On the afternoon of July 22, 2015, Wanda peacefully passed away surrounded by her family. At the time of her passing, Wanda was 86 years old.
Wanda Louise Atkinson Bickle was born in Ekalaka, Montana on December 31, 1928. She was the seventh of eight children born to Charles and Hattie (Bergstrom) Atkinson. She grew up on the family homestead near Ekalaka and attended school there. Life as a homesteader in 1930’s was not an easy one. Her dad died in 1935 and her mother raised eight children on her own. Wanda often said that as a child she was never hungry or cold and always felt loved. Her best stories were of either walking or sharing a horse to ride four miles back and forth to school no matter the season.
She later moved to Baker where she attended high school. It was there that she met Jim Bickle and the two were married on December 21, 1945. They moved to the Bickle Ranch south of Plevna, Montana where they ranched for nearly 60 years. Wanda was the embodiment of a true Montana ranch wife. Even though the work was hard and the reward wasn’t always high, she loved that ranch and the life they made for themselves there. She was fiercely proud of and devoted to her family. Four children, Peggy, John, Carrie and Heidi were born to Wanda and Jim and were all raised on the family ranch.
Besides helping Jim with all of the ranch work, Wanda LOVED to cook. Her specialty was big meals for family, friends and those beloved hunters that visited the ranch each fall. She enjoyed and never skimped on the meals she prepared for each year’s branding. She always had a nice garden and harvested the fruits of her labor with major events of open kettle canning. Wanda was a member/officer of the Fallon Creek Cowbelles and a member of the Peace Lutheran Church in Plevna. She enjoyed supporting those organizations with her cooking and baking skills. She also began quilting while a member of the church and enjoyed making quilts and blankets for family and friends over the years.
Wanda and Jim always loved dancing. As they neared retirement, they began to follow the Old Time Fiddlers group and traveled all around Eastern Montana to attend dances with friends. Wanda and Jim moved to Miles City in 2002. Wanda enjoyed being in Miles City and especially being able to spend quality time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She joined a Bridge club and played once a month. For anyone who knew Wanda, her door was always open, she always had a “bite to eat,” she always had a hug to give and was never shy about telling you, “I love you.” She will be profoundly missed by her family and friends. She was the salt of the earth and a gem of a human being with a heart as wide as the Montana sky.
Wanda was preceded in death by her parents Charles and Hattie Atkinson, her siblings Alice Jensen, Ollie Sikorski, Grace Norby, Richard Atkinson, Tom Atkinson, Dorothy Speelmon and Chuck Atkinson.
Wanda is survived by her husband Jim Bickle of Miles City, daughter Peggy (Jim) Hagadone of Plevna, son John (Jan) Bickle of Plevna, daughter Carrie (Sally) Bickle of Walnut Creek, CA ,daughter Heidi (Todd) Yeager of Miles City and sister-in-law Edna Atkinson of Glendive. She is also survived by six grandchildren: Mindi Murnion, Micki Hallgren, Scott Hagadone, Kristin Hagadone, Kaylee Yeager, Ashley Yeager and Bailey Yeager. Wanda is survived by six great-grandchildren (Justin, Jake, Karlee, Brooke, Isabella and Addison) and two great-great grandchildren (Justice and Kembri)
The family wishes to especially thank friends and extended family who so vigilantly visited Mom during the past weeks. She cherished those times. We thank the staff of Friendship Villa for their care of Mom during her short stay with them. We also thank Holy Rosary Hospice for their special care during her last days. It is with sincere gratitude that we thank Dr. Eric Nakakura and the University of California San Francisco hospital staff for their care and compassion for Mom during the summer of 2014. We thank them for the cherished additional time we were given with Mom.
Services will be Wednesday, July 29, at 3 pm at Stevenson and Sons Funeral Home with internment following at the Custer County Cemetery, Miles City Montana. Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home of Miles City is in charge of the arrangements. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.stevensonandsons.com.
Flowers may be sent to Stevenson and Sons Funeral Home, 1717 Main Street Miles City, MT 59301. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Custer Co. 4-H Livestock Pavillion.