| Kay McMillan
Sometimes those who face significant challenges in life are the most generous. Kay McMillan was adopted at birth by Herb and Lois Hetherington of Emmett, Idaho on May 13, 1944. She was a little sister to brother Dick and then a big sister to brother Jack. Raised on a fruit ranch in Emmett, she grew up as a free spirit.
Kay married young and was unable to finish high school. In time, she became a single parent with two sons, Robert (Bob) and Richard (Richie) Rivers. A brief second marriage resulted in her moving to Butte in 1972, where she focused on raising her two sons and earned a High School Equivalency Degree while struggling to pay bills and find employment.
Her love of care giving began with a job as a nurses aide at the Butte Convalescent Center. In 1979, with encouragement and financial assistance from her father and mother, Kay entered the nurses training program at Montana Tech, now known as Highlands College, where she kept the teachers and other students laughing with quick wit and her sometimes off-the-wall view of things. Her career in healthcare took her to Silver Bow General Hospital, Warm Springs State Hospital and as a home healthcare provider. Caring for others was natural for Kay because of her sunny and positive attitude. She was funny, had a heart of gold, and brought happiness and laughter to those she worked with and cared for.
That positive attitude got her through many hardships: a son who committed suicide, a brother who was killed in a motorcycle accident, another son who preceded her in death, and the loss of a dear friend.
Kay enjoyed any activity that engaged her mind. She was an avid Jeopardy junkie and enjoyed reading. She also loved to play a spirited game of Pinochle. She was a collector of Guardian Angels and a lover of cats. She always enjoyed a little gambling, especially playing the lottery. Each time she bought a ticket she would speculate about all of the wonderful things she would do when she won.
Kay spent the last years of her life with deteriorating health and passed away in November of 2014. But her death didn’t stop her ability to care for others. She stipulated in her will that her parent’s legacy to her be shared with her grandson and the community of Butte – the town she loved for 40 years. Kay left a legacy of more than $450,000. With the help of her brother, her daughter-in-law, grandson and best life-long friend, the money is being put to good work through the Kay McMillan Nursing Endowment Scholarship at Montana Tech and through grants in the community of Butte. Most recently, a $27,000 grant was made to the Home Atherton Volunteer Fire Department, in honor of her son Rob Moose Rivers, to be used to upgrade equipment and technology, and make improvements to the fire house including their training facility.
“Kay had a real desire to help others in need. She was always willing to share the last dollar in her purse with those around her,” said Kay’s brother Jack. “With her inheritance, she wanted to help children, both in education and health. She was very focused on it. She also wanted to give back to the community for special projects. I think if you look at the grants we have made so far, we are right on track with her wishes.”
At the end of the day, it was Kay who was the guardian angel. We are so thankful for the incredible legacy she has left for Montana.