Zelma E. Degner passed away on August 15, 2022, in Lewistown of natural causes surrounded by her family.
Zelma Ethel Leslie was born August 12, 1924, in Winnett, Montana to Alexander and Jean (Duguid) Leslie. Zelma attended several schools (Garneill, Wiederman, in Armells, Garfield in Lewistown, Dengel) during her elementary years as her father worked for various ranches.
Zelma began attending school in Grass Range in the 6th grade and graduated from Grass Range High School in 1942.
Zelma attended college at the Great Falls Business College. She worked for Wall for Tires in Great Falls for four years. In 1948, she moved to Billings to work for Northwest Fixture. In 1952, Zelma started working for Shell Oil. She purchased her first car----- a 1954 Chevy. She sold the car to her uncle Scotty when she married in 1956. Years later, (1978) she purchased the car back from her uncle and Mike and Sandy drove the car back and forth to high school.
Zelma married Bill Degner on May 19, 1956, in Lewistown and began her new career as a rancher’s wife and mother. Six children were born to Bill and Zelma-----William Russell, Nancy Jean, James Edward, Michael John, Donald Mark “Chip”, and Sandra Marie.
Zelma grew a large garden to help feed the hungry kids. She also raised chickens and butchered about 25 each fall to fill the freezer.
Zelma belonged to the Anna Smalley chapter of the Order of Eastern Star and was a life member. She served as secretary of the chapter for 46 years. She was also a 4-H leader for many years helping where needed as the children took on various projects. Zelma was also actively involved in writing the Grass Range history book. Zelma was also instrumental in the planning several all-class reunions in Grass Range.
Zelma got the “bug” to travel as her children neared graduation. She convinced Bill to travel to Scotland in 1977. After having to drive on the opposite side of the road, down narrow roads, and listening to that Scottish brogue, Bill decided that Degner land was the best place to be. Zelma continued to travel, taking another trip to Scotland with her cousin. She took many bus tours across the U.S., traveling to the west coast, the east coast via Canada, Alaska, and several other smaller journeys.
Zelma loved to socialize and often said, “I’m never home to get things done.” She attended Senior Citizens meals and visited with her good friend Carol Geary. Zelma loved music and to dance and attended the fiddler’s jam in Grass Range each month.
Survivors include her children: W. Russell Degner, James (Deb) Degner, Mike (Mel) Degner, Nancy (Jim) Jares, and Sandy (Curt) Crusch. She is survived by her grandchildren Stephanie Briggs, Connie Degner, Steven (Laramey) Degner, Cassie (Seth) Eaton, Nicole (John) Newell, Jamie (Ryan) Moody, Mariah (Bryce) Schimke, Tyler Crusch, Karen (Ben) Lister, and Quade Degner. She is survived by 11 great grandchildren with one on the way!
Zelma was preceded in death by her parents Alex and Jean Leslie, her husband Bill, her son Chip, and her brother Jim.
Visitation will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, August 19, 2022, at the Cloyd Chapel in Lewistown. Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 20, 2022, at the Grass Range Methodist Church. Viewing will be held one hour prior to the service. Committal follows the service at the Grass Range Cemetery. Cloyd Funeral Home has been entrusted with arrangements. Online condolences may be shared at: www.cloydfuneralhome.com. Memorials in Zelma’s name may be made to the Grass Range Foundation or the Grass Range Methodist Church.