Beatrice ‘Bea’ Kinney, 79, passed away on January 4, 2023. She was born to Nell and Ben Lefler, the second of four children, in Billings, Montana. The family relocated to Missoula, Montana where Bea grew up. From an early age, Bea (or Beatsie as she was known by close family) learned the value of hard work, independence, and integrity. Raised in a family familiar with tough times, she cared for her younger sisters and cousins even as a young girl. As she got older, she helped with the books for the family plumbing business and pulled straight A’s in school all while working at places like the Heidelhaus and the Florence Hotel. In 1962 she graduated from Missoula County High School.
After graduation she married Herb (Herbie) Schatz and the two of them had a son, Todd. Following Herb’s passing from an accident while in the Navy, she remarried Robert ‘Bob’ Kinney. The couple moved to Superior, Montana where Bob began a teaching and coaching career. Not long after, son, Scott joined the family. In Superior, she settled into a life as a homemaker, where she was a fastidious housekeeper and volunteered at the Lutheran Church and countless school groups. Courtney came along some years later, much to Bea’s delight and Bob’s cleverly disguised excitement.
As Bob’s wrestling career took off, Bea was always close by to help with chaperoning, sewing warmups and all that was involved in building a grass-roots youth wrestling program. Like an apothecary in the bleachers, she offered all manner of aid, from band-aids to pliers, retrieved from the depths of an imposing purse that sat at her feet. With roughly the same gravitational force of the sun, the power held by her purse was known far and wide. Once, when a winter storm left the Rocky Mountain Classic tournament in utter darkness, it was the warm glow of a purse-sized candle in the top row of bleachers that could be seen from the gym floor that reminded fans and wrestlers alike that she was there, waiting with provisions. Todd still talks about it today.
Her hobbies were as unique as her personality. She was handy with a metal detector, read almost anything she could get her hands on and was forever hunting for artifacts. She was a relentless fisherwoman with a tacklebox so expansive it should have been insured. From quilts to costumes there was nothing she couldn’t sew. Beautiful pieces of handmade furniture and gun stocks were the result of her meticulous attention to detail. The mention of a camping trip would send her into a frenzy, packing enough supplies for an army, all with the express purpose of everyone being able to enjoy themselves.
It was her philosophy and gift with children that endeared her to many. “Kids are what you put into them”, she’d often say. Later, as her boys went into education, she voiced her admiration for their commitment to children and their obvious talent in working with young people. In her life, when guidance on child-rearing was limited to Dr. Spock, Bea was hosting crawdad races in the front yard, warming assorted eggs in the homemade incubator on the kitchen counter, or building a tree house so wily teenagers would have a place to spend warm afternoons. On treks through Beer Can Alley, she’d teach her charges to inspect the underside of fallen branches and logs to discover the variety of life forms that would assuredly be found there. Halloween was a serious occasion, as she would launch into the production of hundreds of large popcorn balls, enough so that teenagers would be encouraged to trick-or-treat as well as elementary kids.
She believed in the lessons that can only come from spending time in mud, grass and along riverbeds where the most glorious days leave their mark in the way of a visible and palpable layer of dirt. With an approach to children that was equal parts humor and creativity, she worked to invest as much of herself as possible into the kids she knew. Listening to her recount events gave a clear indication that she often used the lens of a child to influence her perception of things. Relationships born at her kitchen table, sandbox and front yard with small kids lasted entire lifetimes. They were her people no less as adults than when she helped them with potty training.
As a mom, she was a force of nature. She wasn’t one to suffer fools or beat around the bush. Thousands of hours were logged in gymnasium bleachers where she sat, working a mound of silly putty over and over again, cheering on her wrestlers until her nose bled. For Courtney, she traversed western Montana regularly for horse shows, tennis matches and swim meets. She delighted in the grandkids Drew, Tanner, Tucker, Riley, Jillian, Harli Jo and most recently, a great-grandson, Wesley Todd. She was quick with an encouraging word, fiercely loyal and wildly protective of her family. It was, above all else, her first priority.
Her life has left a mark for many. She gave little credence to vocalized affirmation and cared nothing for gossip. Instead, she committed to the lives of the people around her, offering the best of her gifts to them over decades. She was grateful to the community of teachers in Superior, alongside whom she and Bob raised their family. Her integrity, grit and humor will never be replaced, but her investment in her family and the kids she helped raise will carry on in their lives.
Beatrice is survived by sons Todd Schatz, Scott Kinney (Ann), Courtney Kinney, Drew Kinney, Emma LaPierre, Tanner Schatz, Tucker Schatz, Riley Kinney, Jillian Kinney, Harli Jo Kinney and Wesley Schatz. The family plans to hold a memorial in the spring. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that friends contact their local school district to inquire about making a donation to their school lunch program for children with unpaid balances. Arrangements are under the care of Schnackenberg Funeral Home of Libby. Online condolences and memories may be shared by visiting www.schnackenbergfh.com