Mary O’Neil Libbey


1911 – 2014

BOZEMAN, Mont. — Mary O’Neil Libbey passed away Wednesday, Dec. 10.

Mary was born in her parents’ home in Lewiston on Dec. 8, 1911. She was the daughter of Julia (Donelly) O’Neil and Daniel Joseph O’Neil.

Mary graduated from Jordan High School in 1929 and Bates College in Lewiston in 1933.

She married the love of her life, Chan Libbey, in Lewiston on June 7, 1934. On July 1, 1934, they arrived in Livingston, Mont., to spend their honeymoon on the OTO Dude Ranch in Paradise Valley, where Chan had spent the previous summer as a guest. They later purchased the ranch from Dick Randall and lived there during the early years with their children. They hosted dudes until the effects of the war caused a downturn in the dude business, and then started raising Arabian horses while they lived at the ranch.

They moved to Livingston, Mont., from the ranch in 1942, and Mary held down the fort while Chan joined the front in Europe for World War II. Upon his return, they left the ranch and purchased the Park Coca Cola bottling plant and business in 1950, and then got into the beer business in 1954. Mary laughingly told her grandkids that she and Grandpa got it backwards, “we goofed off when we were young and had to go to work in our middle age.”

Together, Mary and Chan worked to build Cardinal Distributing into one of the premier beer distributors in Montana. During this time, they enjoyed their Livingston friends, travel, dogs, fishing, picnicking, hunting, golfing and their kids and grandkids.

In the mid-1970s, Mary moved with Chan to Bozeman, Mont., and they opened a new warehouse. Mary continued to live in Bozeman after Chan passed away in 1993.

Mary lived just past her 103rd birthday. She was quizzed by many as to what her secret was to the long, healthy life she led. Her answer varied a bit, but carried a theme of taking care of oneself with exercise and a good diet. She subscribed to the theory of a glass of red wine a day and in her later years, that was a source of joy as she shared many meals with her family.

Throughout her life, Mary was a learner, a wonderful friend to those she knew, kind and generous to those she didn’t, an avid reader, an excellent cook and an inspiration to those who surrounded and loved her. She had a fabulous memory and had a knack to make each person in her life feel very special, as she conversed to find out just what they were up to.

Mary was the proud mother of three children, Chandra Mary, Chan II and Christopher David. She is survived by them, as well as 11 grandchildren, Mary Bridget Erb Meehan, Cera Erb, Nora Drummond (Bill), Guy Erb, Rex Erb, Tamara Libbey (Dennis Curtin), Wendy Hoiness (Eric), Cassandra Osborn (Gary Morrison), Chan Libbey III (Pam), Brennan Libbey and Marco Vranish (Trisha); and great-grandchildren, Liam Meehan, Conner Meehan, Brian Bauer, Rachel Bauer, Layne Fisher, Lydia Wilcox, William Chan Hoiness, Ava Libbey, Marlo Libbey, Chase Vranish, Aaden Vranish and Terrie Freese.

Mary was predeceased by her parents; two brothers, Leo and John; her husband, Channell Truman Libbey; and a daughter-in-law, Doreen Libbey.

She is survived by Chandra (Gool Counts) of Livingston, Mont., Chan II (Margaret) of Livingston, Mont., and Christopher (Midge Collins) of Livingston, Mont.

She was a member of Holy Rosary Parish.

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