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Early pioneer in Seeley Lake area dies in Oregon


Swan Song
Embree Bird

Embree Bird (Mrs. Thomas), resident of Missoula County and the Seeley Lake area for more than 25 years, passed away February 23, 1998 in Grants Pass, Oregon, where she moved when her daughter Carol and son-in-law Skip retired there in 1996.

Embree and her husband Tom purchased the pioneer Sperry Homestead Ranch property in 1947. The ranch, just west of Placid Lake, was the last ranch going over the Jocko Pass to Arlee and they lived there from May to November each year thereafter. Tom and Embree quickly renamed the ranch The Flying Bird Ranch and had a brand made that was a B with wings on either side. It was the last single brand registered in the State of Montana and is still registered in the name of her granddaughter, Caren Seaver Voeller of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The ranch served as home base for pack trips for dudes going into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, as well as a working cattle operation. It was at the ranch were Carol and Skip's children, Lorol and Caren, learned to horseback ride and fish for "brookies." The Birds were vital members of the small, isolated, ranching-logging community, with three logging mills, two bars, a store (Sullivans), a post office, several churches and a school. Everyone depended on everyone and Tim's veterinary/ranching background helped them fit right in when family emergencies, hog cholera, broken legs, babies being born, car accidents, farm machinery breaking down or tragedies befell their neighbors.

Embree purchased the Seeley Lake Mercantile Store in the 1960's and ran it with help from Dick, Shirley, Larry and Eva Duncan. After Tom's passing in 1969, Embree stayed on until she sold the store and moved back to Laguna Beach, California. In 1988, Embree was stricken with Lyme Disease and moved to Great Falls to be near her daughter and family, and in 1997 she followed them to their "retirement home" in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Embree's years in the Missoula area, along with being a rancher's wife, were punctuated by charitable work in Missoula, the League of Women Voters, and what turned out to be a Life Membership of contributions and interest in the Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch in Billings. In later years, the Intermountain Deaconess Home for children in Helena received her help.

Embree is survived by a daughter and son-in-law, Carol and Skip Seaver of Grants Pass, Oregon, and granddaughters Lorol Lynn Seaver Simmons of Orcas Island, Washington and Caren Leeann Seaver Voeller and husband Ron of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Cremation has taken place and a memorial service of interment on the Rogue River in Grants Pass will take place this summer when family and friends gather.

Memorials may be made to the Intermountain Home for Children, 500 S. Lamborn, Helena MT 59601 or The Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, P.O. Box 80807, Billings MT 59102.

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