Stan Stephens, 91
Stan Stephens passed away on April 3, 2021, in Kalispell, following an extended period of declining health. He was 91 years old.
He was born Sept. 16, 1929, in Calgary, Alberta, to Margaret and Joseph Stephens, immigrants from Scotland and England. He was the second oldest of five remarkable boys. He grew up in a loving and musically gifted family, learning from his father to master the trumpet at an early age. By age 7, Stan was playing trumpet solos in the Calgary Symphony. Later, he played in small ensembles, musical productions, dance bands and jazz bands. Music was a lifelong passion to him, and he savored listening to a well-done performance as much as he enjoyed performing.
At age 19, Stan moved to the United States, eventually settling in Havre. Prior to seeking U.S. citizenship, he enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces Broadcast Network and served in the Korean War. Upon his return to Havre in the early 1950s, he dated and quickly proposed to the girl who captured his heart, Ann Hanson. The two were married in 1954 and raised two daughters. Only death parted them with the passing of Ann in 2017.
Stan’s 38-year career began in broadcasting and later expanded into community television. In broadcasting and as a co-owner of radio station KOJM, he developed a policy that granted fundraisers radio access and also allotted free air time to individuals to speak on various issues. He also broadcasted many of the local high school sports games, garnering a loyal listening audience from across the Hi-Line.
Most notable, however, were his radio editorials. From 1959 to 1984, he wrote and broadcasted radio editorials covering a broad spectrum of issues on the local, state and national fronts. In 1975, he earned national recognition by receiving the Edward R. Murrow award for journalistic excellence. This award was based on his own investigation that uncovered a scandal in Montana’s Worker’s Compensation program.
Regarding community television, Stan introduced cable television to Havre in the 1960s. That later expanded to ownership interests in cable television stations in Glasgow and Sidney.
Then came his political career. He served as a Republican state senator from Havre for 16 years, serving in several leadership positions along the way. In 1986, the National Republican Legislators Association recognized him as one of the country’s 10 most outstanding state lawmakers.
Never missing a beat, he then embarked on a two-year campaign for Montana governor. He won that election on Nov. 8, 1988, and was sworn in as Montana’s 20th governor on Jan. 2, 1989.
In 1993, Stan and Ann happily retired from public life and settled in the Kalispell area. There, Stan and Ann pursued another lifelong passion, the game of golf. In particular, Stan was proud to participate in the annual Governor’s Cup Golf Tournament that began during his years as governor and continues today.
Stan is survived by two daughters, Lannie (Lloyd) Gillin and Carol Donaldson, all from Kalispell; and one brother, Gerald (Mary Jane) Stephens, of Calgary. He is also survived by five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and one granddog.
The family wishes to thank the many outstanding medical professionals in the Flathead Valley who assisted Stan with his medical needs, including Dr. Chris Gill and the caring staff at Kalispell Regional Healthcare. The family also wishes to thank Immanuel Lutheran Communities, where Stan resided for the past few years. Between these two institutions, your combined services to the community are invaluable, and to our family, immeasurable.
Private services will be conducted.
The family kindly requests that memorials be sent to either ALERT (Advanced Life Support and Emergency Rescue Team) of Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation, 310 Sunnyview Lane, Kalispell, MT 59901 or Immanuel Foundation, 185 Crestline Avenue, Kalispell, MT 59901.
Stan Stephens led an impactful life with honor and grace. He made this world a better place by listening and leading by example. His parting advice to all, “Never make a snap judgment and never burn a bridge.”
We will miss him dearly, and look forward to seeing him in heaven.