Mary Elizabeth (Best) McGowan
March 10, 1919 ~ June 3, 2014
It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Mary Elizabeth McGowan (nee: Best) on June 3, 2014, at the Colville Tribal Convalescent Center in Nespelem, WA. Mary was born in Monse, WA to parents, Arthur and Lillian Best and was a proud member of the Colville Confederated Tribes.
She is lovingly survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Loretta and Ben Gumm of Keremeos, B.C., Canada; granddaughter, Janet Gumm and fiancee, Doug Allen of Fort Fraser, B.C., Canada; sister, Frances Crossland and brother, Albert Best, both of Omak, WA; and numerous nieces and nephews. Mary was preceded in death by her husband of 38 years, Paul C. “Jiggs” McGowan on February 25, 1978; her loving grandson, Gregory A. Gumm on May 19, 2012; both parents, Arthur and Lillian Best; brothers, Perlie Best, Joseph Best, James Best, and Abraham “Link” Best; and sisters, Esther (Best) Pautzke and Lillian (Best) Tenner.
As a young lady, Mary worked as a Nurses’ Aide at the hospital in Nespelem, not far from where the Convalescent Center is now located - the place where Mary had resided since June 6, 2012. It was while she was working there that she met and fell in love with a young Montana Cowboy named Paul “Jiggs” McGowan. They were married on May 3, 1940. Their first home was in Nespelem, where their daughter, Loretta, was born in February 1941. They eventually moved to Moses Meadow, where her husband worked cutting and selling firewood and fence posts with Mary’s father, Arthur Best. When it was time for Loretta to start school, they moved to Omak and Mary went to work in the Omak Bakery, decorating cakes. It was during this time, that her husband, Jiggs, went to Richland, WA, where he did Heavy Duty Mechanic work on equipment used to build the Hanford Atomic Works. Mary and Loretta joined him as soon as Loretta finished grade one. Two years later, they moved to Brewster, WA in time for Loretta to start grade three. They bought a small ranch there, where they raised cattle and sold alfalfa hay and husband, Jiggs, worked as a Heavy Duty Mechanic during the building of Chief Joseph Dam in Bridgeport. Mary went to work packing apples and was the head packer for many years while they resided in Brewster. In the mid 60’s, they operated the Flying “J” Tavern & Cafe in Okanogan for almost two years, before purchasing property in Kartar Valley near Omak Lake, where they lived and ranched until moving back to Okanogan on Cameron Lake Road in the fall of 1977. After her husband passed away in February 1978, Mary returned to packing apples and worked several years at the Okanogan Packing Sheds. She resided at the Cameron Lake Road home until it was necessary for her to move into the Colville Tribal Convalescent Center in Nespelem in June 2012, due to the onset of Dementia.
Mary spent her school years at St. Mary’s Mission and often spoke well of her years there. St. Mary’s Mission was a special place to her and she was always happiest when she could attend church there, especially the Christmas Midnite Mass and Easter services. She was a member of the Catholic Church all her life and was always eager to help in any way she could, often leading Rosaries with Fathers Jake and Bob for funeral services. She was also a longtime member of the Okanogan Eagles and held several local and State Offices during her active membership.
Family was always important to Mary; she looked after both her father and mother in their later years and she was never happier than when brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and friends came to visit - the more people there, the better she liked it. She was always willing to lend a helping hand to relatives and friends alike.
We would like to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to all of the Staff at the Colville Tribal Convalescent Center in Nespelem. They provided a wonderful atmosphere and much love to Mary during the past two years - they all were like family to her and she loved them dearly. She was especially fond of being taken on car rides, dancing, lunches out and her Pop Tart capers. Thank you to Dr. Myers in Nespelem for all his assistance and care. We also wish to thank those who took the time to visit Mary at the Convalescent Center; your thoughtfulness meant a lot to us.
Rosary services will be held at 7:00 p.m. Friday, June 13, 2014, at Precht-Harrison-Nearents Chapel on Elmway in Okanogan, WA. A Catholic Mass will be held for Mary at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, 2014, at St. Mary’s Mission in Omak, WA, with Burial to follow at the Okanogan City Cemetery. Those wishing to do so, may make a donation to the Colville Tribal Convalescent Center in Nespelem, WA in Mary’s name. Precht-Harrison-Nearents Chapel and the Okanogan Co. Crematory are entrusted with the funeral arrangements.