Isabel Barbara Iams was born on September 21, 1928 in Taylor, North Dakota, the daughter of Aaron Iams and Barbara Iams (nee Bader). Born the eldest of six, she helped her mother raise her siblings Lucille, Jeffery, Michael, Douglas, and Sarah. She continued to live in Taylor until her family moved to Billings, Montana. Isabel (though she preferred to be called Barbara, to her nieces and nephews she will always be “Aunt Isy”) remained in Billings through her high school graduation.
Following her high school graduation Barbara held positions as a teacher in Terry, MT, as well as working for Northwest Airlines. During her Northwest days she resided in New York City for a time. She often talked of outings in NYC when she and her roommates would venture to Harlem to see the music and drink Scotch and milk (a concoction that to this day makes her son shake his head and say “Why?”)
After her return to Billings, MT she met the love of her life Robert James Griffith. Robert was a member of the Montana Highway Patrol and frequently courted Barbara at the Muzzleloader, a popular Billings establishment. They were married on April 6, 1968 in a decidedly understated ceremony (the term “elopement” could be used without much question). They spent the first year of their marriage in Chicago while Robert (aka “Griff”) attended Northwest University on a grant to receive his degree in Criminal Justice.
In 1969 Robert was assigned to MHP HQ in Helena where they resided in a basement apartment on Knight Street. It was during their residence in this apartment that Barbara gave birth to her son, Patrick, at St. Peters Hospital on January 3, 1970. It was also during this time that Robert and Barbara decided to build a house in the far north Helena valley. While working to build their house Robert said, according to Barbara, “We can have a boat, a lake cabin, and nice cars…but it means we both have to work.” Barbara said she replied “I’ll stay home and raise the kid…who wants a damn boat anyway?” Barbara enlisted the help of her father and the couple’s friends to help with the house. The daughter of a carpenter, Barbara inherited the knack for woodworking, a trait which would constantly infuriate and befuddle her husband, though he made an almost inhuman effort to help. At the time few, if any, people were building that far out into the Helena valley. At one point they had to make an up-front payment for concrete because the concrete company could not believe “any idiots were building way the hell out there”. It would be almost 2 years before the home they dreamed of was completed. Barbara and Robert then lived in that home for the next 30+ years, enjoying the view and raising their son.
On April 1, 1994 Robert retired from the MHP as the longest serving law enforcement officer in the history of Montana. They then began their retirement years, which consisted of frequent “mini-vacations” in which Barbara would pick a small town in Montana; they would drive there and explore the area while simultaneously finding the best bars and restaurants. Given the nature of Montana, the bars were fairly easy to locate, the restaurants…kind of hit and miss! Another highlight of their retirement years was their annual trip to Las Vegas for the “Retired MHP Golf Tournament”, at which they frequently met and played in the tournament with their son. They spent many hours conversing with their son and old friends at the various “Keno bars” on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas.
On January 17, 2010 life changed for Barbara upon the passing of her beloved Robert. While she mourned the change, her spirit was undaunted and she decided to sell her home of almost 38 years and move to Texas to be closer to her son. A Montana/North Dakota girl at heart, she decided after 2+ years that the “big city” life of Dallas/Fort Worth was not for her and moved back to Billings, MT to be near to her siblings. After almost 3 years back in Billings, her wanderer’s spirit once again made itself known, and she returned to Texas for another 2 1/2 years. The majority of that time she resided with her son. They took frequent drives into the Texas countryside and had many dinner/lunch outings and visited many of the local “dive” bars (probably her favorite part of the trip, she did like a good Jack Daniels “Ditch”). Her desire for home and family showed through once again though, and she returned to Billings to once again be near her siblings. Unfortunately, a series of strokes and other health problems shortly after her return to Montana resulted in her residence at the Aspen Meadows facility in Billings. Barbara resided there until the end of her life, which occurred peacefully in her sleep. Many thanks to the staff of Aspen Meadows who kept watch over her when we could not.
Barbara rejoined her beloved Robert in the early morning of January 27, 2019. While we will always miss her presence, we can take solace in that her suffering is over and she is at peace with her beloved.
Isabel Barbara Iams Griffith was preceded in death by her parents Aaron Iams, Barbara Iams, brother Michael Iams (Grace), and husband Robert James Griffith.
She is survived by loving siblings Lucille Mares (the late Timothy), Jeffery Iams (Barb), Douglas Iams (Gloria), and Sarah Swearingen (Charles). Barbara is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews, their children, and her son Patrick (April). At her request, cremation has taken place and no services are planned.