Ernstena “Tena” Maria Schepens Brown

Sunday, March 21, 2021
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Ernstena “Tena” Maria Schepens Brown, beloved mother, grandmother, GG, aunt, nurse and friend, passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of Monday, March 15, 2021 in Miles City at the home of her daughter Carla with family by her side. She was 95 years old.

Visitation will be from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. with a vigil service beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 25, 2021 at the Silha Funeral Home in Glendive. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 26, 2021 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Glendive with Father Joseph Ponessa officiating. Rite of Committal will be in the Dawson County Cemetery. Silha Funeral Home of Glendive has been entrusted with the arrangements.

Tena was born Jan. 11, 1926, at the Glendive Hospital to Ernstena (Frankenburg) and John Schepens, the adored youngest child of six children. She started her education at the very young age of four, as her older siblings were already in school and she tagged along with them. She attended Deer Creek Country School (the same school her nine children would later attend) until eighth grade and graduated from Dawson County High School at the age of 15. After waiting for the required age of 17 to enroll, Tena furthered her education by entering the Presentation School of Nursing in Miles City in June of 1944. She graduated two years later in 1946 and then attended the Anesthesia School at St. Luke Hospital for eight months in Aberdeen, S.D.

Jim Brown and Tena were married Oct. 16, 1948 in Glendive. They briefly moved to Miles City where Tena worked as a nurse anesthetist at Holy Rosary Hospital. In 1951, they returned to Glendive, and she started at Glendive’s Northern Pacific Hospital, working in obstetrics and administering anesthesia for the next 11 ½ years. Her nursing career spanned 45 dedicated years (44 of those in the Glendive community) where she exhibited a Christ-like love and devotion to all her patients. Tena dedicated the majority of her life to helping others, and through her work, she was able to help countless patients from Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota. Before retiring from nursing in 1989, Tena held many different positions within the hospital, including that of surgical scrub nurse and manager of the surgery center. She was also present at the birth of numerous grandchildren and assisted in many of their surgeries.

As dedicated as Tena was to her work, she was just as loyal to her faith and family. She worked through the births and childhoods of all nine of her children, and although she may have missed a few meals and holidays through the years, she made sure to make it up to the kids when she was home. In doing so, she instilled a strong work ethic in her family, many of whom went into the medical field themselves. She also introduced a strong work/family balance and sense of faith in all her children. Tena was a member of the Sacred Heart Church in Glendive her entire life, and all of her children and many of her grandchildren were baptized there.

Tena’s cinnamon rolls and pies were world famous, and if you were fortunate to be the recipient of either, it was evident the amount of time and effort she put into both. Very few holidays were ever celebrated without Tena bringing a half dozen or more pies to share. She was also an avid gardener and continued to harvest pickles, beets and green beans well into her late 80’s. The family often joked that she continued to garden as if she had nine children to feed and never could cut back; consequently, we all enjoyed the fruits of her labors for many years!

For so many of us, our fondest childhood memories include trips to Fort Peck to stay with Grandma and Grandpa Brown at Uncle Steve’s cabin, where there were never enough beds for all of us, but always plenty of sunshine, wind and of course food; we were never going to go hungry on her watch! This is a beloved tradition we have continued because of her influence, and it is now a weekend trip our children look forward to and insist on attending. She was able to make the annual journey to the lake until she was 94-years-old. Grandma, we promise to continue to meet at Fort Peck for as long as they will allow us!

Grandma Brown had an endless amount of patience and devotion for all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren; traveling far and wide to attend choir, band and piano recitals, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, football and soccer games, honor society inductions and scholarship nights, kinder, 8th grade, high school and college graduations, weddings and baptisms well into her 90’s. She was the biggest cheerleader and champion of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and was sure to keep every referee and umpire on the right side of the call!

Tena was preceded in death by her husband of 49 years, James “Jim” Brown; parents, John and Ernstena Schepens; her mother and father-in-law, Palmer and Betty Brown; sister, Gertrude Undem; four brothers, Henry, Charles, Leo and Fred Schepens; and one grandson, Jess Stout.

Tena is survived by her children: Cathie (Robert) Dolatta and children Cami (John) Graham and Tisha (Tyler) Larsen; Robert (Bob) and children Amy (Greg) Gingell, Stacie (James) Carter and Sara (Keith) Evans; Carol (Marvin) Varner and children Jacie (Brett) Schoenen, Tonya (Jeff) Appelt, and Laini (Brian) McNaney; Colleen (Jack) Hoffman and children Loni Handran and Ashlie (Ryan) Staiger; Chris (Jim) Stout and children Chad (Stephanie) Stout and Lacie Stout; Carla (Jim) Boucher and children Shawn (Michaela) Hystad, Cameron (Kim) Hystad and Clint (Sarah) Boucher; Steve (Sandra) Brown and son Sven (Joy) Undem; Craig (Alicia) Brown and children Bailey, Kayla and Kaitlin; Cheri (Dave) Strouf and children Brock (Leah) Strouf and Amber Strouf. Tena is also survived by 34 great-grandchildren; very special nieces, Connie Undem, Sue (Bruce) Peterson and Jeanne Undem; and sister-in-law, Betty Lou (Daryl) De Kaye.

We would like to express our most sincere appreciation to the staff at Holy Rosary Residential Living for the outstanding care our mother received in your care for the last 22 months of her life.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in Tena’s name are suggest to the Glendive Medical Center Foundation at 202 Prospect Drive, Glendive, MT 59330.

Remembrances and condolences may be shared with the family at: www.silhafuneralhomes.com.

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