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Fort Benton —Wallace Earl Morger, 90, passed peacefully away Monday, Mar. 24, at his Fort Benton, Mont., home surrounded by members of his family.
Wally was born in Fort Benton April 24, 1923, a fourth-generation Montanan and the only child of Dagmar S. (Peterson) and Earl R. Morger. He attended Fort Benton schools, graduating in 1941. He attended one year of college at Montana State Normal School in Dillon, departing after his freshman year to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942. As a member of the Fifth Marine Division, he participated in the U.S. assault on Japanese-held Iwo Jima in 1945 and later was part of the U.S. occupation forces in Japan. Discharged in early 1946, he returned to Fort Benton, initially helping his father run a local tavern, and later owning his own bar on the town's Front Street. Both bars were destroyed by a fire in 1949. That same year, he married Victoria Axtman and together they raised nine children in Fort Benton.
Wally had many jobs over the next 50 years, from surveying to highway construction, serving as a deputy marshal, grain elevator operator, bartender, water plant attendant and school bus driver, but he most enjoyed wheat farming in the Egly area north of town and his 41 years as a Star Route rural mail carrier in Chouteau County.
Wally and Vicky were organic gardeners before it became popular, and he was also a noted hunter and local angler who received write-ups in several major outdoor magazines in the 1960s. Education was also very important to them; all nine of their children attended college, and Wally served on the local school board for eight years after his wife Vicky, who had been a school board trustee, passed away in 1980. In 1984, he was honored as Montana's Father of the Year by the MTN Television Network's Norma Ashby.
Wally met Muncie Kacso of Great Falls in 1993. They fell in love, later married and together joined in many activities to support Fort Benton: leading a project to uncover the stone levee on the community's riverfront, volunteering at the information center, supporting community concerts and all Longhorn sporting events, among many. They were named Lifetime Longhorn Boosters.
As a veteran, Wally was also a post-war member of the local VFW, where he led the local color guard for several years after WWII. He was also a longtime member of the Marine Corps League's Great Falls Detachment 688, and served as its commandant among other officer positions he held. He was honored as the Marine Corps League Department of Montana "Commandant's Marine of the Year" in 2012.
Wally is survived by his wife Muncie, children: Valerie Morger (Mark Pyrak), Fort Benton; Randal Morger, Fort Benton; Venetta Morger (John Wood), The Woodlands, Texas; Darcy Morger-Grovenstein (Glenn), Prescott Valley, Ariz.; Shane Morger (Geri), Ventura, Calif.; Lisa Morger Miller (John Miller), Poplar; Brian Morger, Great Falls; and Wallis Morger Bryan (Van Bryan), Bozeman. He was predeceased by his first wife, Victoria, and his youngest daughter, Audra Morger Bonilla (Gregory), Helena.
His grandchildren include Erin Bley, Tessa McGree (Tom), Jenna Chenette (Justin), Emily Meester (Dave), Levi Morger, Capt. Dashiel Morger, Tenley Huste (Ken), 1LT Morgan Wood (currently serving in Afghanistan), Chief Warrant Officer Whitney Grovenstein, 1LT Emory Grovenstein (Ashley), Ezekiel Grovenstein, Lacy Grovenstein, Trey Morger, Taryn Morger, Jordan Miller (Adrian Button), Gerald Miller, Victoria Miller, North Bryan, Shayne Bryan, and Grayson Bonilla. Along with six great grandchildren, he was also very fond of Muncie's children and grandchildren as well.
Viewing is Friday, Mar. 28, from 6-8 p.m. at the Fort Benton Funeral Home, 1201 Front St. A Celebration of Life service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Mar. 29, at the United Methodist Church in Fort Benton, followed by graveside services at the local Riverside Cemetery. Friends and family are invited to a luncheon reception to be held at the Sunrise Bluffs in Fort Benton beginning at approximately 1 p.m. Saturday. Miser Mortuaries is handling the funeral arrangements and Rev. Ross Rettig will officiate at the services.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to any of the following: Peace Hospice, PO Box 804, Fort Benton MT 59442, who gave Wally such wonderful and loving care in his final weeks, The Victoria A. Morger-Audra Morger Bonilla Scholarship Fund, PO Box 385, Fort Benton 59442, which provides scholarship assistance to deserving FBHS graduates, The River & Plains Society, PO Box 262, Fort Benton, dedicated to preserving and interpreting this area's rich heritage, or The Great Falls Marine Corps Reserve's annual "Toys for Tots" campaign, 1120 Ave. C Northeast, Great Falls, 59404, which funds Christmas presents for needy children across Northcentral Montana.
"Papa Wally- every time we see the sun rising over Fort Benton's old bridge, or casting its last rays on the "FB" on the hill, we will think of the legacy you have left us in this last best place-the Birthplace of Montana. Semper Fi!"
Condolences can be made to www.misermortuaries.com.
Benton Funeral Home
1201 Front St Fort Benton, MT 59442
Published in Great Falls Tribune on Mar. 27, 2014