Inez Mary Gregori Slonaker

Inez Mary Gregori Slonaker, 94, a lifelong Montanan and longtime resident of Black Eagle and Great Falls, died on Saturday, August 20, 2016 after a brief illness, with her family at her side.

Inez was the daughter of Italian immigrants Settimo (Sam) and Fanny (Vangelisti) Gregori, who came to the U.S. from Lucca, Italy in the early 1920s. She was born in Stockett, where Sam worked in the coal mines. When Inez was a young girl, Sam got a job at the Anaconda Company smelter and the family moved to Black Eagle, where Inez and her siblings attended Hawthorne (later Collins) School. In an oral interview in 2014, at age 92, Inez could still recall the names of the principal ("Miss Collins") and four of her teachers at Hawthorne Grade School.

She later attended Great Falls and St. Mary's High Schools, graduating from St. Mary's in 1939. She attended Great Falls Commercial College and went to work, with her first full-time job at Columbus Hospital, taking two buses to get there in the morning, and walking home more than two miles after work across the 15th Street Bridge.

During World War II she got a job in civil service, working first at Gore Hill, where she supported the 7th Ferrying Group in its mission to ferry U.S. aircraft to Alaska; and later at the Great Falls Army Air Base ("East Base"), where she worked in the blueprint department.

At that time she struck up a pen-pal correspondence with a GI, Les Slonaker, who in his first letter wrote, "Hope you'll write to me, as a letter sure looks good to a soldier." She kept those letters in her dresser drawer for over 70 years. Four years later, when Les returned from combat duty in the Pacific, he and Inez were married at Blessed Sacrament Church in Black Eagle. Even while busy raising their four children; Inez continued to work, using the secretarial skills she had learned at the Commercial College, including several years back at Columbus Hospital in the admissions department. By that time, though, she could drive there instead of walking.

Inez was a dedicated wife and mother, devout Catholic, and proud Italian-American. She was a Brownie leader, a member of the Great Falls Central High School Mothers' Club, and longtime treasurer for the Daughters of Isabella. She liked to sing, made great fried chicken, and enjoyed watching musical variety shows on TV-especially those featuring Italian crooners like Dean Martin. She was very proud of her kids and grandkids.

She is survived by her sister, Clara York; her children, Deloris (Jim) Pribyl, Dennis Slonaker, Dorothy Conlan, and Larry (Sandi) Slonaker; grandchildren Ron Pribyl, Debra Klemann, Lesa Pribyl, and Anne Conlan; and great-grandchildren, Kyle, Kameron and Kody Pribyl and Elizabeth and Courtney Klemann. She also is survived by many nieces and nephews, descended from Sam and Fanny Gregori and George and Bessie Slonaker.

Inez was preceded in death by her beloved husband of 67 years, Les; her parents; her brothers, Lando (Grace) Gregori, Rev. Anthony Gregori, and her brother-in-law William York. She was also predeceased by all her husband's siblings and their spouses; Fred (Agnes) Slonaker, Don (Mildred) Slonaker, Margaret (Cliff) Pridgeon, Leland (Eva) Slonaker, Eleanor (Lee Blevins), Olive (Dale) Sheppard and May (Walter) Gertson, with six passing in the past eight months.

Her funeral service took place on August 26th at Corpus Christi Church in Great Falls. Memorials may be made to Corpus Christi Church, the Big Sandy New Library, or a charity of the donor's choice

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