William Leroy Mathers, 89, died Saturday, June 15, in Fargo, N.D., surrounded by his daughters. Bill was born Sept. 29, 1923, in Mobeetie, Texas, to Violet Rees Mathers and George Benjamin Mathers. He was raised in Canadian, Texas, where he graduated from Canadian High School in 1940. He graduated from the New Mexico Military Institute in 1942 and attended the University of Texas
School of Law. In January 1943, he entered the U.S. Army
. He served as a ball turret gunner on a B24 crew with the 737th Bomb Squadron in the 454th Bomber Group of the 15th Army Air Corps. He was honorably discharged in October 1945.
He married Mary Charlotte Word on June 16, 1946. Following their marriage, they ranched in Canadian, Texas. In 1951, Bill and his family moved to Miles City, Mont., where he and his brother, Frank, operated the Mathers Brothers Ranch, which later became the Mathers Land Company. Frank and his wife, Betty, died in a plane crash in 1979. Bill continued the ranching operation until 2005, when he sold the ranch and retired. In January 2012, he moved to the Touchmark retirement community in Fargo, N.D.
Public service was a prominent part of Bill's life. In 1958, he was elected to the Custer County Elementary School District Board of Trustees. He served until 1967, including one term as chairman. In 1960, he was elected to the Montana House of Representatives. He served in the House until 1964, when he was elected to the Senate. He served in the Senate until 1980, including being unanimously elected as President of the Senate in 1979. From 1981 to 1987, Bill served as a director of the Federal Reserve 9th District Board of Governors, Minneapolis, Minn. He served under both Paul Volker and Alan Greenspan. He was the first chairman of the lay advisory board of the Federal Reserve Board and chaired the audit committee for two years. From 1988 to 1993, he served as a member of the Montana Board of Regents. He was Chairman of the Board of Regents from 1990 to 1993. In 1994, Bill was the recipient of the Montana State University Blue and Gold Award for his widespread impact on agriculture. Bill was an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church and a member of the Presbyterian Church of Miles City for more than 50 years. He was a founding member of the Miles City Town & Country Club and a member and president of the Miles City Club. If Bill were asked to name hobbies, he would say over the course of his life he enjoyed golfing, bridge, travel and piloting his private aircraft. His true joy came from time spent with his wife of 55 years and his family.
Bill was preceded in death by his wife, Charlotte, of Miles City, Mont., who died in 2001; his parents of Canadian, Texas, and his brother, Frank, of Miles City. He is survived by his five daughters: Margaret Novak (Mike) of Chester, Mont., Sharon Secor (Gary) of Fargo, N.D., Barbara Mathers-Schmidt (Bob) of Bellingham, Wash., Libby Gardner (Marshall) of Boise, Idaho and Mimi Meredith (Greg) of Hutchinson, Kan.; 13 grandchildren: William (Abby) Novak, Andrea Novak Klein (Charlie), Jennifer Secor Nelson (Dan), Molly Secor-Turner (Ryan), Laura Secor Sundberg (Dan), Emily Secor May (Colin), Jonathan Schmidt, Michael Schmidt, Erin Gardner, Kelly Gardner, William Meredith, Patrick Meredith and Mary Charlotte Meredith; seven great-grandchildren: Rees Turner, Maddy Turner, Emmett Turner, Jonas Nelson, Charlotte Nelson, Wynne Novak and Maggie Sundberg; his brother, Ben (Sandra) of Canadian, Texas, and his nieces and nephews whom he loved dearly.
Friends are welcome to celebrate Bill's life at a service in Miles City. A celebration was held in Fargo on Tuesday, June 18 at Touchmark. In Miles City, the family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, at Stevenson and Sons Funeral Home, and a celebration of Bill's life will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 21 at First Presbyterian Church. Interment will follow at Custer County Cemetery.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Bill and Charlotte Mathers Family Foundation, or the organization of the donor's choice.