Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service

Delores Seitel

May 8, 1945 ~ June 23, 2019

Dee Seitel passed away peacefully on the evening of Sunday, June 23, 2019, after living with cancer for two years.  Her husband, Steve; son, Tom; and daughter, Julie were by her side to bid her farewell as she took flight on her latest adventure.

Delores Marie Seitel, née George, was born on May 8, 1945, in Upland, California.  She was the first of two children of her parents, John C. "Jack" and Arlene George.  At the time of her birth her father, a Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, was piloting a B-24 bomber in Europe, leading bombing runs until the day of Germany's surrender (which happened to coincide with Dee's birthday) and then delivering humanitarian aid via air drop to the people in cities across Europe that had been ravaged by the war.  He returned home a few months later to meet his new baby girl.

The family was soon joined by Dee's little brother John.  Dee-Dee and John-John had a happy childhood growing up in an adobe house situated on the corner of the family's ten-acre orange grove in Monte Vista, later incorporated as Montclair.   Pictures and home movies from these years show a young Dee-Dee learning to roller skate and ride a bicycle, trying out her hula dancing skills, swimming, hunting easter eggs, and enjoying birthday parties with her little brother, cousins, and neighborhood friends.  Dee-Dee served as the flower girl for her Aunt Mary's wedding, and during Dee's recent phone call with her beloved aunt, Mary gleefully recounted the story of how young Dee-Dee was adamant that no one should actually step on the rose petals she had so carefully scattered on her way up the aisle.

Dee was a stellar student, becoming one of Montclair High School's outstanding academic achievers.  She served as the Student Council Secretary, was voted Most Likely to Succeed, and was the valedictorian of the Class of 1963.  Dee has always been modest about her achievements, and her children Tom and Julie were unaware of her valedictorian status until they recently stumbled on a picture of their mother in her graduation cap and gown holding an absolutely enormous trophy.

Dee chose Redlands University for her college studies, and met the love of her life Steve Seitel in the late summer of 1963 at a welcome party for incoming first-year students thrown by fellow Redlands student and lifelong friend Ron Saltgaver.  The getting-to-know-you party was filled with casual chatting, guitar playing, and song singing.  Steve asked Dee if he could drive her home in his '57 Chevy, and she happily accepted.  Thus began a romance filled with study dates at the college library, "coke dates" at the Student Union, and celebrating holidays with each other’s families.

During her sophomore year Dee spent a semester abroad with fellow Redlands students in Salzburg, Austria, an experience that broadened her horizons immensely and instilled in her a lifelong love for the countries and peoples of Europe.  Steve and Dee missed each other deeply while she was abroad (Steve describes these months as "a grim time for me"), and the experience confirmed for them that their love was real and lasting.  Steve and Dee would later travel to Europe many times together in their five decades of marriage to explore small towns, cruise rivers and canals, and immerse themselves in the local culture.

Steve was accepted to graduate school at Montana State University and moved to Bozeman, Montana to pursue advanced degrees in physics, while Dee continued her studies in government at Redlands University.

Dee and Steve got married in Claremont, California on September 3, 1966, and Dee transferred to Montana State University to complete her degree.  They lived initially in student housing on campus, later moving into the upstairs apartment of the little white house at the corner of College and 8th, which still stands today.  After graduating, Dee worked as an administrative assistant in the Office of the Dean of Letters and Science.

During their early married years, Dee and Steve spent many happy times traveling around in their 1967 Volkswagen Beetle.  A favorite pastime was chasing trains, which consisted of striking out in the general direction of something train-related and finding tracks, steam engines, trestle bridges, rail yards, and train stations to explore.  It was around this time that Dee developed her lifelong interest in genealogy, and their travels began to include exploring graveyards looking for headstones of distant relatives, perusing the microfiche collections in various libraries, and searching through the written records in clerk and recorders' offices around the country for confirmation of dates, places, and significant events in Dee and Steve's relatives' lives.

