Atlanta Genevieve Dye
Born in Great Falls, MT on October 7th, 1924
Departed on May 7th, 2019 and resided in Centennial, CO
- Funeral Service: Our Father Lutheran Church
Tuesday May 14th, 2019 3:00 pm through 4:00 pm
Atlanta was preceded in death by her parents Percy and Cornelia (Lunde) Brees, her husband William Eugene Dye, brothers Elwood, Jack & Duane Brees, and sister Phyllis Eberhard.
She is survived by her sister Virginia Kilbourn, sisters-in-law Dorothy Brees (Jack) and Fumi Brees (Duane) and brother-in-law Rodger Eberhard (Phyllis); by son William Dye (Julia), daughters Nickolina Jacoby (Dave), Kari Northup (Doug), Atlanta Lea Sheridan (James), Cynthia Dye, and daughter of her heart Kathleen Bowers; by twelve beloved grandchildren and their spouses, and eleven great-grandchildren; and by many nieces, nephews and extended family, who were dear to her.
Donations: Some of the causes Atlanta supported were The Nature Conservancy; The Arbor Day Foundation; St Labre Indian School, Ashland MT; homeless women’s charities.
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Atlanta Genevieve Brees was born in Great Falls, Montana on October 7th, 1924, the fourth of six children. Her parents Percy and Cornelia raised their six and frequent visiting cousins in a tiny house during the Depression, with not much money but plenty of home-grown food and a lot of love. She spent parts of her summers on a wheat ranch, pegging rocks at rattlesnakes and learning Montana hospitality – you’re always ready to help a neighbor, and take a hand offered in return; no formal invitations required, you just help your hostess with the dishes before you sit down to chat.
Atlanta knew when she went into high school that she wanted to go to college, and into research. As a teenager during World War II she served as a clerk at Malmstrom Air base, checking planes and equipment in and out of the system. She was the first of her siblings to start college, since her brothers were in the service and would attend later after they came home. The war ended just before her senior year, which she said was distracting since all the boys came home to swell what had been mostly-girls’ classes. She majored in chemistry and minored in math, graduating from the University of Great Falls with her bachelor’s degree; later, she went to Denver for additional training to be certified as medical technologist.
Atlanta was proud of the work she did in TB research. She started working for the Public Health Service in Washington DC, following the TB survey teams in Denver, Salt Lake City and San Diego, with three months spent at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia for additional training. (She said she had to keep explaining that yes, her name was really Atlanta, and no, she was from Montana.) She moved back to Denver to set up the TB lab at Colorado General Hospital. She met her husband Bill Dye while working together on a research project at Fitzsimmons Hospital. They married in 1952, and they continued to work together on studies at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital and National Jewish Hospital.
She said she earned her “PHT” (Putting Hubby Through) supporting Bill until he finished his PhD in 1959. Once earned, Bill was able to be listed as official head of the projects he was already designing and supervising, and the raise in his salary enabled Atlanta to stay home for a few years and raise the five kids they’d acquired in 6 ½ years.
Family was central to Atlanta’s heart. She loved her siblings and their children; missed the father she lost too young to a heart attack; cared for her mother at the end of her life. Atlanta was glad and grateful that she raised five children who grew up and still like each other. When she retired from medical work in the early 80’s she began babysitting for a little girl named Annie and her brother Daniel, who rapidly became grandchildren, and their mother Kathy who is still her fifth daughter.
She tried to help her brothers and sisters when she could; she was deeply grateful for their support in the rough patches of her life, and passed down to her children the importance of love and family. She had to work for most of her children’s lives, enjoying the rare stretches where she should be home with them. Her mother Cornelia lived with her for many years to help raise the kids; when Atlanta’s youngest grandson Jess was born, she continued the tradition, spending half her week taking care of him so his parents didn’t have to find daycare. She babysat Jess till he was big enough to return the favor, taking care of Grandma as her health and mobility waned.
Beyond her work, Atlanta had many enthusiasms: photography, quilting, family history, old musicals, geodes, and nature, to name only a few. She was a Girl Scout leader for several years. She loved jigsaw puzzles and cut-throat games of Yahtzee and Shanghai Run; she and Ginny were Doctor Mario aficionados. Her 6- and 4-year-old great-grandsons got a kick this spring out of their 94-year-old Great-Grandma showing them how to play a videogame. Her delight in puzzles and games was passed along to her children and grandchildren.
