It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our mother and grandmother, Marjorie Matiska. Marge left Idaho County in a blaze of glory in the early morning hours of Jan. 31, 2021, after a short battle with lung cancer.
Mom was one of the last original “pioneers” of White Bird and the Salmon River Canyon. She was a fixture at Hoot’s Café for 30 years where she “slung hash.”
Being fiercely private and the toughest woman alive, she did not want anyone to know of her illness, not even her dear friends in White Bird.
Marjorie Marie Lee was born to Frank Lee and Edith Lyons Lee on March 21, 1924, on the old Stockton place near Fenn, Idaho, where her father was farming at the time. While still an infant, the family moved to White Bird, Idaho to the childhood home of her mother and the homestead of her grandfather, Charles Lyons. This was the location of the Lyons Ferry that Charles operated. When Mom was still in elementary school the family moved upriver a small distance to Hammer Creek (incidentally it was never called that until the government renamed it in the 1960s). It too was her grandfather’s place where he also ran a ferry and where he mined. Evidence of his hydraulic mining is still visible there today.
Mom and her younger sister, Margaret (Ann), attended the Star School in Copperville. They walked or rode double on horseback to get there. Later, when it was time to go to high school, she attended White Bird High. She graduated in 1942, which was the last graduating class for White Bird High School. It is likely Mom was the last living student from that class.
On May 16, 1942, she married our father, Horace Henderson. Their first summer together was spent on Blacktail Lookout. Once fire season was over, Dad accepted a job as a power plant operator at the tungsten mine in Stibnite, Idaho. With Mom being very pregnant the fall of 1943, the mine gave Dad a leave of absence and sent them out so they would be closer to a hospital. Richard was born October 3, 1943, after which they headed back into the mine.
Eventually a power line was run into Stibnite, which eliminated the need for a power plant, so Dad, Mom and baby Richard left Stibnite and headed back to Idaho County. Dad then took a job as a farmhand for Hauger Farms in Fenn, for a time. On July 1, 1945, with $1500.00 cash, Mom and Dad bought our childhood home (now owned by Rance & Zona Moore) in White Bird and Dad went to work for the IdaPine Sawmill there. On Sept. 15, 1945, Allen was born. Marie joined the family April 2, 1947, and eleven years later Rita came along on May 9, 1958.
Mom was a very hard worker. She always kept an immaculate home, lawn and gardens. Because there was no power or indoor plumbing in the early years in our home, Mom had to cook on a wood cookstove, including canning all her garden produce. Anyone who knows how hot it gets in White Bird during canning season can only imagine how hard she worked and how hot our house got!
While Mom was raising us kids, she walked everywhere she went because they only owned one vehicle. She used to laugh when she would tell the story about pushing the baby buggy down to Ma Haney’s grocery store and then piling the groceries in on whichever kid was in the buggy!
In 1964 Allen had a diving accident in the Salmon River which left him a quadriplegic. Mom took on the challenges of his care while still caring for her home, lawn, gardens, and Rita, who was only six at the time of the accident. Mom never did have a modern washer or dryer. When the old Maytag wringer washer gave out, she hauled all our laundry down to the laundromat. Mom never complained, she just did what needed to be done. Not many women could do what she did. She raised us all to be tough as she had no use for “pansies.” Mom was always “put together” no matter how hard life got for her. In 1971 Mom and Dad divorced. With the other kids grown and gone, it was just Mom and Rita. Those were hard times for the two of them for a long time.
In 1972 she married George Matiska and this was also the year that she started her first paying job at age 48. Mom went to work as a waitress for Hootie McReynolds at Hoot’s Cafe. When she started there, the cafe was located in a mobile building that they had moved up from the former location in downtown White Bird. They were building the current cafe at the time.
Mom and George made their home on Peely Bar, just south of White Bird. They had a humble, but charming home there with beautiful flowers and gardens. They had many happy years together. Most notable was their love for dancing. Mom and George could be seen nearly every Saturday night at Hoot’s gliding across the dance floor during its heydays of the 1970s. George passed away in 1997.
Mom continued to work for Hoot until 2002, when at the age of 78, she finally decided to retire. As mom often said, “The only reason I retired is because I couldn’t hear $#it!” Yes, that was classic Marge.
In 2004, the well at her place failed so she decided to cancel her 99-year lease with the BLM and move to the prairie to be near her daughter, Rita and son-in-law, Dave. Mom maintained her own home there on the farm and continued to take impeccable care of it, her flowers, and her lawn right up to the end. Mom never truly adjusted to life on Camas Prairie. There was nothing she missed more than White Bird and the Salmon River.
Mom was known for her high energy, her flaming red hair, her fashion sense, her ageless beauty, and her love of hot cars. Not many could outwalk her, and none could outwork her. She always said, “I’ve got no use for a lazy person or a liar.” She certainly was neither.
She is survived by her children: Richard Henderson, Marie Henderson Ingram and Rita Henderson Mundt, as well as her grandchildren. Richard’s children: Cliff Caldwell (AnnMarie), Gina Henderson Cameron (John), Shae Henderson Hollandsworth (Patrick), Vladamir Maksakov (Katya), and Zehenya Maksakov (Heidi).
Allen’s children: Jackie Knight Brownsberger (Lyle), Dee Knight (Rene’), Fonda Knight, and Anthony Knight. Marie’s children: Guy Ellibee (Alicia), Matt Ellibee (Laura). Rita’s children: Brandi Mundt Nielson (Bradley), Brad Mundt (Brittny), and Dave Garrett (Brandy). In addition, she is survived by 18 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-granddaughters. She was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Edith Lee; her sister, Ann Hill; her husband, George Matiska; and her son, Allen Henderson.
At her request, she has been cremated. A memorial will be held in June in White Bird with her ashes to be interred at the White Bird Cemetery. A public announcement will be made prior to the memorial when a date and time are finalized. Arrangements are under the direction of Blackmer Funeral Home, Grangeville, Idaho. Send condolences to the family to blackmerfuneralhome.com.
Memorial donations in her name may be made to the White Bird Cemetery District or to the IOOF Hall in White Bird.