Son Thomas Benton Seitel was born in Bozeman in January of 1971.  That same year Steve completed his PhD and the family then moved to Boulder, Colorado, where Steve enrolled in a post-doctoral program.  Daughter Julianne Marie Seitel joined the family in Boulder in August 1972.

In 1974 the Seitels relocated to the small desert community of Ridgecrest, California.  Over the next decade Steve worked as a civilian employee at the Navy facility in China Lake, while Dee immersed herself in raising children, gardening in their backyard, and helping to integrate these new things called "computers" into Ridgecrest's elementary school classrooms.  Dee became a volunteer at the Maturango Museum during these years, which sparked her lifelong love of museum work and volunteering.

Dee and Steve loved to square dance and were enthusiastic members of the Jim Dandies, Ridgecrest's square dancing club.  Lifelong friends Bonnie and Dave Andes, who lived in Ridgecrest at the time and coincidentally now live in Bozeman, were fellow square dancers.

The Seitels were also members of a Gourmet Dinner club, a group of seven couples who took turns hosting dinner parties each month.  The hosts would plan a menu, usually with a theme of a particular world cuisine, and assign dishes to each couple.  Everyone would bring their creations to the hosts' home on a Saturday night and enjoy an evening of wine, food, and conversation.  The culinary adventures were sometimes rewarding and sometimes not, with Steve recalling as a particularly mediocre experience the time he had to prepare boiled beef tongue.  More successful creations included Swiss fondue, Hungarian goulash, and the like.

A new business venture brought the family to Bozeman, Montana in 1985.  While Steve worked to build one of the Gallatin Valley's first tech companies, Dee immersed herself in community activities and the kids settled into teenage life with new friends, initially at Monforton School and then at Bozeman Senior High School.

Dee's long relationship with the Museum of the Rockies began with her signing up to be a volunteer soon after moving to Bozeman.  As the museum grew and the ranks of volunteers swelled in the mid-1980s, the position of Volunteer Coordinator was created and Dee got the job.  She thrived in this position, coordinating the activities of hundreds of docents and volunteers and organizing special events.  She greatly enjoyed her daily interactions with the many, many members of the Bozeman community who lent their talents to the museum during Dee's nineteen years at the helm of the volunteer program.   Her work for the Museum of the Rockies was truly a highlight of Dee's life, providing her with much joy and many lifelong friends.

Dee retired from the Museum in 2007, and Dee and Steve bought a Casita travel trailer to help them travel the country in style and comfort.  Dee named this little trailer "Taffy" (“...because you have to pull her!" she explained to those who inquired about the name).  They took frequent road trips around the country, still finding satisfaction in chasing trains and exploring graveyards together.

In addition to their domestic travels, Steve and Dee frequently went on international cruises, taking turns between exploring ancient civilizations and ruins (Steve's passion) and various countries of Western Europe (Dee's preference).  Friends Ron and Pat Saltgaver and Bonnie and Dave Andes were frequent cruise companions.

Dee's retirement from the Volunteer Coordinator position at MOR did not end her passion for volunteering.  She began volunteering at the Gallatin History Museum shortly after leaving MOR; spent many afternoons volunteering as an aide in her grandson Aaron's elementary school classrooms; and served as a volunteer for Barack Obama's reelection campaign in 2012.  In the past few years Dee served as the Registrar for the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a position she greatly enjoyed, as it allowed her the opportunity to teach basic genealogy skills to women aspiring to document their connection to an ancestor who had participated in the American Revolution.

Perhaps Dee's favorite social activity in her retired years has been meeting regularly with her quilting group.  This lively group of about twenty ladies gathers weekly on Thursday mornings, with members taking turns as host.  Each week they bring their current quilting, knitting, or crocheting projects and work together in a big circle.  They share news of the week, celebrate each others' accomplishments, offer support and commiseration for each others' challenges and hardships, complain about the ravages of aging, and tell jokes that would certainly make their spouses blush.  A more joyful and fun-loving group of ladies would be hard to find.

