A funeral Mass for Mikell Neumann, 80, of Baker was held Saturday, May 13, 2017 at St. John’s Catholic Church, Baker with Father Phillip Chinnappan celebrating. Burial took place in St. John’s Cemetery, Baker.
Visitation for Mikell was May 12 at Stevenson Funeral Home, Baker with a rosary and vigil service being held.
Mikell passed away on Thursday, May 4, 2017 at her home in Baker at the Park View Retirement Complex.
Mikell Joyce Neumann, only child of Floyd and Colleen Peck (nee Curless), was born July 11, 1936, at the old Elizabeth Hospital in Baker. In her early years the little family traveled from place to place following her father’s work. It was an adventure for Mikell; she attended third grade in three states. For a couple of great years, she rode her grey gelding, Buttermilk, to the Ishawooa School, up the south fork of the Shoshone River from Cody, Wyo. She also spent ten childhood summers with her aunt and uncle, the Kris Eiklands, at the Lazy H-X Ranch on Cabin Creek, north of Baker.
The Pecks returned to Baker for their daughter’s high school years, but Mikell missed her 1954 graduation at Baker High School, having taken the train to Missoula to compete for the Fox Foundation scholarship which enabled her to begin studies at the University of Montana. When she arrived back in Baker, her school friends met the train with a brass band, which Mikell said was better than winning the scholarship.
During her years at the U. of M. she was elected to membership in several honor groups: Alpha Lambda Delta, Tanan of Spur, Phi Alpha Theta, Phi Kappa Phi, and Mortar Board, and to the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house which she served as president. A state Elks’ scholarship paid one year’s tuition. Mikell read to blind students on campus and gave swimming lessons to earn the rest. In 1958 she earned a BA degree in history, with high honors. She was voted Outstanding Senior Woman in her graduating class, and was awarded a Woodrow Wilson fellowship to attend the Horace Rackham School of Graduate Studies in Ann Arbor, Mich.
She went instead to the World’s Fair in Brussels, then accepted a Fulbright scholarship to Kings’ College, University of London. There she studied British imperial history with Rhodes Professor Gerald S. Graham, who became a mentor and lasting friend.
Returning after fifteen months to Montana, Mikell began a teaching career which was to touch five decades; first at Great Falls High School and later in her hometown of Baker. While in Great Falls, she received the Burton K. Wheeler memorial scholarship, a full-fee scholarship, to attend law school at the University of Montana. She answered Cupid’s call instead, returning to Baker where she was married to Robert Neumann on Dec. 21, 1961. They lived on the Yerbalinda Ranch south of Plevna, where they were blessed with two children, Barbara in 1963 and Jonathan in 1966.
For many years the Neumanns were a Test Group Family for FARM JOURNAL magazine, and were featured on the December 1969 cover of that publication.
Over the years Mikell traveled in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Canada, and Mexico. One summer she studied German language at the University of Vienna. Another time she earned sixteen graduate credits studying at the University of Karachi in Pakistan, with a side trip to Gilgit and Hunza. She accompanied a delegation of Montana 4-H kids to Japan for several weeks in 1975.
For ten years Mikell counseled at Montana Girls’ State in Helena, serving for a time as Director of Education. Along the way, she earned a Master of Science degree and was published in a number of education journals. Mikell loved reading and writing, old movies, baseball, and ninth-grade students.
Mikell somehow thought her children would grow up to do either letters or the land. Since they were raised with a lot of structure in their lives, she shouldn’t have been surprised, and certainly wasn’t disappointed, when both chose, and were chosen by, the service academies at Annapolis and West Point and served full careers in the military. The Neumanns travelled to be with their kids’ Navy and Army families, helped out during deployments, and looked forward to their grandkids’ summer stays in Baker and at the ranch. Nana was their first and best teacher.
Mrs. Neumann is survived by her husband of 55 years, Robert Neumann (Baker and the family ranch), her children: CDR Barb and CAPT Andy Paul, USN (Ret) (Norfolk, Va.), COL Jon and Kim Neumann (West Point, N.Y.), and her grandchildren: LT Thomas and Dr. Julie Paul (Norfolk, Va.), ENS Robert Paul (USS CHAFEE, Pearl Harbor), Cadet Jon Paul (West Point), Hannah Mikell Neumann (UNC-Chapel Hill) and Theresa Neumann (Cedar Crest College).
Remembrances and condolences may be shared with the family at www.stevensonfuneralhome.com.