Mary Ellen (Acheson) Denton was born September 10, 1949 in Ottumwa, IA, the only child of Donald and Catherine Acheson. After a summer trip to Montana, the family decided to move to Missoula in 1952. In Missoula she attended Jefferson Elementary and graduated from Sentinel High School in 1967. During her time there, she was known as an accomplished clarinetist, who once played with Doc Severinsen, and was crowned Queen of Jobs Daughters.
After high school she moved to Billings, MT to attend Rocky Mountain College but later returned to Missoula to finish her Bachelor of Education degree. Summers were spent working in Glacier National Park, but at the age of 19, while hiking with a friend, she slipped and fell nearly 200 ft., a horrific accident that led to a lifetime of physical battles she would have to overcome. She was fortunate enough to make it out alive, but suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her in a coma for 2 months. Once awake, she had to learn how to walk, talk and write again. Mary Ellen was not one to be pushed down by anything, and after recovering from her injuries she went on to bravely complete her bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Montana. Little did she know, this would prove to be only one of many physical battles she would fight in her lifetime.
Mary Ellen had two children from her first marriage, Miri and Mac. After her marriage ended, she moved from Kalispell, MT to Missoula, MT to be with her parents. It was there that she met her husband, Bill Denton, on a blind date and they were later married on Aug. 8, 1980 in Sheridan, Wyoming where they resided for 8 years. She enjoyed their many adventures there, including camping trips into the Big Horn mountains, travels to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone Park, and gatherings with neighborhood friends.
In 1988, the family moved to Helena, MT where she worked in childcare at the local hospital. She and Bill continued to enjoy camping trips with the kids, to Bartlett Creek outside Lincoln, MT and snowmobiling adventures in Yellowstone Park. After 5 years there, they continued west to Coeur d’Alene,ID where she and Bill had lived for the last 30 years.
During her years in Coeur d’Alene, Mary Ellen devoted her time to helping individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities while working at TESH industries and later served on various activist organizations on behalf of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Traumatic Brain Injury Council, and on legislation for advocacy of those with disabilities. She kept her mind sharp with participation in Toast Masters and her body strong with daily walks and water aerobics. But by the age of 60, she met another physical challenge when she was diagnosed with end stage renal disease that forced her to go to dialysis 3x/week (her “new job”) for 3 years followed by a kidney transplant on Dec.14th, 2012. She always remarked it was her best Christmas present ever. She continued to camp all over the northwest with her husband and friends and spent many weekends at her brother-in-law’s cabin in Trout Creek, MT, especially in the fall where the crisp mornings and changing colors brought her joy and peace. Mary Ellen also enjoyed trips to Missoula to visit her daughter’s family and spent weekends with her son’s family in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, eating breakfast or lunch at local restaurants, taking her grandkids to the movies or the Farmer’s market, and walking to downtown events that interested her. The best summers involved an annual trip to Silverwood Amusement Park with her grandkids, where laughter exploded as they got drenched on the water rides.
In 2020, her outgoing lifestyle came to a bit of halt with the onslaught of Co-vid and the risk it brought to someone with a compromised immune system. She and her husband spent many days together on projects at home, little getaways to the cabin, or just enjoying each other’s company.
In 2022, she met another physical battle as she was diagnosed with a neurological disorder that left her unable to walk. She fought valiantly to regain her strength and independence but this time the foe was formidable and this strong warrior surrendered to the good Lord, walking into the loving arms of her parents who waited in heaven for her on September 14, 2023.
This incredible woman, warrior, badass, was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, friend and kind soul. Mary Ellen was fierce in her fight, but gentle in spirit. She was always up for a good time or adventure, making everyone laugh with her jokes (and sometimes her dancing), and NEVER met a person she did not extend kindness too. She loved animals, more than 12 dogs in her lifetime, and enjoyed the outdoors with family and friends. But most of all, she loved her family, declaring her pride in her kids and grandkids to every stranger she met and bragging about her husband’s delicious dinners and trips they shared together.
She leaves behind her husband of 43 years Bill, of Coeur d’Alene, daughter Miri and son-in-law Travis Faller, grandchildren Dawson and Malia of Missoula, son Mac and daughter-in-law Katie Disney, grandchildren Alexander and Annabelle of Rathdrum, Cousin Diana Fairchild, Cousin Paul Handy, dear friends Anita Bell and Deanna Parker, and many others whose lives she touched along the way.
Per your request, you are now with the angels mom. It brings us all comfort knowing that we have our own angel now, battling for us on the other side. We love you so much and look forward to the day we can meet again.