Mary Beth Percival
Mary Beth Percival was born on July 27, 1945, in Shelby, the daughter of Alfred and Winona Graesser. She grew up in the Big Hole and Boulder valleys where her father was a ranger for the U.S. Forest Service. Ranger Al was a 1939 graduate of the UM School of Forestry. Her mother Winona (Gitchell) was a teacher and librarian who grew up on her parents' homestead on Highview Bench near Choteau.
Throughout her lifetime Mary Beth was fondly referred to by her friends as MB.
MB started drawing and painting at a very early age and also loved riding horses into the Big Hole Valley with her Ranger father. She graduated from the Jefferson County High School, class of 1963.
She attended both the University of Montana and San Francisco State College and graduated from the University of Montana with a B.A. in fine art. She was in San Francisco during the Summer of Love and participated in the vibrant art and music scene of late ‘60s San Francisco.
As a young person MB taught art in various Montana public high schools for several years. Throughout the 1970s and beyond she supported herself as an artist and graphic designer in Missoula’s diverse community.
She was married to Steve Percival and they owned a music store called Bitterroot Music at the current location of Bernice’s Bakery.
Mary Beth was friends with many people who started the art scene in Missoula; this is where she met her second husband Monte Dolack and they remained married for 30 plus years. The couples were collaborators in art, business and community service. The Monte Dolack Gallery on Front Street became a landmark and destination for art lovers from near and far.
Mary Beth also participated in numerous painting workshops and she and Monte traveled to major cities in the United States, Mexico, Japan, Egypt, New Zealand and Europe where she conducted intensive visits to museums and galleries to inform her artwork.
Percival is best known for her watercolor paintings, many of which illustrate her strong bond to the country where she grew up. She has painted personal and intimate views of that Big Sky Country. She enjoyed painting scenes that are experienced by lingering near streams and riverbanks and exploring trails that beckon into hidden mountain worlds. Her paintings also celebrate the simple pleasures of daily life – sun streaming through a window on a bouquet of spring pussy willows or the gathering of a fresh laundry from the clothesline.
MB had a remarkable talent for drawing and also kept beautifully illustrated journals.
Mary Beth has shown her work in many juried and invitational shows. In 2009 she and Monte were honored by the University of Montana School of Fine Arts (Odyssey of the Stars) distinguished alumni award. She and Monte were also recently honored by the Cinnabar foundation the conservation Roundtable as well as other organizations dedicated to preserving, conserving and protecting important landscapes and watersheds.
Mary Beth retired in 2010 due to dementia although she continued to paint, draw and love her family and friends for as long as she was able. She lived at Edgewood Memory Care for her last four months where she was given loving care by the staff.
MB received compassionate end of life care from the Hospice providers at Partners in Home Care; the care partners at Harvest Home provided companionship to MB and respite for her family.
When MB lived at Edgewood Memory Care she was visited by many friends who spent thoughtful and loving time with her. Her brother Mark Graesser (and his wife Alice) and sister Christine Graesser (husband Brian Toal) traveled from Newfoundland and Connecticut to visit her in the days before her passing. Her brother John Graesser preceded her in death and was a Missoula photographer. She also leaves a nephew, Liam Graesser Toal, who is a student at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Besides painting she loved nature, including birds, animals, and flowers. She enjoyed walking her dogs daily on the open spaces of Mount Jumbo with her friends. She looked forward to early spring when her favorite wildflower the Shooting Star blooms.
Her lifetime achievements and artwork are represented by Monte Dolack Fine Art in Missoula. Images of her paintings and prints, are on view at dolack.com.
Mary Beth Percival passed away on December 7th, 2016. Memorials may be made to: The Missoula Humane Society, Alzheimer’s Association Montana, The Five Valleys Land Trust, the Missoula Art Museum, or any charity advocating for natural world or the arts.