This year, Montana lost an incredible couple, Ann and Rayne Pilgeram.
A celebration of their shared life is planned for this fall in East Glacier.
Ann and Rayne have many acquaintances, friends and family across the state who would gladly talk about the many ways their own lives have been touched through their interactions and friendships with the Pilgerams. Be it from a serious look over Rayne’s glasses as he told you a story with his left hand in the air, a quiet gesture from Ann to make sure you were okay, a shared pot of coffee in the living room at any hour, or a moment that stood still as you watched Ann and Rayne dance together at the East Glacier Fireman’s Ball.
Mary “Ann” Pilgeram. Ann was born in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Jan. 28, 1927. Her father, Landis “Pink” Arnold was a forest ranger, and he packed Helen Hopkins Arnold, her mother, and baby Ann onto mules and packed them into a wilderness cabin in the Sandia Mountains. When Ann was old enough to start school, they moved into Albuquerque where she graduated from Albuquerque High School. The family (plus Ann’s little brother, Andy) moved to Washington, D.C. where Ann attended George Washington University and graduated in 1951 with a degree in Physical Education. After graduation, she moved to Hardin and taught physical education in the high school (The thought of Ann getting up at 6 a.m. to teach golf is an incredible thought to anyone who knew her). Ann met Rayne at the bowling alley in Hardin.
Clinton “Rayne” Pilgeram. Rayne was born on the family ranch in Armington, Mont. on Feb. 27, 1924. He was so small when he was born that the doctor actually had to put him in a box in the woodstove to help him warm up – Rayne loved to tell this story. He grew up on the family farm surrounded by grandparents and many childhood friends. He graduated from Belt Valley High School in 1943 and followed the high school’s teams his entire life. After high school graduation, he enrolled at Montana State College. His favorite memories were of the Bobcat Marching Band and Range Club. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Range Conservation in 1949. After graduation, he worked as a range conservation for the BIA on the Crow reservation. He made many lifelong friends, and, most significantly, met Ann.
Ann and Rayne. They knew from the start that they were meant for each other, but the marriage almost didn’t happen. After a couple of years, Ann left Crow Agency to work in Yosemite National Park and then attended the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., where she earned a Master’s Degree in Theology. After graduation, she worked in a church in Ashland, Ore. Rayne had an epiphany and realized that he had let the love of life get away. He actually had to contact her father in Colorado in order to find her, and he proposed via the U.S. Mail. They were married on July 29, 1956 in Ashland and moved to Rocky Boy. Paul and Alice were both born in Havre.
In 1962, the family moved to Browning where Rayne still worked as a BIA range conservationist. Ann was at a stay at home mom. When she wasn’t chasing the kids, she was the Welcome Wagon Lady and helped put the Glacier Reporter out on Thursday afternoons. Rayne was very active in the Masonic Lodge and Shriners. He helped dozens of local children get into the Shriners hospital in Spokane. Ann was a member of Eastern Star for over 60 years. Most of their time in Browning centered around Paul and Alice.
In 1979, they moved to a small cabin in East Glacier and then later to the cabin next door. Rayne retired from the BIA in 1985. Eventually, he ran for Glacier County Commissioner and retired again after one six-year term. Ann found friends everywhere and could never refuse a game of Bridge. Their lives took another turn in 1991, when Paul and his daughter, Becky, came home to live with them. Paul was their ears, and they were his eyes. Becky was Ann’s shadow for a long time and learned Maj Jong at a very young age. Ann and Rayne loved having Paul and Becky in their home.
They lived in their house in East Glacier until October of 2017. Ann and Rayne were able to stay in East Glacier –still living independently at ages 90 and 93 – due to so many friends and neighbors who were willing to help with trips over the mountain, housework and mower repairs. They loved East Glacier, but the long winter and distance to health care became too wearing. Ann and Rayne moved to a senior living facility in Bozeman, just over a year ago to be close to Alice, their daughter; Dan, their son-in-law; and Paul, their son. For the family, this past year has been a blessing and a heartache as the family was able to spend much more time together and was witness and support as Ann and Rayne’s health continued to decline.
In July, they celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. Even as Ann’s memory and health failed, she still had a sense of Rayne. She would get very agitated when she didn’t know where he was and worried if he hadn’t eaten. She finally lost her long battle with Alzheimer’s disease on Jan. 17, 2019. Rayne had stayed as strong as he could in order to take care of Ann. Once she passed, all he wanted was to be with her and he declined rapidly and passed in his sleep on April 15, 2019.
Their family and friends are sure that they are dancing in heaven and once again surrounded by good friends and family.
East Glacier was their chosen community and memorials in their name can be given to the East Glacier Volunteer Fire Department (East Glacier, MT 59434) or to the MSU marching band (1501 South 11th Ave. Bozeman, MT, 59715).