Frances M. Wylder Aug. 3, 1931- Aug. 13, 2022

Swan Song

GREAT FALLS - Frances Mae Jorgensen (Fran) Wylder, 91, of Great Falls, passed on Saturday, Aug. 13 at Benefis Grandview Cottages in Great Falls of complications of Alzheimer's disease and COVID-19.

Fran was born Aug. 3, 1931 in Great Falls, Montana, the first child of Robert F. and Frances J. Burleigh Jorgensen, both of whom were also born in Great Falls. Fran was raised in Great Falls by her parents, with special help from her aunts Mae Taylor, Zita Burleigh, Marguerite Schaefer, Helen Wellens and Betty Jorgensen.

Fran attended Great Falls Public Schools and graduated from Great Falls High School in 1945. She then attended University of Montana, where she graduated with a B.S. in business administration in 1953.

While at the university Fran joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and was enriched by her association there with exceptional young women who became life-long friends. During her college years Fran also met the love of her life James M. (Jim) Wylder, and they were married shortly after graduation.

Fran and Jim began married life in Billings, Montana where Jim worked in the land and human relations departments of Mobil Oil and Husky Oil in Billings and Cody, Wyoming. Fran worked in businesses of oil-related companies. During that time Fran and Jim became the parents of Tim and Carrie. In 1960 the family returned to Great Falls when Jim joined Great Falls Coca-Cola Bottling Co., a business owned by the Jorgensen family. While Jim attended to business, Fran stayed at home to manage the household and to raise Tim and Carrie. Later, Fran resumed her education at the University of Providence, earned a teaching certificate in 1973. Thereafter, she worked as a tutor for the Great Falls Public Schools.

In keeping with her love for Montana, and Great Falls specifically, Fran was a faithful volunteer, board member or benefactor for numerous community organizations. These included Cub Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, First Presbyterian Church, Great Falls Junior League, Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, YMCA, Salvation Army, Great Falls Symphony, Benefis Healthcare Foundation, C.M. Russell Museum, PEO, Great Falls Rescue Mission-Cameron Family Center, University of Montana and the University of Providence. Fran was a member of the First Presbyterian Church since childhood.

Understanding the importance of college level education, Fran supported scholarships at the Benefis Healthcare Foundation and the University of Providence. Fran was one of the trustees of the Robert F. and Frances J. Jorgensen Foundation since its inception and was instrumental in its 1997 grant to University of Providence for expansion of the library and its 2013 grant for the Learning & Information Commons in the library, to which Fran was a substantial individual donor. In 2017 the University of Providence presented Fran with its prestigious Manus Dei (Hand of God) award. In 2021, the C.M. Russell Museum dedicated the Wylder Atrium at the museum in honor of the contributions of Fran Wylder and her family.

Since 1966 a series of cabins at Seeley Lake were the center of fun for Fran's family and friends in both winter and summer. In the winter Fran enjoyed cross county skiing and the occasional snowmobile ride. In the summer Fran loved to hike, find wildflowers, pick huckleberries and tell stories around the beach fire. In the fall, the Seeley cabin served as a base camp for 25 plus years of Grizzly football games in the family stadium box and later in the Canyon Club. A lifetime of memories for the family were created at the Seeley Lake cabins. Throughout the business and retirement years, Fran and Jim also travelled extensively to Europe (six times), Australia, New Zealand and China.

Despite her many activities and accomplishments, in Fran's final view, her legacy was her family. She lived to see her children and all of her grandchildren graduate from college and start successful adult lives. Fran was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

Fran was preceded in death by her parents and her husband Jim.

Fran is survived by: her brother Robert F. Jorgensen, Jr .; son Timothy J. Wylder (Martha); daughter Carrie F. Matsko (Mark); grandchildren Morgan Wylder (Rockwell), Marshall Wylder, Kellee Hardesty (Mike), Karen Hostetter (Jared), Robin Peeples (Sam); and great grandchildren Luke Hardesty, Leigh Hardesty, Owen Hardesty, Alice Hostetter, Bennett Hostetter, Rhys Peeples and Shilo Peeples.

A memorial service will be held Friday, Sept. 2 at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Great Falls, with a reception to follow.

Memorial donations are suggested to the University of Providence, the C.M. Russell Museum or the McLaughlin Research Institute (Alzheimer's research).


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