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Ruth Dolezal Burleigh

Ruth Dolezal Burleigh
Born: Sep 19, 1952
Died: Sep 07, 2016

Daughter of the Sweet Grass Hills and resident of Chinook, Ruth Dolezal Burleigh, passed away at age 63 on September 7, 2016 after a courageous two yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer.

            Ruth was born on Sept. 19, 1952 in Shelby Montana to Robert and Helen (McDermott) Dolezal.  She grew up on the family ranch on the north side of East Butte in the Sweet Grass Hills. She attended both Meadowlark Elementary School in Shelby and the Bear Gulch Elementary School near Whitlash. Ruth was a passionate student of higher education earning degrees in Nursing (1975), Education (1999) and Native American Studies (2005)

            Ruth married Dennis Lohof in 1972. Their union was blessed by two sons, Jeremy and Jesse.  In 1980 she married Ward Burleigh of Lewistown with the additional blessing of their daughter, Taresa.

In the late 1990’s she met her soul mate in Norman Chase and she spent some of her happiest years with him before he lost his battle with cancer in 2005. 

            In 1975 she joined the U.S Army Nurse Corps where she attained the rank of captain; she was active duty in the military until 1980. 

            Her civilian nursing career saw her working at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings, Valley Vista Nursing Home in Lewistown, substitute teacher in the Lewistown schools, North Star Family Center in Havre, Northern Montana Medical Center in Havre, and Diabetes Coordinator in the Fort Belknap Indian Community. She continued to work as a diabetic educator and the diabetes coordinator until April of 2016 when her medical condition forced her retirement.

Her passions included the “Tour de Cure” fund raising bicycle events held on the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy Reservations.    She was a member of the Sweet Grass Hills Protection Association and worked tirelessly with tribal members and members of the farming and ranching community.  Anyone who met Ruth while she was on one of her “missions” soon learned of her passion and absolute dedication to the cause! She was fearless in fighting anyone she believed might harm the land or its people. She, along with her sister Penny Velk, as members of the Montana Humanities Speakers Bureau  presented “Daughters of the Sweet Grass Hills” to various organizations and schools from 1996-2010. Ruth’s activist activities included working with Molly Kicking Woman and Curly Bear Wagner on filming “Backbone to Mother Earth” and CNN’s “Lost Spirits, lost rights”.

            Ruth was preceded in death by her mother, Helen McDermott Dolezal  her soul mate, Norman Chase.

            She is survived by her children, daughter Taresa Burleigh of Chinook, sons Jeremy Burleigh of Missoula, Jesse (Cora) Burleigh of Lewistown and grandchildren Landon, Avila and Lani, stepson Theran (Cheryl) Burleigh of  Green Bay WI her father, Robert Dolezal Sr, her sisters; Sharlene (Tom) Barnum of Eugene Oregon, Penny (Mike) Velk of Havre and Nancy Dolezal, of Yuma AZ, her brothers, William (Marcia) Dolezal, of Dayton OH, Robert Jr (Nancy) Dolezal of Ely NV, Art (Charlotte) Dolezal of Billings, Mark (Karla) Dolezal of Ely NV and Kent (Julia) Dolezal of Carbondale Il along with her numerous nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews.

            As a family, we will be at peace knowing her final journey left her embraced in the arms of our beloved Sweetgrass Hills.

            Memorials in Ruth’s name may be made to the American Diabetes Association, The Friends of the Sweet Grass Hills, the Scleroderma Foundation or the American Cancer Society.



Edwards Funeral Home  ♦  500 Indiana Street, Chinook, MT 59523   ♦  406-357-2529