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HAMILTON — Shirley Iris Gates DeZell of Hamilton joined the angels in Heaven on Feb. 21, 2018 surrounded by loving family. Shirley was born in Opportunity on Feb. 8, 1935 to George and Ruth (Harris) Gates and was raised in Corvallis. She was the oldest of six children including Eileen (Fred) Kluesner, Donald (Joanne) Gates, Dorothy Gates, Ernest (Joan) Gates, and Hazel (Roy) Sheets.  Shirley graduated from Corvallis High School in 1953 and attended Licensed Practical Nurse Training in Havre. She worked at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula, for Dr. Peterson in Hamilton, and at Marcus Daly Hospital for many years and served on the Montana Board of Nursing in Helena. 

In 1960, Shirley married Walter (Mick) DeZell of Hamilton and they raised four wonderful children — Craig, Kerry, Sheila, and Alysia. Shirley deeply loved her family and was so proud of each one. She was very close to many of her nieces and nephews and “adopted” many of the kids’ friends as her own. The family enjoyed many picnics, snowmobiling, and camping adventures over the years. Some of her fondest memories were of the frequent Sunday dinners at Gramma and Grandpa’s home on Hamilton Heights, where countless family members gathered to enjoy each other and built loving, lasting relationships. 

Shirley loved the Bitterroot Valley and taking long drives on Sundays to explore her old stomping grounds and look for wildlife. She was widely known as the Flower Gal and LOVED to work from dusk til dawn in her beautiful yard where she found peace and God’s beauty. Many a person was a recipient of her “extra” flowers! She enjoyed square dancing, listening to music, taking “Full Moon Walks” (sponsored by the Forest Service), chair yoga, and exercising at the Golden Agers Club. Shirley helped coordinate several class reunions and was an avid member of many local women’s groups including the Hamilton Garden Club for 40 years. She was the backbone of the Hamilton Senior Center as the Membership Coordinator, cooked and served meals, and started the Sunshine ministry. Shirley was very active in the Ladies of St. Francis, helping with luncheons, the annual bazaar, and funeral ministry. Basically, Shirley loved everyone and everyone loved Shirley.

Preceding Shirley in death were her husband Walt, her parents, and nephew Russell Hochhalter; she is survived by her children Craig and Nancy (Hamilton), Kerry and Jeannette (Denver) and their beautiful daughters Kyla and Audrey, Sheila and Lee Hawkinson (Raleigh, NC), and Alysia and Dave Phillips (Belgrade) and their sweet children Alexis and Dominic, as well as her five brothers and sisters, many nieces, nephews, extended family and friends. 

A Vigil and visitation will be held on Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. at Daly Leach Memorial Chapel on Main St. A Catholic Mass will be held on Saturday, March 3, at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church with a Celebration of Her Life Reception to follow at the St. Francis Pastoral Life Center at 411 S. 5th St, Hamilton. The family extends special appreciation to everyone for their prayers. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at

The family recommends that memorials be sent to St Francis of Assisi Church or your charity of choice in honor of Shirley.

the life of: Shirley Iris Gates DeZell
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