Obituary from Daily Interlake, 11 January 2013 ( http://www.dailyinterlake.com/community/obituaries/article_dc67a8d0-5c43-11e2-8ec6-001a4bcf887a.html ):
Ruth (Shannon) Nace Steel, longtime Montana newspaper woman, in both editorial and advertising, died Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, of heart failure. She was 89.
She passed away in the home of her son and daughter-in-law, Anthony and Terry Nace, in Phoenix.
Ruth's father, Albert "Spike" Shannon, along with his wife Aline and young son McClellan, tore up roots in Minneapolis and moved west to settle in Browning in 1917. Ruth was born six years later on June 29, 1923. Browning in 1917 was the Wild West in transition and young Ruth as a child, dreaming of flight, would dance to the song "Lucky Lindy" on the Victrola, and look out onto dirt streets where the occasional car steered its way around wagons and men on horseback. Growing up, Ruth spent much of her time on horseback working as a ranch hand.
She was a young woman with many plans, when suddenly she and her friends had their plans changed for them, blindsided by the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941,
"A date none of us would ever forget," she wrote. "A date that completely changed all of our lives."
With the U.S. entry into a two-fronted war, Ruth first went to work for the Douglas Aircraft Company building D-C3s as troop carriers, before returning to Montana to train horses for the military. She then entered the Navy and worked as an air traffic controller in Rhode Island, while also continuing her pursuit of a pilot's license.
At war's end, she was the first woman pilot to fly into Browning, landing at the Star Meadows airstrip, now a faint memory.
"Someone had put up a windsock," she once told her son Shannon, "made out of an old pair of long underwear."
In the early post-war years, in Studio City, Calif., where she was working on gaining her commercial pilot's license, she often flew over to frequent the famous "Happy Bottom Riding Club," owned and operated by the lovably infamous, female pilot Pancho Barnes.
She survived a plane crash as well. Attempting to land at a small airstrip in Southern California, banking against a howling wind that suddenly gave way, her plane veered into the ground. Her thin cloth and leather helmet offered little protection.
"My brother Mac cried on seeing my bruised and swollen face," she said. If she'd been taller, one investigator suggested, she may have lost her head. Being only 5 feet, 3 inches may have saved her life. After her recovery, working in a restaurant frequented by many film stars, she met Anthony Nace, an ex-actor, turned industrial psychologist. He was looking for a pilot. He found one, and much more. They married and sought out adventures in the Southwest before settling down in Santa Barbara, Calif., where their two sons were born in 1953 and '54.
Anthony died in '64, and Ruth took her two sons to live in Montana the following year, where she taught them to hunt and appreciate the outdoors. There they all lived for the next 20 years, between Lakeside, Kalispell, Missoula and Bigfork. During that time Ruth worked for the Daily Inter Lake, KCFW television, the Missoulian and the Bigfork Eagle.
Ruth married Frank Steel, on the shore of Flathead Lake in 1972, and they had 20 happy years together traveling and enjoying life. They moved to El Paso, Texas, in 1986, where Ruth took microlight flying lessons at the age of 62. She only lost interest when she realized, as she said, "The darn things didn't hold enough fuel to get you anywhere."
She and Frank moved to Sierra Vista, Ariz., in 1990. Frank preceded Ruth in death by exactly 20 years. She had lived in Apache Junction, Ariz., since 2004.
She is survived by her sons, Shannon and Anthony Nace; her daughter, Connie Orud; her grandsons, Kyle Nace and Cody Orud; her granddaughter, Kodi (Nace) Sohl; and four great-grandchildren, Jackson, Henry, Charlie and Helen; as well as her stepdaughters, Brenda Sorm and Jody Collins, and Jody's daughters, Abby Collins, Erin Watkiss, and two grandchildren Ellis and Grier.
Celebration of life services are planned in February in the Phoenix area and this coming summer in Montana's Flathead Valley.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donation to Ruth and Frank's favorite charity, Habitat for Humanity.