Yolanda Wendell Schellack Meine
April 20, 2023
As daylight broke on March 28, 2023, after breathing Montana's beautiful Beaverhead Valley air for 52 years, Yolanda Kaye Wendell Schellack Meine (74) departed this life with family alongside at her ranch home north of Dillon. After Yo's husband of 48 years passed (Carl Meine - Jan. 2020), her daughter Brenda moved home with her dog Delilah. Early in 2022, Yo faced a knee replacement; later the opposite-hip surgery; followed by lung cancer... succumbing to complications.
Born November 6, 1948, in Rock Springs, Wyo., Yo was the eldest of five born to Luella May Engebretson (Lou) from Kalispell, Mont., (b: 1928 - White Earth, N.D.). Yolanda's first home was a dry cabin in nearby Winton Coal Camp (now ghost town) where her father, Haines Jasper Wendell (b: 1912 - Niles, Kans.), worked for UP Railroad prior to the "black-lung" coal mines. Haines's fourth child (after Larry, Max, and Lloyd), Yolanda always had her Dad wrapped around her little finger. Creative antics conjured by Yo's bright mind continually tested her Mom --- until they became close friends as adults.
Along with siblings Debbie (1950) and Dick (1953), the family moved near NW Wyoming's Owl Creek Mountains for work in the Empire Oil fields at Hamilton Dome. Yo started official schooling at "The Dome" until 1956 when Wendell's bought the Upper Owl Creek "Bar-Lazy-Double-F" ranch 10 miles south-east.
Yo then attended the nearby 1920s one-room Middleton School, complete with piano and wooden desks (now part of the museum in Thermopolis where her class picture hangs in the school's coat-hall). The museum grounds display similar, if not exact, horse-drawn homestead-machinery Yo helped her Dad use prior to tractors. Yo hand-pumped delicious family drinking water from the community well at Middleton School before Wendell's had indoor plumbing (which came in 1961 with the first modular-home in the county).
When not busy with 4-H and FHA projects or helping care for siblings Craig (1958) and Heidi (1960), Yo's chores (horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, milking cows, chickens, flood-irrigation, haying, gardening, laundry, etc.) instilled a formidable work-ethic. After-chore-fun was had exploring on horseback, wading or ice-skating at "the crick", making snow-forts, playing Kick-the-Can, barn-corral basketball, stick baseball; volleyball, badminton, board games and sibling-produced-plays. A keen pinochle player by age 11, Yo "subbed-in" at her parents' four-card-table parties. As ringleader of Lou's brood, Yo often "borrowed" the family car (starting in third grade) teaching the joys of speed, adventure, and general mischief.
Yolanda attended grades 1-2 at Hamilton Dome, 3-4 at Middleton; then Thermopolis schools until she graduated from HSCHS in 1966. After a short stay at Nebraska's York (Christian) College (way too much fun was had!), Yo moved to Butte, Mont., where her Dad mined the Berkeley Pit for a stint. After Butte secretarial school, Yo married Forest Service civil engineer, Lowell Schellack (1967). She remained an active 4-H Leader and bowler. The couple had two children, Brenda Jean (1968) and Gregg Wendell (1970), before moving to Dillon (1971); later divorcing.
Yo met Carl while working at the Lion's Den in Dillon. Along with her children, she embraced raising Carl’s three teen sons on Anderson Lane's "Shoe Sole" ranch. Yo lived nearly a half-century on an addition of the 1882 homestead legacy ranch started by Montana Cowboy Hall of Famer, Charles F. Meine. A hard-working rancher's wife, the "night owl" handled winter night-calving watch. Yo's springtime "buzzed" with sheep-shearing, starting garden seedlings, Brenda's theatre, baby chicks, brandings and quiet strolls to cut wild asparagus.
Summertime brought trips in the pick-up-camper to attend Gregg and the boys' motocross races; catch mountain stream Brookies; Clark Canyon Reservoir fishing in "Maybe?" (1960's converted camper-boat from Flathead Lake); barbecues and bonfires with endless storytelling under star-studded skies. Yo "hosted" often, including a special reunion when half-brother Max (and family) treated his Montana siblings with fish for a Kansas-style fry.
Cooler "no-bugs" days and colorful leaves ushered in Yo's favorite season: fall. Labor Day bustle meant the rodeo and kids’ fair entries, visiting and dancing --- she was graceful and captivating at two-step and jitterbug. Hunting season meant processing wild meat for smokers and freezers to top-off harvests of home-grown beef, chicken, fish, and Yo's bountiful garden.
Yo was an amazing cook that kept her family of 7 (and guests) well fed. Drop-in visitors were welcomed with a cup of fresh coffee or cold drink and maybe a taste of her Mom's Norwegian lefse or Carl's old-world Bohunk povitica.
Yo delighted in humor, music, dancing and creating fun. A strong, feisty and independent spirit, petite Yo told you exactly what she thought… in her own special language. As frequently is “the cowboy way” her tender heart was often hidden.
After the kids moved on and ranching scaled down, Yo enjoyed the cozy sanctuary provided by her yard - including trees, deer, bunnies, birds, and especially her favorite… owls. 1000-piece puzzles, word-games, following sports on radio and TV maintained her sharp mind. Yo much-loved her family and kept close-track of everyone by phone or social media.
Yolanda is survived by her children, Brenda Jean Rodriguez of Dillon (kid: Emma), and Gregg Wendell Schellack (Michelle) of Harrison, Idaho; step-sons, Dan of Missoula, Mont., (Connie; kids: Jeremy, Anna); Tom of Dillon (kid: Carlee); Tim of Seattle (Kathy; kids: Bradley, Elizabeth, Kali); siblings, Deborah Lynn Ferris of Butte (kids: Derek, Brent, Kail, Brittani); brother, Haines Richard Wendell of Ulm, Mont., (Carolyn; kids: Emily, Josh); and Heidi Ann Wendell of Helena, Mont., (kid: Nicole); and half-brother, Lloyd G. Wendell of Nampa, Idaho (Corina; kids: Amy, Kirk, (d)-Beth).
Yolanda Kaye was predeceased by: her parents - Haines (1993) of Orange, Calif., Luella (1996) of Dillon; brother, Craig Douglas (1995) of Provo, Utah; half-brothers, Larry Lee (2003) of Richland, Wash.; Max Dwayne (2019) of Harrington, Kans.; husband, Carl Joseph (2020); brother-in-law, David Wade Ferris (2022) of Butte.
At Yo's request, no services were held. The family hopes to host a BBQ later to celebrate her life. Yo will be dearly missed by all who loved her. Rest in Peace, Dear One.