Audrey Crabtree VanDeRiet

Audrey Crabtree VanDeRiet, 87, died January 21, 2019 at Peace Hospice House in Great Falls.

She leaves a son Jay, his wife Deb of Fairfield and their 5 children, Kelly (Cole), Melissa, Kale, Renee (Kevin) and Laura (Taylor); daughter Lynne and her husband Bob Eustance of Seeley Lake and their 2 children, Michael and Heath; and daughter Salley and husband Steve Young of Power and their 4 children, Darby, Whitney (Ty), Gentry and Cooper. She was blessed with five wonderful great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her brother, Frank Crabtree and wife Bobby Jean of Cascade; sisters-in-law Bonnie Crary and Lois Crabtree of Choteau; and one brother-in-law, Doug Baker of Fort Peck; along with many close family members and friends.

Her husband, Ray preceded her in death; as well as her brother, Dick; and her parents.

Audrey was born in Simms to Bea and John Crabtree in 1931. Along with her brother Dick, they lived on the family farm east of Simms until 1941 when the family received a homestead west of Fairfield and moved there. A year later her brother Frank was born. Mom attended a one room country school house and went on to graduate in 1950 from Fairfield.

Valentine’s Day 1953, Audrey married Ray VanDeRiet, son of Harry and Bess VanDeRiet, another homestead family from the Sunny Slope bench. Their 3 kids were all born here in Montana while dad worked on area ranches, but then the traveling bug bit and for the next 10 years or so they were off! Mom and Dad packed up three little kids and a dog and took off up the Alcan Highway to Juneau, Alaska. After a year or so they got tired of the rain, came back and moved around Montana for a few years, Simms, Great Falls, and Choteau with lots of fun times, then in ’68, a move to the Tacoma area where Ray worked for Boeing. Three years later we landed in Sunnyside, Washington and stayed there until Mom’s dad had a bad heart attack, and we moved back to the homestead to help out. We grew up a little like Gypsy’s, tons of fun! That was 1971, and Mom and Dad finally got back to their passion, raising cattle and a few good horses here in Montana. Soon we were running Simental cross cattle.

In 1982, Mom and Dad moved back to Augusta purchasing the old Leva place on the Sun River. They built a nice home there and kept running cows. Son Jay bought the homestead on the Fairfield bench and he and his wife are still there.

Mom and Dad had 36 great years together before his death in 1989.We shared many summers of rodeos, waterskiing and camping. Mom and Dad loved the mountains, usually seen from the back of a horse or the cockpit of their airplane. They had a great passion for life and for each other.

Mom was a rock and an incredible person. After Dad passed, she stayed on the river place. Though the land was sold, she had the house and 8 acres where she spent time playing with grandkids, teaching them to ride horses in the summer and ice skate in the winter and making our lives wonderful! In 2002 she bought Nett’s house and moved into Augusta. We then dubbed her the mayor, because she was involved in everything in Augusta. This past year the Augusta Rodeo was dedicated to her for many years of service to the event. She was instrumental in the development of the Augusta Museum, and a lifelong American Legion Auxiliary member.

Memorials can be sent to the Augusta Museum or the Augusta American Legion Auxiliary.

At Audrey’s request, there will be no funeral. Her children will host a celebration of life for their mom in the coming summer.

Condolences for the family may be posted online at

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