Wynona Zehm Breen (age 89) died December 22, 2012 at the Prairie County Nursing home in Terry, Montana. Wynona was born February 10, 1923 to Henry Martin Zehm and Alice Hildreth Zehm of Mildred, Montana. She joined an older brother, Bob. Later, brother Bill and little sister Waneta joined the family.
Wynona attended the Richmond and Whitney Creek Schools and graduated from Terry High School in 1940.She attended college at Montana State Normal College in Dillon, Montana.
Charles Breen and Wynona Zehm were married May 26, 1946 in Terry. They began married life at the old Stanley Place working for the Jake Shumaker Ranch. Three of their children, Peggy, Pat, and Dorothy were born during this time. In 1960 they moved to the Zehm homeplace when Nona’s parents retired and moved into Terry. Another daughter, Deb was born in 1961.
Nona lived nearly all her life on the ranch her parents and grandparents homesteaded in 1910. Charles and Wynona farmed and ranched in Prairie, Custer and Garfield counties for 50 years. They had been married for 66 years. Nona enjoyed the busy country life, her many friends and neighbors, taking lunch to the field and the family 4-H events.
Wynona taught in a number of rural Prairie County and Custer County schools, teaching at several country schools her mother and father taught during their early years in Montana. During the war years she taught at Marsh and Ismay. Later she taught at Whitney Creek, Goodview and Terry.
She was a member of several local organizations. Wynona was a 57 year member of the American Legion Auxiliary. She also served in the Prairie County Republican Party. Her homemakers club’s booths at the Prairie County Fair were memorable. Wynona was an accomplished seamstress, sewing for herself, her girls and neighbors. She was a tatter, tatting lace for a number of very special wedding dresses. When she could no longer tat or crochet, she turned to her computer, her crossword puzzles and her Kindle.
Genealogy became a major interest for Wynona, one shared with her brother, Bill and daughter, Dorothy and one which benefited us all. She compiled extensive information on the Breen and the Zehm Families. She and Charles traveled to see many extended family members so she could collect stories and pictures. Charles has claimed to have visited every old cemetery in the Western United States. Fort Garland, Colorado was her favorite and she returned several times with other family members. Family reunions were “a must go” part of her life.
Wynona was a member of the Prairie County Historical Society and with friends and fellow members, Mary Haughian and Ivy Brubaker helped compile the book, ‘Wheels Across Montana’s Prairie’. The 800 page book has 800 family histories and 1800 pictures and maps. It was published in 1974 as part of America’s Bicentennial. The maps at the back of the book of the homestead claims was drawn on a white bed sheet and tacked to our living room wall for a very long time. Everyone who came to the house became familiar with it and would check to see if they could spot any mistakes as new homestead families were filled in.
For the 1982 Terry Centennial, Wynona wrote a historical pageant, ‘Pa’s Prairie Pictures’. Nearly every person in Prairie County at the time was in the pageant cast. Also that year, Wynona was named ‘ Prairie County Woman of the Year’ for her work on numerous other centennial projects.
Wynona’s passion was the Prairie County Museum where she was a very active member for 37 years. The week before her death, she and a friend were sorting Cameron pictures which were taken at the same setting for slight differences. She was always available to answer any questions from local and former residents and their descendants, authors and schoolchildren. Her phone number was posted on the door of the museum and she would happily come in her power chair. Wynona was very independent. Neither bad weather nor her disabilities stopped her.
At age 85, Wynona took on another enormous project with help from her friends. Her goal, which she completed, was to transcribe from photo copies, 34 years (1893 to 1928) of the Evelyn Cameron diaries. The complete set of the Evelyn Cameron’s diaries is now available for the public at three locations: The Prairie County Museum and Gallery, The Cameron Heritage, Inc. and the Montana Historical Society. It was a labor of love for Wynona as she saw glimpses of the everyday lives of her own homesteading mother and grandmother in Evelyn’s diaries. Wynona was looking forward to having the diaries available on the Montana Historical Society website in 2013. She was also consulted on several documentaries and books on the Cameron photos.
In February 2012, Wynona was honored to receive one of the ServeMontana Awards for her lifelong service preserving the history of Prairie County. One of the highlights of her time in Helena was a tour of the Montana Historical Society and being able to physically hold and read an original diary from the Society Archives.
Wynona believed if you could not say something nice about another, you should say nothing at all. Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren never heard her speak ill of anyone. She stayed in touch with everyone near and far through email and Facebook. She travelled and communicated with her children and grandchildren constantly; one of the highlights of her life was taking a trip up the Mississippi River with her granddaughter, Amy.
Wynona’s grandchildren were her greatest joy. Second may have been her peonies.
Wynona was preceded in death by her parents, Henry and Alice Zehm; her brother, Bob and his wife, Mary; and her favorite aunt, Pearl Eckes. She is survived by her husband, Charles; her sister,Waneta Harris (Luther) Castle Valley, Utah; her brother, William Zehm (Corrine) Berrien Springs, Michigan; her son, Pat Breen (Vicki) Mildred, MT; her daughters, Peggy Glasscock (Don) Cody, WY; Dorothy Ban (Darrell) Cheyenne, WY; Deb Junek (Sidney) Forney, TX; her six grandchildren, Jason Ban, Cheyenne, WY; Amy Thomas (Randy) Cheyenne, WY; Bob Breen, Mildred, MT; Melissa Damn, Billings, MT; Jessica Junek, Richardson, TX; and Haley Junek, Forney, TX; her three great grandchildren, Jake Huber, Allison and Madison Thomas and her many special nieces and nephews whose lives she was able to keep up with via email and Facebook.
Visitation will be held on Friday, December 28, 2012 from 1:00-6:00 p.m. at Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home in Terry. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. at the Community Presbyterian Church in Terry. Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home of Terry is in charge of the arrangements. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.stevensonandsons.com.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Prairie County Museum through Stevenson and Sons.