Aug. 5, 1934-March 5, 2018
The hearts of those who knew her are one laugh lighter today. Shirley Fleming was born to Archibald and Miriam Strickland on Aug. 5, 1934, and left this Earth surrounded by loved ones at home on March 5, 2018.
A descendent of the original Strickland homesteaders in the Deer Lodge Valley, Shirley grew up and worked on the family farm. She raised chickens, milked cows, and recalled 5¢ movies at the local theater. Upon graduating from Powell County High School in 1952, she briefly relocated to Spokane, Washington to work for Swift & Armour. She lived for Saturday nights, as the Spokane dances at the YWCA were very memorable in the early 1950s.
Shirley and her sweetheart Kenneth (Kenny) Fleming, whom she first met in high school, exchanged letters during his time in Korea, and they eventually married in Butte on March 23, 1956. Their first daughter, Brenda, was born during Kenny’s time working at the Glasgow Air Force Base. Upon returning to Deer Lodge, Shirley and Kenny took over the Fleming ranch and set to work raising livestock and crops. Three more daughters, Colleen, Tracey, and Stacie, were born between 1957 and 1964. Shirley spent many Thursday evenings candling eggs with her daughters in order to sell them the next morning in town.
A keen observer, Shirley kept detailed diaries every day until the final years of her life, creating an unofficial almanac of the happenings of the Deer Lodge Valley and her family. Given this reputation, at one point the Montana State Prison phoned Shirley to verify a recorded temperature on a specific date. She belonged to the Valley Sewing Club and served as an election clerk for many years. Shirley’s excellent memory and fondness for saving mementos created a rich history for her family to enjoy well into the future. While she preferred gifts of jewelry, she saved every letter and picture her grandkids ever sent her!
Well known for her fashion sense and penchant for department stores in Butte, Shirley loved shopping and was a skilled bargain hunter. She also hosted many delicious holiday dinners over the years for friends and family. Her daughters especially remember her commitment to baking birthday cakes and Thanksgiving pies.
Shirley is survived by Kenny, her husband of 61 years; and sisters, Lois Kustura of Astoria, Oregon, Marjorie Gress of Yuma, Arizona, and Marlene Beck (Tom) of Helena, Montana, as well many nieces, nephews, and extended family members. Direct survivors include her daughters: Brenda Tribelhorn (Robert) of Moscow, Idaho; Colleen Cluka (Donald) of Kalispell, Montana; Tracey Fleming-Reese, of Medellin, Colombia; and Stacie Marler (Chris) of Ravensdale, Washington. She additionally leaves behind seven grandchildren: Melissa, Maria, and Jacob Tribelhorn; Brandy Cluka; and Kenneth, Morgan, and Chandler Reese. Shirley was preceded in death by her parents as well as her brothers, Robert and Monte Strickland.
Shirley had a deep and unconditional love for her family and friends. She will be dearly missed.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations in memoriam to Cottonwood Commons Transition Home in Deer Lodge, the Deer Lodge Food Pantry, or Camp Mak-A-Dream in Gold Creek.
A memorial service will be held at the First Baptist Church, 140 Sam Beck Road in Deer Lodge, Montana, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 10, 2018. A reception will follow at the Elk Lodge on Main Street in Deer Lodge.