Leona Myrtle McMaster, 96, of Hot Springs, passed away August 2, 2018, at the Pine Hills Retirement Community in Hot Springs.
Leona was born July 11, 1922, at the farm home of her parents, Martin and Marie (Meyers) Paulsen, near Hazard, Neb. When she was 5, the family moved by immigrant train to manage ranches in northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota. The fifth of 8 children, she helped her parents at a young age, driving the hay-stacker team behind the sweep. Leona attended one-room schoolhouses until the family moved to Ardmore, where she attended high school.
Leona met her future husband, Clair Anderson, while attending Saturday night dances in Ardmore. They were married Aug. 29, 1938, in Hot Springs, and moved to work on the Walter Anderson ranch, 20 miles north of Harrison, Neb. They had two daughters. She served on the school board and helped to organize 4-H clubs and the Sunday school. She lived there until Clair’s death on Nov. 5,1962. Three months later, Leona moved to Lusk, Wyo., and opened her business, J&L Jewelry. She was active in the community, participating in card clubs, bird-watching outings, the garden club and the rock hunting club. She served on the R.S.V.P. board to raise funds to open the nursing home and senior center in Lusk, where she organized craft activities twice a month.
Leona married Andrew McMaster in 1967. After his death in 1986, she moved to Scottsbluff, Neb., where she continued to be active in card clubs, bird watching and the Westway Christian Church Bible Study. She began researching her family’s genealogy, going back several generations for both of her parents’ families, and organized several family gatherings, which also included many of her Clair’s relatives with whom she kept in close contact by phone and mail. Leona was an enthusiastic collector of coins, stamps, dishes and Fairburn agates. She loved the outdoors. As a child, she rode horseback with her brothers to check their traplines. As an adult, she instilled her love of nature with her children and grandchildren, taking them hunting, fishing and rock hunting. She also shared her love of crafting with her family, giving many gifts of macramé and crocheted afghans and tablecloths. She also loved watching her Denver Nuggets on TV; her family knew they’d better plan their phone calls accordingly around the team schedule. She moved to Prairie Pines Lodge in Chadron, NE, in 2009, and to Pine Hills Retirement Community in Hot Spring, SD, in 2015.
Leona was preceded in death by her parents; five brothers, Ira, Joe, George “Sam”, Leo and Jim; two sisters, Pearl Mintz and Darlene Case; her husbands Clair and Andy, and three special friends, Frank Barcal, Henry Funk and Kenny Gropp.
Leona is survived by her daughters, Tonita (Joe) Whiteaker of Harrison, Neb.; Sandra Torrey of Hot Springs; four grandchildren, Greg (Ferdeneta) Whiteaker of Cheyenne, Wyo., Jodi (Jerry) Richardson of Parker, Colo.; Lesa Walter of Rapid City; Jill (Skip) Dunn of Aurora, Colo.; five great-grandchildren, Kaili Whiteaker, Colorado Springs, Colo., Claire Richardson and Ellie Richardson, both of Denver, Colo.; Joe Whiteaker and Mark Whiteaker of Cheyenne, Wyo.; numerous nephews and nieces, including Rhonda (Miles) Hashman of Alliance, Neb.; and sister-in-law, Louise Wagner of Laurel, Mont.
Graveside services under the direction of Pastor Matt Parker will be held 1 p.m., Saturday, August 18, 2018, at the Crawford Cemetery.
Throughout her life, Leona spent many hours caring for elderly and ailing family members and friends. In lieu of flowers, she asks that you do a kind deed to make someone’s life easier. Memorials may be made to Harrison Bible Church.
Arrangements have been placed in care of Chamberlain McColley’s Funeral Home in Hot Springs.