Atlanta took up quilting in her later years, when she had fewer kids underfoot. She was a member of the Colorado Quilt Council for many years, and a member of their quilt documentation team. She was proud that one of her quilts had hung in their biennial quilt show at the Colorado State Capitol. She was a charter member of the Lakewood UMW Quilters – from 1986 till 2018, barring bad health or bad weather, her Tuesday mornings were dedicated to socializing and stitching, to lasting friendships and the exquisite hand-quilted results of their work.
Music was always important in Atlanta’s life. She was born the night when the opera singer Madame Amelita Galli Curci was performing in Great Falls, and she says her mother Cornelia – who had tickets – reminded her of that more than once. Atlanta herself sang in the A Capella choir in high school, and played the viola in the orchestra. She raised her kids on opera and Deanna Durbin, on old MGM musicals, classical music and Sons of the Pioneers. She used to make her teenagers sing in the car on the trips to the mountains, under threat of having to listen to Frank Sinatra if they didn’t. They sang.
Atlanta spent most of her life at the foot of the Rocky Mountains: first in Great Falls MT, then in the Denver area for more than five decades, with only brief spells in North Carolina and Omaha, Nebraska. The mountains were deep in her heart. As a child, her folks would load up six kids in a Model A and drive up for a picnic in the mountains outside of Great Falls. They parked and scattered to the winds, under orders to come back when the campfire lunch was ready and their dad honked his horn. As a mother herself, when gas was 25 cents a gallon and hamburger 25 cents a pound, she had to decide between making meatloaf or buying gas to drive up Bear Creek or Clear Creek canyon and roast hot dogs She said she’d figure the kids would remember the campfires longer than the meatloaf, and she was right. Her granddaughter Annie’s first coherent sentence was “Frow rocks water” – her favorite activity when Grandma Dye would take her up to play by a mountain creek.
She photographed a lifetime of Colorado memories. After her retirement, she and her sister Ginny spent thirty years hiking together, going over every pass in Colorado that they could cross without a jeep (and several that they shouldn’t have but managed anyway). She and Ginny tent-camped until their mid-70’s, then decided that was for the birds and switched to staying in a cabin or motel for their hiking trips. They hiked together till their mid-80s, when the need to be on oxygen 24/7 curtailed Atlanta’s ability to stay at altitude for an extended time. Her last grand hike was in September 2018, when for her early 94th birthday celebration she took a ride in a track chair at Staunton State Park, basically a one-person tank that let her get out on the trail again with her daughters Cindy and Kathy hiking along and her grandson Jess manning the joystick to guide her along.
One of the grand highlights of her life was the Alaska cruise her daughter Kari and son-in-law Doug took her on for her 90th birthday present. It was a place she had always wanted to visit. But she loved to explore. Atlanta loved train trips and driving trips and any excuse to turn off and take pictures on an interesting side road.
Atlanta was an avid photographer and family historian who left behind many, many boxes of photographs from recent ones to negatives that date back to the Brownie camera her dad got in 1917. There are so many gorgeous photos of God’s own country, because He and she are the only ones who know where she took them.
Taking pictures was an essential element of most of her activities, from documenting quilts to recording her travels, to taking photos of her family and identifying the pictures her mother had passed down to her. When her kids were young, she had her own darkroom set-up so she could do her own enlarging and printing. In later years she switched to digital with the rest of the world, but always rather missed the days of 120 slide film and Kodachrome.
Atlanta was a life-long Lutheran, baptized and confirmed at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Great Falls. She was a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Denver for many years, then joined Our Father Lutheran Church in Centennial for the last part of her life.
Atlanta cared for her mother Cornelia through her final illness, with the help of two daughters, making sure that Cornelia could be home with her family to the end. Atlanta in turn went as she wanted to – at home and peaceful in her own bed, surrounded by her daughters and grandchildren, and assured of their love to see her off on the next journey.
Through a long life that led through painful times and sharp losses, she stayed optimistic, certain in her faith in the Lord and in the people around her, family and friends. She was intelligent and curious, always interested in the world and people around her, happy to talk to anyone she met. She had a knack for love and a talent for friendship, and the ability to enjoy herself in all sorts of circumstances. She will be missed by her friends and family, and remembered with great joy.