Joan Beverly McMahon passed on the afternoon of December 4, 2020. Though she will be missed dearly by those who remain, she is where she has wanted to be. What a sight it must be to see her reuniting with those family and friends that have gone before her.
Joan was born 1934 in St. Louis, Missouri, and was the only child of Basil and Virginia Livingston. She attended schools in St. Louis and eventually graduated from St. Louis University. While attending St. Louis U, the beauty queen caught the eye of many suitors including a certain medical student from Butte America, Jack McMahon. They were wed on December 10, 1955 and so began the 60 years that they shared together and an unbelievable life story that they wrote. They quite literally took to heart God’s words of “Be fruitful, multiply, and populate the Earth” and were more than a little responsible for populating much of Helena and the civilized world.
Jack, Steve, Joan Marie, and Joe were born in St. Louis, while (after Dr. McMahon moved his family back home to Montana) Mary Anne, Mike, Tim, Mary Ellen, Tom, and Dick in Helena. Adopted sister Kathy, and foster brothers/sisters Charlie, Ron, Nancy, and Sunny all were welcomed into the family as well because “ten just wasn’t enough”. Ramon found his way into the home for short period of time too. The blending of so many only made holidays, float trips, weddings, birthdays, and other life celebrations so much fuller and for all of us, the way it was supposed to be if the Fryhovers, Rules, Shields, and other family friends could join in as well.
If reality programs would have been part of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, “Joan’s Life” would have been #1 show on TV. She stayed at home and tended to her brood as they were growing up. Not only was she an excellent mother but served as nurse, chauffeur, referee, judge, and jury on far too many occasions. Why one would want to put up with so much over so many years (ketchup on Tommy’s head after getting out of the hospital, the pitchfork through Tim’s leg, the rattlesnake in the lap, the Christmas Eve hot tub “thaw”, late night wait ups…) may be a mystery to some, but not to her. “It’s all what makes life interesting” is how she felt. She always had the old standby sayings of “You’re so full of it your eyes are brown” and the dreaded “Wait until your father gets home” to diffuse any situation. Yet, for the most part, all it took was an understanding word, certain look, or hug to fix most anything that was wrong. She simply had the Mother’s Touch.
When youngest and favorite son Dick (proven fact, not opinion) was able to enter school, Joan herself went back to school at Carroll College and was able to secure a bachelor’s degree in Special Education. She used that degree to serve students in the Helena schools, working at Capital High, Helena Middle School, and Broadwater Elementary. She loved her work as a teacher and the students that she taught just as much as her family, but due to complications with MS, she retired from teaching far too soon. Though MS was a challenge for her the rest of her life, not one word of complaint did she ever utter. Joan adapted as she always had. She leaned on faith in her husband, family, and most importantly herself to get up each morning and take on each day much the same way she dealt with her greatest loss, her beloved son Stevie. Even with the obstacles that were put in her way, she lived a great life and left a legacy of love and service that is a model for us all.
Joan was preceded in death by her husband Jack; son, Stevie; foster sons, Ron and Charlie Mott, and parents, Basil and Virginia Livingston. In addition, she is reunited in Heaven with Jack’s parents, Brandon and Anita; Jack’s siblings (Steve, Tom, Mary Jo); sister-in-law, Claire (Tom’s wife), and many lifelong friends, especially the Hales (John and Alice), Fryhovers (Dick and Marge), and Rules (Roy and Billie). She is survived by her children, their spouses, and over 60 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The family would like to thank the fabulous staff at Rocky Mountain Care for all that they have done for Joan over the past few years, especially during the most difficult of circumstances of 2020. Your dedication to her and others in your care can never be repaid and is truly appreciated. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a celebration of Joan’s life is being planned for a future date.
In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Joan’s memory may contribute to the Helena Education Foundation, St. Peter’s Hospice, Carroll College, Helena Food Share, or an organization of their choice.