CommunityUnsung Heroes


Just breathe: Missoula woman helps others navigate trauma despite personal tragedy

Unsung Hero Big Dipper
Unsung Hero Big Dipper
Unsung Hero Big Dipper
Posted at 3:42 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 20:17:47-04

MISSOULA — An “unsung hero” is often the person who doesn’t believe they deserve any recognition; they support the community without asking for anything in return.

That’s the case with one Missoula woman who’s known for her kindness and compassion for her coworkers. Even when the unthinkable happened, she continued being a light for those around her.

Missoulians Jordan Cox and Madison Rutledge go way back.

“When we were in sixth grade, halfway through the year, Madison moved to CS Porter from Lolo Middle School, and we were placed as partners in a home-ec class and we bonded pretty instantly after that,” recalled Jordan.

The friendship, built in a middle school classroom, is the same friendship seen today. Two women in their mid-20s, catching up on life and working together at the Big Dipper -- Jordan, the general manager, and Madison, a team leader.

According to Jordan, the world would look a little brighter if everybody had some “Madison Rutledge” in them.

Unsung Hero Big Dipper

“In her position, she shows compassion to everybody that she works with. Everybody loves her and she's easy going and is always in a good mood,” said Jordan.

In an environment where a lot of the employees are working in their first real job, Madison’s compassion doesn’t go unnoticed by the younger workers.

“I really like to remind people that your well-being comes first before the ice cream. It's just ice cream, it's not a big deal, you can take your time. We don't want this to be a stress in your life,” explained Madison.

When the lights dim at the Big Dipper, Madison is busy building her own business where she offers breathwork healing classes -- a type of meditation that improves physical and emotional health.

“Just being able to help people move through trauma and difficult emotions and limiting beliefs...that's my true passion, and breathwork was a great way for me to start doing that,” Madison told MTN News.

So focused on helping others heal from trauma and hardships, Madison never could have predicted the tragedy she’d face in her own life.

Unsung Hero Big Dipper

Tragedy only really experienced from losing someone as important as your mom.

“We found out at the end of April that she had stage four cancer, it was completely unexpected,” said Madison. “She hadn't really had any symptoms up until that point, and so we did think it was COVID that had been lingering that she didn't know she had, but then she got scans and it had metastasized.”

Less than a month after she was diagnosed, Madison’s mom had passed away.

Sharing old photos and goofy videos of their countless memories together, Madison couldn’t help but smile as she described the role her mom held in the family.

“She was the quintessential mom. She loved to cook and clean and take care of everybody. Even the cat was always taken care of, getting treats and the best food, and there was always food in the fridge, I didn't have to worry when I was over at my parents house,” said Madison.

“Now, that has definitely shifted. My dad, he struggles with PTSD and epilepsy, so I really had to step up there and make sure that he's being taken care of, whereas before I was able to just not really have to think about it, and so definitely some new responsibilities," Madison continued. "But I'm just taking each day, you know, with some grace and ease and trying not to get too overwhelmed.”

Unsung Hero Big Dipper

Madison will tell you it’s the people like Jordan who have carried her through this time. Jordan will tell you Madison was already resilient. “It was hard, but also just really inspirational to watch her go through it so gracefully,” said Jordan.

An unsung hero to her friend, to her coworkers, her family, and people she hasn’t even met yet who will need her help in their own healing. Madison knows her mom would be tickled to see that her daughter is making such an impact.

“I’ve already heard her in my mind being like, ‘I'm so proud of my baby, that's my baby girl up there.’ She was always so proud of me and always saw the best of me, so she wouldn't have been that surprised, but she'd be telling all her friends to go watch the news. Even when I thought I wasn't doing very good or wasn't far enough ahead, she was my number one supporter.”

Madison said hosting her breathwork classes made handling her mom’s passing easier than expected.

You can learn more about her workshops here.