In the summer of 2016 Dee and Steve celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a family trip to Hawaii.  They rented a beach house in Maui and hosted their kids and grandkids for a wonderful week of beachcombing, swimming, hiking volcanoes, luaus, margaritas, sunshine, sea breezes, and submarine tours.

Dee's diagnosis of uterine cancer in April 2017 did not slow her down.  She faced this new adventure with optimism, determination and grace, as was her lifelong practice.  Her initial surgery and chemotherapy went incredibly well (a big thank you to her care team at the Cancer Center!) and Dee enjoyed a full year of remission, making the most of it by charging ahead full steam with the activities she loved.  She continued her services as DAR Registrar and Gallatin History Museum volunteer, met weekly with her quilting buddies, and traveled broadly.  In the past two years Dee and Steve took a cruise to Brazil and the Amazon, enjoying Carnival in Rio de Janeiro; and another cruise to the southern shores of Australia and New Zealand.  In January 2018, Dee and daughter Julie flew to the east coast to prepare Julie's New York City apartment for sale, and to enjoy the hubbub of the city for a week.  This included having dinner at Julie's favorite neighborhood haunts, exploring the Cloisters Museum, and sitting on a bench overlooking the Hudson River to soak up the gorgeous views of the George Washington Bridge and the Palisades of New Jersey.  Mother and daughter then struck out across the country driving a cargo van home to Montana, hitting every Ikea, Container Store, and Restoration Hardware along the way.

Here in Bozeman, Dee filled her final months with family and loved ones.  She found great friends in her support group at the Cancer Support Community, developing deep bonds with gal pals with whom she attended Mending in the Mountains retreats.  She attended each and every theatrical production featuring Tom's teenage son Aaron, a budding young actor, at The Verge, Equinox Theater Camp, and other venues around Bozeman.  Most recently Dee cheered Aaron on in his high school spring musical production of Little Shop of Horrors.  Dee enjoyed helping Julie and her husband George select paint colors for their new house, under construction on a plot of land adjacent to Steve and Dee's property; shopping for baby clothes for Dee's two newest great-grandchildren, both born this summer; and frequently hosting large family dinners replete with home cooking, cacophony, love, and the laughter of her children, their spouses, and her many grandchildren.

Dee had been working hard on baby quilts for the two newest members of our family and had hoped to complete them during the time that she had left.  When she entered hospice care earlier this month, her friend Bonnie offered to help her fulfill this dream.  She is currently completing the quilts that Dee began.  Dee's great grand-daughter Ingrid was born on June 21st in Seattle, and Dee's great grand-daughter Hazel's birth is in progress here in Bozeman as this obituary goes to press.  The family is grateful that her new great grandbabies will have this precious connection to their Great Grammie Dee.

As Dee's physical health declined, each instance of tears prompted her to remind us that she wanted us to celebrate her life and to find beauty in the journey, rather than to mourn her death.  And so we did, and continue to do.  We formed new, deep and strong bonds as we came together to gather up our love and lend our support to each other.  We learned a lot we didn't know about each others' deepest needs, fondest memories, and most heartfelt hopes for ourselves and each other as we showered Dee with love and coaxed every possible moment of joy that we could out of our time together in Dee's final days.

Dee is survived by her husband, Steven Seitel; her brother, John George and his wife, Patricia; son, Tom Seitel and his wife, Ann;  daughter, Julie Seitel and her husband, George Aitken;  grandchildren, Jeni Larson and her husband, Scott, Brad Floener and his wife, Hillary Rasker, Nichole Floener, and Aaron Seitel; great granddaughters, Astrid Larson, Ingrid Larson and Hazel Floener; aunt, Mary Sagehorn; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

Dee's family invites all of her friends, loved ones, and colleagues to join us for Dee's Celebration of Life, to be held at the Museum of the Rockies at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 13th, 2019.  A joyful service filled with music, pictures, videos, and memories will be followed by catered reception to be held outside (weather permitting) near the Tinsley House and the Living History Farm.  

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Dee's memory to the Cancer Support Community, the Gallatin History Museum, and/or the Museum of the Rockies.