Orvin B. Fjare (1918 - 2011)

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  • "As I write this, you are saying your final farewells to..."
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Orvin Benonie Fjare was born April 16, 1918, in Big Timber to Oluf B. Fjare and Abigael Hetland Fjare. He weighed in at 12 pounds according to a set of fish scales. On June 27, 2011, at 93 years old, he passed away peacefully at home in the arms of his oldest daughter, Gail, with Kitty curled in the crook of his neck.

Orvin grew up on a sheep ranch outside of Melville. He learned to work hard at a young age but he also played hard. Orvin attended Hedley School which was set in their pasture. During recess he had to go out and herd the sheep back the other direction. He graduated from Sweet Grass County High School in 1937.

In 1940, he volunteered in the U.S. Army. He graduated from officer candidate school as a second lieutenant and was assigned to the school as an instructor. During this time, his high school sweetheart, Sigrid Solberg, was on his mind. He asked her to marry him and she sent him back a telegram that read "Yes!" They were married on Sept. 9, 1942 - a marriage that lasted more than 66 years until Sigrid died in March 2009.

Orvin was transferred to the Army Air Corps, earned his wings and piloted B-24 bombers. He flew missions in New Guinea, the Philippines, and Okinawa, returning to Big Timber in 1945 as a captain.

He worked a variety of jobs in Big Timber, including Solberg's store and selling insurance.

Orvin became active in many groups: Rod and Gun Club, Lions Club, American Legion, Masonic Lodge, Big Timber School Board, and he was selected as a Jaycees 10 Outstanding Young Men of America. While he was the national vice president of Jaycees, he was persuaded to run for Congress. He was elected as a Republican to the 84th Congress (1955-56) from the eastern district of Montana. After election to the State House of Representatives in 1959, Orvin ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1960. He became the state director of advertising and travel promotion, 1962-69, then was appointed the director of the FHA/HUD before retiring in 1978 and returning "home" to Big Timber. Throughout his career, he was often sought out to speak on Americanism and commencements.

Orvin was famous for his one-day family vacations visiting Yellowstone Park, balancing cups of water over cracked doors on April Fool's Day, taking naps anytime, anywhere, in front of anyone, and talking without his teeth (to the delight of his grandchildren and chagrin of his wife and children) and smuggling trout from Hooper's ponds to trick others at the annual Crazy Mountain Bash.

Orvin was never without a hobby and fortunately for him, his wife and children put up with those as well. He had his tropical fish and photography phase. This led to more serious and lasting interests such as gardening and greenhouses. The house became full of orchids, hyacinths and miniature roses. The yard and porches became full of roses, fuchsias, 12-foot corn stocks, tomato "bushes," hydrangeas, begonias and pansies. Then he was persuaded into making Sigrid the dollhouse she always wanted, leading to his miniature furniture career. Even in their 80s, they traveled the country going to miniature shows, taking children and grandchildren to chauffeur. Now the house was full of plants, sawdust and miniature furniture. Then Orvin decided to make wine out of the chokecherries, leading to his winemaking career. He located the Fjare winery in his bedroom. Now the house was full of plants, sawdust, miniatures and trails of wine to the kitchen where it was bottled. Many, many family gatherings were celebrated with Fjare Wine, bottled two months earlier, in recycled Cabin Still Bourbon bottles. Fjare Wine is best served cold, in small glasses.

Orvin is survived by his beloved "Kitty!" (formerly known as "Socks" until he found out Bill Clinton had a cat of the same name), and his four children: Gail Fjare and Jon Fjare of Helena, Diane Braughton (Ronnie) of Billings, Nita Wheeler (Steve) of Bozeman and Billings. Bampthy has seven grandchildren: Jami Romney FitzGerald (Clint Romney) of Ninemile, Geoff FitzGerald (Kristi) and Kevin Braughton (Sonja Best) of Hamilton, Curt Braughton (Jenny), Tyler Wheeler of Billings, Kyle and Abby Wheeler of Bozeman. Great Bampthy has three great-grandchildren: Kaiden and Kamas Romney (Ninemile) and Tira Braughton (Billings). He has several nieces and nephews he was close with - Monte (Cheri) Fjare, Mark (Kathryn) Fjare, Heather (Ruth) Fjare, Sharon (Wes) Glover, Wayne (Theresa) Fjare, and Jason Fjare.

Orvin was preceded in death by his three younger brothers, Kenneth, Harold and David Fjare.

Orvin/Dad/Bampthy/Great Bampthy will be greatly missed by his family, Kitty, Steve's Café and the Cracker Barrel restaurant.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to The Crazy Mountain Museum, P.O. Box 83, Big Timber, MT 59011; or to American Legion Post 19, P.O. Box 51, Big Timber, MT 59011.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 30, at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home in Helena. A graveside service with military honors will be at 2 p.m. Friday, July 1, at Mountainview Cemetery in Big Timber, followed by a celebration/reception at the American Legion.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.aswfuneralhome.com.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on June 30, 2011
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