Donna Scriffiny Sitz Arthun:1937-2015
Donna Scriffiny Sitz Arthun
Donna Sitz Arthun, 78, died at home Nov. 19, 2015, in Billings, Montana.
Donna Scriffiny was born Jan. 24, 1937, to Italian-born parents, Anthony and Linda Zioni Scriffiny. The family lived on a small farm in Monarch, Colorado, where Anthony worked in the coal mines to make ends meet. Donna had two older brothers: Joe and Jim. On their small farm, the family raised a little of everything, and when Anthony wasn’t working in the mines, he would work for the neighbors, carefully scratching out a living for his family during the Depression.
Donna and her brothers attended a small country school in Superior, Colorado. Life was difficult, and cash was practically non-existent in the family, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have fun when they could. One thing Donna clearly remembered took place in the evenings after the work was done when the entire family gathered around the kitchen table and listened to various programs on the radio. The family didn’t go to town very often and then only if it was necessary, but occasionally while in town, another rare entertainment took place when the whole family would take in a matinee at the local theatre.
Then, in 1949 when Donna was only 12, tragedy struck when her 45-year-old father, while on top of a hay stack helping a neighbor, had a fatal heart attack. Life, which had been difficult before, became even tougher. Donna’s maternal grandfather spent the last eight years of his life living with Donna’s family. Donna remembered that he never learned to speak English and that he signed his name with an X. But more importantly, she also remembered that he quite often provided necessary items for his grandchildren that they wouldn’t have had otherwise during this financially-difficult time in their lives, things such as shoes.
Donna graduated from high school and went to work. Her first job was for a magazine similar to The Readers’ Digest. Then she got hired at Rocky Flats Atomic Energy located northwest of Denver in the accounting department.
In June 1957, Donna – 5 feet tall, 90 pounds, with an 18” waist – married a young man from Longmont, Colorado, by the name of Bob Sitz, whose family was developing a herd of registered Black Angus cattle. The newlyweds set up housekeeping in Longmont where Bob worked with his mother, Frieda Sitz, on the farm, and Donna continued to work for the atomic energy plant for a couple more years for the financial stability it afforded the young couple of a regular paycheck.
Bob and Donna’s family got its start with the birth of Debbie in May of 1958. In the fall of 1959, Bob and Donna decided to look for a ranch in Montana. Their search ended with the purchase of a ranch at Harrison, and in January of 1960, the Sitz family—which consisted at that time of Bob, Debbie, and a very pregnant Donna—moved to Harrison, Montana.
Those early years presented many challenges to the young couple: taking over a place that needed a lot of improvement, establishing themselves in a new area, growing their Angus herd, and raising their growing family—a second daughter Sherrie was born in March of 1960, Bob Jr. in September 1965, and Jim in April 1968.
In addition to raising the children and keeping the house, Donna did her part by doing the paperwork and the advertising. Bob had an eye for cattle, and over the years, Sitz Angus became a nationally recognized source for purebred Angus seedstock.
In January 1989, a tragic tractor accident took the life of Bob Sitz at age 54. As you can imagine, those first couple of years without Bob Sr. were challenging, but through team work, Donna and her children met the challenge. In 1997, the family purchased two more Montana ranches.
Donna’s children are actively involved in ranching operations today; Deb and her family operate Bar 69 Angus in South Dakota, Sherrie and her family raise Angus cattle in New Zealand, and the boys Bob Jr. and Jim manage the Sitz Angus Ranch operation in Harrison and Dillon, Montana.
In 1991 Donna and the Sitz family were recognized as the winner of Western Regional Environmental Stewardship Award sponsored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Donna and her family have been avid supporters of many other worthy causes involving youth. They have financially and through volunteer services supported their local youth organizations, Montana Range Days, Montana Junior Angus Association and the American Angus Association Foundation as well as many others. Donna was actively involved in the National Angus Auxiliary, Montana Angus Auxiliary and the Montana Stockgrowers to name a few.
In 1996, Donna married family friend Arvin Arthun. Together, Donna and Arvin worked as a team representing not only the Sitz Ranch but also the entire livestock industry with their attendance, participation, and support to many state and national organizations and activities. Arvin died in February 2011.
Donna was preceded in death by her first husband, Robert Sitz and also preceded by her second husband Arvin Arthun, and her parents Anthony and Linda Scriffiny.
Grateful to have shared her life are her children, Debbie (Craig) Kukuchka, Sherrie (Mark) Stokman, Bob Sitz (fiancé Christine Franklin), Jim (Tammy) Sitz, stepdaughters Christine (Chuck) Murphy and Pam Arthun and her special friend Elsie Jackson. She loved her grandchildren Chase (Ashton) Kukuchka, Callie Kukuchka, Cameron and Jake Stokman, Taylre and Lane Sitz, Amber, Ashley, Tyler, and Tucker Sitz, and her great-grandaughter, Ellie Kukuchka.
Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Friday, November 27, at Smith West Funeral Chapel, located at 304 34th Street West, Billings, Montana. Graveside services will be 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 28 at the Pony Cemetery, Pony, Montana. A reception will be held at the Pony Senior Citizens Center afterwards. Casket is closed. Condolences may be shared with the family by visiting smithfuneralschapels.com.
Memorials may be sent to the Montana Rescue Mission or Montana Range Days Scholarship Fund.