Joan-Nell Macfadden
1934 - 2021
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Joan-Nell Macfadden

BILLINGS - Joan-Nell Macfadden passed away peacefully on Jan. 10, 2021.

Joan-Nell Bowron "Josie" was born to Frank and Evelyn Bowron on Dec. 1, 1934, in Chicago. She was born alongside a twin (Mounte Ella Bowron), who died shortly after birth so it can be said that right from the beginning, Joan-Nell was small in stature and arrived with a determined spirit. In 1940, her brother, Frank, Jr., was born. One of Joan-Nell's favorite childhood memories was traveling to New York with her mother and grandmother to visit her Great-Grandma Merson, where they would drink tea late into the night and get caught up on family news. This love of visiting with others was a central theme throughout Joan-Nell's life. She was known for her willingness to listen and for sharing her wise counsel. It was not uncommon for the person sitting next to her on a plane to hug her before parting ways. She was a relational gift to many through her warm presence, kindness and ability to easily create true connections.

Joan-Nell attended her beloved St. Olaf College, where she earned a degree in Secondary English Education. Her first job was in Great Falls, where she met Bill Macfadden in 1959. The two were introduced through friends and became engaged six months later. They were married in Minneapolis on April 2, 1960. They settled in Great Falls on Beth Drive, where they had three daughters: Molly, Sarah and Amy. Later they moved to Fourth Avenue South and raised their family among some of their closest lifelong friends. Joan-Nell was a homemaker who was a talented gardener and creator of warm gatherings with delicious food and lots of laughter.

Joan-Nell remained dedicated to Ol' Bill for better or worse, in sickness and in health for 57 years. The two of them built their life in Great Falls with wonderful friends. They shared a deep dedication to their community. Their combined sense of humor about life became a trademark of their relationship and endured through Bill's years of battling Parkinson's — Joan-Nell always faithfully by his side. He was the adventurer who made her laugh and she adored him.

As a compassionate volunteer, Joan-Nell served the Montana Mental Health Assoc. for over 35 years. She was also active in Al-Anon, The Junior League, PEO, was an advocate for Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) and volunteered with Senior Services at Benefis Health System. Joan-Nell strived for people to be heard and served according to their need.

Joan-Nell was preceded in death by her husband, Bill. She is survived by her three daughters, Molly, Sarah and Amy (David Petsch); brother Frank Bowron; and grandchildren, Fredrick, Isaac, Simon and Seth Petsch, Isabella and Sam Hazlett, and Eleanor Macfadden-Collins.

Due to Covid 19, a small service will be held in Billings at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15; a livestream of the service may be viewed here:

Plans for a larger gathering in Great Falls will be made for this summer when Joan-Nell's ashes will be laid to rest. Memorial gifts can be sent to: Center for Mental Health, 915 First Ave. S., Great Falls, MT 59401.

Condolences may be made at

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Published in Great Falls Tribune from Jan. 13 to Jan. 14, 2021.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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4 entries
January 18, 2021
My memories of Bill and JoanNell begin with our cabin on the Smith River, where they were our neighbors. Later I became more closely aligned with Joan Nell and her amazing leadership qualities as a member of the Board of Directors for the Mental Health Building capital campaign, and spent many laughable moments with Ol' Bill on the ski hill - where we had neighboring lockers and shared terrible jokes!! And in 2000, I had the pleasure of being initiated into PEO Chapter I, and the very precious Joan Nell and I became "Sisters." She was a quiet, unassuming and powerful woman who leaves a legacy of gentleness, kindness and exceptional leadership. I feel blessed to have known her, and she will be immensely missed by everyone whose life she touched.
Jan Wolter
January 15, 2021
Josie was part of my life and will always be remembered. Thank God for her.
Nancy Lynne Anderson
January 15, 2021
Aunt Joan-Nell has always been and will remain one of my favorite people. She and I always had great conversations and visits. I was so blessed to be able to live with my grandmother Evelyn and that aloud me to know my Aunt better. So many miles between us, but she always had time for a phone call listening to my woes and laughing about silly things. She and uncle Bill where just wonderful, loving, practical, people. They definitely left their mark on the world. God bless them and their family. Love ❤ Betsy and family - I’m so blessed to have her and Uncle Bill in my life.
Betsy Bowron-Komerska
January 14, 2021
Joan-Nell was a champion for those impacted by mental health struggles and disability challenges. She was a friend of Mental Health America of Montana and she and her husband Bill supported advocacy work in communities and through the legislative process. Joan-Nell's bright smile and intense informed questions ensured those around her to be on their game, understand the issues and produce results. Thank you Joan-Nell and family for her committment to those with challenges in our families and community! Dan Aune, MHA of MT Board Member
Dan Aune
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