Monday, September 16, 2013

Marie Montana

Charles T. Shearer was a longtime Helena reporter and city editor. On February 18, 1902, Shearer was in a dingy saloon on Helena’s Main Street. In a back room, Jack Waite—a former deputy marshall, a handsome, strong, and powerful man—was likely thinking about this unfulfilled dreams when he put a colt revolver to his head and ended his troubled life. Shearer, the young reporter, took it upon himself to break to the news to Waite’s wife. He took a cab to the Waite home on Fifth Avenue and knocked on the shabby door. Alice Waite appeared with one child in her arms and four more holding onto her skirts. She took the news bravely. Mrs. Waite took her children and moved to Lewistown. Shearer lost track of the family, but he never forgot Jack Waite’s senseless suicide and the pitiful family scene. Jack’s daughter, Ruth, then six, maybe like her father—dreamed of bigger things and faraway places. She struggled hard to study music. She had no patron, no one helped her. At sixteen, she became the youngest person to graduate from the music conservatory at Toronto. In 1921, she went to Paris for further study and won a scholarship to the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. She studied Italian operatic roles and took the grand opera in Milan by storm at her debut in 1923. Singing under the name Marie Montana because Ruth Waite was too difficult for Italians to pronounce, she won international renown as a lyric soprano.

This clipping appeared in the Billings Gazette on October 31, 1926.
The announcement of her immensely successful Italian debut caught Charles Shearer’s eye. He was astounded at her accomplishments, and wished that Jack Waite had been there to share congratulations with his daughter.

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