DUTTON - Longtime farmer and Dutton resident Thelma Carolyn (Gilje) Fleshman, 83, died of natural causes Thursday, March 10, at Peace Hospice in Great Falls.
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Her memorial service is 1 p.m. Tuesday at United Methodist Church in Dutton. Cremation has taken place under the direction of Croxford Funeral Home and Crematory.
Thelma Carolyn Gilje was born in Great Falls on May 5, 1927, to Alice (Swenson) Gilje and Tobias Gilje. Five years later, her sister Shirley was born.
Thelma had a difficult childhood and had to grow up fast. She had many responsibilities on her family's farm, and had to cook for a harvest crew when she was only 12 years old.
Thelma's life took a change for the better after a memorable dance in Dutton when she was 15 years old: Bob Fleshman began courting her.
They married June 30, 1944, in Great Falls, when Thelma was 17 and Bob came home on leave from the Navy. While Bob was still in the service, Thelma went with him to Chicago, Norfolk and New York City. When Bob was discharged in November 1945, they came back to Dutton and Thelma finished high school by correspondence courses.
Thelma and Bob then settled down to a partnership of farming. For 27 years, they lived at the "old" houses (originally Bob's folks' homestead shack with several additions) on their farm six miles southeast of Dutton. They had their "new" house moved from Sun River to the homestead in 1972.
Thelma and Bob had four children: Barry, Bradley, Brian and Robin. As a Cub Scout den mother and Brownie leader, Thelma was very supportive of her children's activities. She was also very involved in the community as an Eastern Star member, and was active in UMW and in collecting for charities. For more than 20 years, she was the choir director for the United Methodist Church in Dutton.
Thelma was a devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She also was an incredible cook, a noted seamstress, and excelled at basket-weaving and other crafts. She was a most loving and beloved wife. She and Bob had an extraordinary marriage and enjoyed 68 wonderful years together.
Thelma is survived by her husband, Robert Fleshman of Dutton; sons, Barry (Susan) Fleshman and Bradley (Sandra) Fleshman, all of Dutton; a daughter, Robin (Doug) Byrne of Albuquerque, N.M.; grandchildren Kristy (Steve) Atwood of Miles City, Brooke (Tom) Preston of Kalispell, Logan Fleshman and Reid Fleshman of Dutton, and Joe Byrne, Kelsey Byrne and Dillon Byrne, all of Albuquerque; and four great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Alice and Tobias Gilje; her stepfather, Ole Holum; a sister, Shirley Baker; a son, Brian Fleshman; and a grandson, Nick Fleshman.
Thelma inspired many by her courage, loyalty and love. Her passing leaves us with a void in our hearts, but her spirit and legacy will live on.
Condolences may be posted online at www.gftribune.com/obituaries.
Published in Great Falls Tribune on Mar. 14, 2011