The Christian Burial Mass for Therese Bidegaray, 91, Sidney, was held at 10 a.m., Saturday, January 15, 2022, at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Sidney, MT with Father Jim O’Neil presiding . Wake-up services at 6 p.m., Friday, January 14, 2022, at the Fulkerson-Stevenson Memorial Chapel, Sidney, MT. Interment took place at Richland Memorial Park Cemetery, Sidney, MT in the care of Fulkerson-Stevenson Funeral Home, Sidney, MT. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made at Maryknoll, Emmaus House, St. Joseph’s Indian School, St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School, or your favorite charity. Visitation was from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, January 14, 2022, at the funeral home and one hour before mass at the church. Memories, condolences and photos can be shared with the family at http://www.fulkersons.com.
Thérèse Dominica Françoise Bidegaray was born to Jean and Catherine (Partarrieu) Ithurbide on October 16, 1930 in Ahaxe, France, in the Pyrenees along the border between France and Spain (Euskadi-Basque Country), the second of seven children. She was lucky enough to be selected for an education in a Catholic school, eventually earning her teaching degree. She taught for seven years, first in Ossès, then in Hasparren. On February 15, 1958, at the age of 27, she married Bert Bidegaray who had returned to France for a visit of a few months after living and working in eastern Montana for the previous seven years. Shortly after the wedding, the new couple arrived in eastern Montana where Therese (Maman) experienced her first brutal winter. Living 42 miles from Sidney, not knowing the language, didn’t stop him from making the most of it. Mom learned English by listening to the radio and voraciously reading the books she expected to receive from the various Book of the Month clubs she subscribed to.
In her first year in Montana, mom survived the loss of her first child, the loss of dad’s uncle, John Sallaberry, with whom she and dad lived, and the loss of her father in France. . Mom, who hadn’t spent much time cooking in France, mastered it and spent the next 36 years cooking countless meals for her family, hiring help and farm stops and 20 more years doing the same in town. In addition to the many meals she cooked, Mom made bread and soup almost daily. During the summers, she raised a large garden and beautified the yard with flowers in every flower bed, not an easy task in the often dry and almost always windy climate of eastern Montana. Throughout the year, Mom sewed and knitted. She was very creative as she often used her sewing and knitting skills to make things without a pattern. One year, she knitted each of her daughters a coat for Easter. Mom was still put together, poised, and elegant. She had nails that could rival any nail model, always manicured and painted. Marlin from The Lodge came over and did mom’s makeup and nails the afternoon before she died, and mom lit up!
After losing their first child, mom and dad had six children. Largely influenced by their Basque heritage, they raised their children to be strong, hardworking and independent individuals. Mom felt lucky to see that her children were also raising their children to be the same. Being so far from his biological family, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were his world.
Mom was only 53 when dad died. She continued to live on the farm for another 10 years, including five and a half years as an empty nest. Before he died, Dad had built an indoor swimming pool on the farm. Mom used this space for many community gatherings and for her and many neighbors to learn to swim, which brought her great joy. Mom loved playing cards, especially Pinochle, and looked forward to card games. She loved her friends and neighbors in the communities of Elmdale, Mona and Charlie Creek.
In 1994, Mom moved to Sidney, where she made new friends with her neighbors and others. Mom started painting in oils and watercolors and was so prolific with her art that almost every child and grandchild has some of her original work. Mom enjoyed cheering on her children and grandchildren as they participated in sports and other extracurricular activities. She also enjoyed watching college and professional sports. Mom particularly enjoyed the NBA, especially watching Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry. She had on a Steph Curry jersey and lived to see him break the three-point shooting record!
Mom was Catholic all her life, shaped by her family’s values and morals and her Catholic upbringing, which was instrumental in how she raised her children, who all carry on those values and morals. Mom said more than one rosary every day, even until the last days of her life. In every situation, Mom stood up for the underdog, wanting to make the world a better place for everyone. In keeping with this philosophy, she purchased a stained glass window for St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, depicting the rich man and Lazarus. Mom had a razor-sharp intellect, believed in education and encouraged it in every way. She kept abreast of world news, reading the newspaper daily. Mom couldn’t wait to finish the daily crossword puzzle. She wanted to keep her mind sharp. Despite her age, mom used the internet and social media like a pro. Mom’s iPad was a window to the world. When Mom first arrived in Montana, she had to wait months for communications from her family; in the last years of her life, mum marveled at being able to communicate daily by Skype with her siblings in France. Having survived occupied France during World War II, mum had strong political views that she was not afraid to share.
Mom passed away on the morning of January 6, 2022. She is survived by her six children: Kathy Bidegaray (and her children, Brett Irigoin (Samantha), Jacqueline Stensland (Jaren), Dominique Irigoin (Sven), Danielle Irigoin (Leo) , and Alex Irigoin (Erica); Michele Bidegaray (and her children, Bert Certain (LeeAnn), Courtney Certain and Patrick Certain); Debbie Berry (Phil) (and their children, Camille Berry, Grant Berry and Jack Berry); Beverly Anderson (Dave) (and their children, Garret Anderson, Mason Anderson and Olivia Anderson); Daniel Bidegaray (and his sons, Nicholas Bidegaray, Andre Bidegaray and Dominic Bidegaray); and Mary Bidegaray (David) (and their children, Netsanet Kim, Tigist Kim and Mimi Kim). She is also survived by her siblings, Felix Ithurbide, Andre Ithurbide, Marthe Heguy, Jean Leon Ithurbide (Maite); seven great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, her husband, Bert Bidegaray, her son, D. Bidegara y; his sister, Mayi Palace; his brother, Joseph Ithurbide; and many in-laws.
Thank you to the staff at the Lodge where Mom has resided for the past six years.