Our loving mother, Shirley May Collins Sheets Palmer passed away at home in her sleep at age 84 on December 16, 2019. She had been living with cancer and kidney disease for several years.
Shirley was born on April 26, 1935, in Laurel, Montana to Vivian and Harold Collins. She was the older sister to Connie and Clifford. She attended Laurel High School where she met Clayton Sheets. She was involved in piano and vocal music, graduated and married our father, Clayton. They later moved to Texas, where Clayton was stationed in the US Navy and Patti was born. Two sons, Jim and Bob, were born before settling in Helena, Montana, where a third son, Bill, was born. We, as those four children, had a great childhood growing up with such a kind, fun loving and nurturing mother. She loved to camp, hike, cross country ski, sew, sing, read and play the piano.
She loved to visit her Norwegian grandparents on Flathead Lake where we picked cherries and apples at harvest time.
She enjoyed picking huckleberries and making pies at Seeley Lake, where we had a family cabin. She also enjoyed swimming, boating and rafting in any water.
In Helena, our family joined St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, where we became fast friends with many kind folks. Shirley joined the staff at St. Paul’s as the Christian Education Director for Children and Youth. She served with Pastors George Harper, Gayle Sandholm, and Dave Orendaf. She was exceptional at the organization and leadership of nearly 25 float trips down the Smith River with the church youth, recruiting her own to assist. She retired in 1998 after 30 years of dedication to the church community.
Shirley is remembered for her love of music, dancing, and family, her great big kind heart and loving arms. She had a twinkle in her eye and a smile for everyone.
Shirley attended Carroll College and became quite involved in the local political scene where she was an avid supporter of the Democratic party.
She travelled to Europe, China, Canada, Mexico and Guatemala.
Carol Collins wrote:
“She brought a certain grace into this world and an inner beauty as well as an outer beauty. She will be missed by so many people. What a gift she was to all those who knew her.”
Shirley is survived by Clayton Sheets of Helena; by her daughter, Patricia Forte (Patti Sheets) of Victoria, BC, Canada; by her three sons, Jim Sheets (Cindy) of Helena, Bob Sheets (Amy) of Colorado, and Bill Sheets (Judy) of Bozeman; stepsons, Randy Palmer of Coeur d’Alene and Jeff Palmer of Missoula; sister, Connie Kerr of Odessa, Missouri; grandchildren: Sarah Rose Eggen of Bozeman, Kaylene Ard (Reuben) of Helena, Westley Sheets (Kristi) of Michigan, Leah Sheets of Eugene, Abby Sheets of Bozeman, Kallana and Kelton Forte of Victoria BC., Josh Forsythe (Robin) of Phoenix, Arizona and Joey Forsythe (Jenny) of Phoenix, and Ryan Doyle (Elena) of Colorado; great-grandchildren: Gavin, Gemma and Ellie, Isabelle, Calen, Jostin, Devon; cousin Gerald Collins of Great Falls; numerous nieces and nephews: Kelly, Karna, Patrick, Kenny, Gail, Debbie, Susan, Terri, Tim, Annette and Scott; and Bruce Desonia, loving partner and friend, of Helena.
Shirley is predeceased by her parents, Harold and Vivian of Laurel; her second husband, Jim Palmer of Helena; and her brother, Clifford Collins of Billings.
Thank you to St. Peter’s Hospice, Doctors Dill and Weiner, Connie Kerr, Meals on Wheels, and so many family members and friends watching over her.
Memorials or donations in Shirley’s name can be made to: Lewis and Clark Humane Society or to St. Peter’s Hospice. Donations of flowers can be made to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
The Celebration Of Life service will be on Monday, Dec. 30, at 1 p.m. at St . Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena.