Shirley May King Toombs:

“It’s been a good ride!”
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
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Born March 31, 1928 in Melstone, Shirley was the only child of Celia Stensvad King and Roy King. Growing up in the thirties on the ranch north of Sumatra in Rosebud County, she remembered the drought, grasshoppers and Mormon crickets, and having tea parties with her dog Sport in her “playhouse” in the sandstone formations. Riding the “Dinky” train from Melstone to Forsyth was a great treat. Shirley attended the one room Rattlesnake School for three years, then completed elementary and junior high at the Sumatra School. She completed high school in Forsyth graduating in 1944 at age 16, while working her first job as an usher, then cashier at the theater there, although she also helped at the ranch during World War II. 

Shirley spent a year at Montana State University, living in Hamilton Hall and joining Pi Beta Phi where she made lifelong friends. The following year she attended the Northwest Institute of Medical Technology in Minneapolis. Her career as a medical technician was very important to Shirley, and although she stopped working outside the home after she married, it was an accomplishment she was proud of the rest of her life. 

Shirley had met Bob Toombs through her best friend, his sister Phyllis. She was not impressed when he took her to prom and sat in with the band on drums instead of filling her dance card. However, time passed and after Bob returned from serving in the US Navy during World War II, their courtship began, and they married in November of 1947.  In an extended honeymoon period, Shirley accompanied Bob on his trips around Montana when he was a salesman for Pierce Packing in Billings. They then took the opportunity to live and ranch on the King place. Bobby came along in 1950, and when the twins, Mark and Galynn arrived in 1951, Shirley decided that it was time to move to town. Bob followed her lead and their adventure in broadcasting began, living in Michigan, Idaho, Colorado and briefly California before returning to Montana. Kathryn arrived 12 years later in 1963, in Wallace Idaho, one of Shirley’s favorite homes.

Shirley was the family manager while Bob was the idea man – they were partners in every way.  Her organizational skills were put to the test many times with the ups and downs of their lives.  

When Bob and Shirley relocated to Billings where he later retired, they joined the Newcomers Club and made lifelong friends with several couples who came together for pinochle parties monthly. Shirley also played a mean game of cribbage, and later had a long running tourney with son Mark. 

When Bob purchased a sailboat, Shirley joined in as first mate. They adventured on Yellowstone Lake for several seasons. 

They moved to Red Lodge in 1982 and enjoyed building projects, landscaping their homes and especially watching and feeding the birds and wildlife.  They traveled extensively and loved being part of the Red Lodge community, with Shirley joining the All Nations Garden Club, Red Hats and the Carbon County Memorial Hospital Association. The Beartooth Hospital Ladies Auxiliary, or the Pink Ladies, was a cause she was cared deeply about, especially after Bob passed away in 2006.  Her social circle extended to the gang at cardio rehab at Beartooth Billings Clinic where her snappy comebacks and tart observations became her hallmark.

In 2014 after an unpleasant winter and the decision to stop driving, Shirley moved to a retirement community in Anacortes Washington near son Bob, grandson Kelly and extended family and the San Juan islands she loved so much. She had many pleasant experiences and made some wonderful friends at Cap Sante Court. 

As her physical and cognitive health declined, she moved in with son Bob and daughter in law Gail on Orcas Island, where she made more friends and was able to be nearer great granddaughters Emily and Maggie. She enjoyed the sights and wildlife watching on the island and even danced with grandson Kelly at her 90th birthday party but wanted to come home to Montana. Recovering from a serious fall, she moved to Tender Nest assisted living in Billings where she passed away on Nov. 2, 2018. 

A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, June 22, at 11 a.m. at the Red Lodge Alliance Chapel.