Obituary: Iola Jean Belmont

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Iola Jean (Wiltfang) Belmont, 89, a long-time Hill City, S.D., resident, died Saturday, Dec. 1, in Spearfish, S.D.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Little White Church in Hill City, with gravesite service immediately following at the Hill City Cemetery. Visitation will be at 9 a.m. at the Little White Church prior to the funeral service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Little White Church, the Hill City Fire Department, or Hospice.

Iola was born June 13, 1929, in Mansfield, S.D., to parents Hazle and Hazel (Nierman) Wiltfang. At a young age, she moved with her family to Hill City, where her mother owned and operated the Hill City Mercantile store.

While in high school, Iola met and fell in love with Milo “Bud” Belmont. Bud was two years ahead of her in high school and was a classmate of Iola’s only brother, Gay, who introduced them. Iola graduated Hill City High School in 1947.

After graduation, Iola obtained her teaching certificate and taught in a one-room schoolhouse while Bud worked as a heavy equipment operator at Parker Lumber Co. The couple married on June 13, 1948, on Iola’s 19th birthday. It was her greatest birthday present ever.

Not long after they married, Iola and Bud moved to a house on Reno Gulch Road outside Hill City. It was to be Iola’s home for more than 60 years. Shortly after they moved, Bud and Iola purchased the Mobil Gas Station in Hill City, which they owned and operated for nearly 30 years. Iola worked alongside Bud in the station, keeping the books.

Owning a gas station in a tourist town is a full-time, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, give-up-a-home-life type of job, and Iola and Bud passed on their phenomenal work ethic to all four of their children – Shari, Roxanne, Claudia and Roy. Iola was also blessed with the arrival of nine grandchildren – Cindy, Shelly, John William, Chad, Nicholas, Bo, Mike, Mark and Melissa; 10 great-grandchildren – Brandon, Kyle, Tye, Gracie, Nathan, Jacob, Rachel, Luke, Ashley and Sydney; and two great-great-grandchildren – Kole and Kendall.

Iola was known for her fierce independence, her lovely way with words, and her droll sense of humor. She battled cancer twice herself and helped her husband battle cancer, as well. Her beloved Bud lost his fight in 1996, but Iola remained in their family home in the country on Reno Gulch Road.

Blizzards, electrical outages, washed out dirt roads and the occasional mountain lion wandered through the yard. It’s not the cushiest environment, but Iola stayed there by herself for the next 21 years until she was 87. She was a fixture in Reno Gulch and her neighbors will miss her almost as much as her family will.

In 2018, Iola moved to assisted living in Edgewood Vista in Spearfish, close to her granddaughter, Shelly, and her family. Frequent visitors, and Iola rarely spent a day without at least one visitor, can attest that she quickly learned the names of all the staff members she met there. They will miss her, too.

Iola was preceded in death by her husband, Bud;  her parents; brother, Gay, of Ariz.; grandson, Bo Fisher; and great-grandson, Kyle Van Horn.

She is survived by her four children – Shari (Boyd) Bessire, of Sundance, Wyo., Roxanne (Miles) Silverthorn, of Shelton, Wash., Claudia (Rick) Fisher of West Monroe, La., and Roy (Gwen) Belmont of Wichita, Kan.; eight grandchildren, five  great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.

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