box Elder, Box 3, Miles City, MT 59301 or to the charity of one’s choice.
Visitation will be held on Friday, October 15, 2021 with the family receiving friends from 4:00 p.m to 6:00 p.m. at Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home in Miles City. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. at the First Lutheran Church in Miles City. Private family burial will be held on the Orestad Family Cemetery. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.stevensonandsons.com.