On the night of January 6, 2019 Jessica passed away after a long battle with cancer. In the days prior to her passing she was surrounded by friends and family who had been touched by her love, patience and kindness. She was 36 years old and one of the best people you could ever know.
Jessica Bell was born on April 3rd, 1982 in Helena, MT as the first of four children of Bruce and Patricia Bell. Growing up Jess developed an early love of reading as her bedtime ritual was “reading” stacks of books in her crib. She carried this love throughout her life attending her Book Club even when her health was greatly compromised by cancer. Jess took the job of oldest sibling to heart taking care of her younger three siblings as their second mother. She attended grade school and high school in Whitehall, MT excelling as a student, poet, athlete and musician and graduating the top of her class in 2000. Family was everything to Jessica. She made sure to visit her grandparents frequently, attended family reunions and always was conscious of being the best daughter she could be. Humble to the end, Jess never truly understood how beautiful, kind and talented she was.
She started Carroll College in the fall of 2000 as a Communications and Public Relations double major. At Carroll she found a great number of friends and her future husband, Adam Gill. Jess was always intelligent, but her work ethic was unmatched. She was the student that never stopped studying and was always willing to take on another opportunity. In her Junior Year she was tapped to take over the Carroll newspaper, the Prospector, mid-year after its editor quit and with only two weeks until the next issue. She hadn’t even taken a journalism class, but she wouldn’t let insurmountable difficulty stop her. She ran the paper well, putting out the remaining issues while working part time, taking a full load of classes and planning a wedding. Also while at Carroll she was in the pep band, was a manager for the girls’ basketball team, and after college, was part of the Helena State Capital Band. In 2004, she graduated from Carroll Summa Cum Laude, one of only two students that year.
After college she and Adam moved to the Twin Cities where he pursued his graduate degree. Initially work was hard to come by, but she found a reception job at a small consulting firm. Within two weeks she was promoted from receptionist and became an invaluable part of their team. When an opportunity arose to move back to Montana, she was able to take the job with her, working remotely. Even when the company was purchased, she was kept on in her distant home office because of her commitment, skill and willingness to go the extra mile.
After moving to Great Falls, Jess volunteered for the Paris Gibson Museum, the Great Falls Farmers’ Market and Pulse, the local young professionals group. She also volunteered at St. Luke the Evangelist Church as a Lector, Sacristan and Eucharistic Minister. It was in Great Falls that she and Adam became parents, adopting their first child, Peter Daniel, in an open adoption through Catholic Social Services in 2009. Jess shined in everything, but as a mother she was radiant.
She and Adam moved back to Helena in 2010 to follow work and to be closer to family. Through every move, her job came with her and grew. She developed a reputation as someone who could be incredibly patient and tactful, by Montana standards, but could never abide dishonesty or laziness.
In 2012, she gave birth to her second child Alexander Dominic. She was active in her community, volunteering to help in music classes at Jefferson Elementary, doing laundry for Family Promise, coaching her boys in basketball and floor hockey for the YMCA, and organizing the popcorn sales for Cub Scout Pack 212. Many of these were done even when she was fighting her first battle with breast cancer in 2016. Through intensive chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, she kept giving back to her community.
After cancer treatment ended in 2017 she relished family road trips to show her sons how wonderful, large and interesting the world is. At the beginning of 2018 she started Helz Belles Roller Derby training. She loved Derby and threw herself into it with the same drive and cheerful stubbornness that she approached everything she loved. Shortly after she passed her skills test, she discovered the cancer had returned and spread to her lungs and bones.
She was adamant that she was going to fight even when the odds were so slim. She fought for every minute and showed all of us how to carry such burdens with grit, grace and love. Her oldest son Peter would like everyone to know that “She was the best mom and person I ever knew and I’m so sad she had to go.” Her youngest son Alex wants everyone to know that he loved her and misses her. She is preceded in death by her aunt, Cristie Bell; her uncle, Thomas Bell; her grandmother, Cleone Bell; and her grandfather, George Chaffee. She is survived by her husband, Adam Gill; her sons, Peter and Alexander Gill; her parents, Bruce and Patty Bell; her bothers, Neal (Rissy) and Jayce (Lynsey) Bell; sister, Nicole (Eric) Hensley; her grandfather, Fred Bell; and her grandmother, Carol Chaffee and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Special thanks to the Medical Oncology team at Bozeman Cancer Center, the Radiation Oncology team and ICU at St. Peter’s Health. Memorials and donations-in-lieu-of flowers may be given to Metavivor: Metastatic Breast Cancer Research and Support by visiting www.metavivor.org/. Condolences and remembrances may be left at her Facebook page or by visiting www.aswfuneralhome.com.
A Vigil will be held from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, January 13th at 10 Mile Creek Brewery, 48 N. Last Chance Gulch. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, January 14th at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church, 1502 Shirley Road, Helena, MT 59602 with a reception to follow at the church. Jessica will be laid to rest on a later date at Elkhorn Cemetery outside of Boulder, Montana.