HELENA - Kathleen Helen "Kay" (McKernan) Schweitzer, 83, the mother of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, died Sunday, Aug. 21, at a Great Falls hospital, after an accidental fall.
A rosary is at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 at Retz Funeral Home in Helena. Funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. Sept. 1 at the Cathedral of St. Helena in Helena, with burial at 4 p.m. next to her husband at Highland Cemetery in Havre.
Ms. Schweitzer was born Sept. 24, 1927, on a farm near Box Elder, Mont., the fourth of five children to Michael and Hannah McKernan. Michael and Hannah moved to America from Ireland in the early 1900s. In addition to Kay, their children were Michael McKernan, deceased; Mary Brady, deceased; Nora Nelson and Patricia Warhank.
In 1946, Kay married Adam Schweitzer in a double wedding with her sister Patricia, who married Adam's good friend Raymond Warhank. Patty and Kay met the young men at a post-World War II dance on the Hi-Line.
After their marriage, Kay and Adam managed the Schweitzer family farm near Gildford, Mont., before moving to Geyser, Mont., in 1954. Kay played an active part in managing the family farm, especially since the 1970s, when the family built the internationally renowned Schweitzer Simmentals. Schweitzer Simmentals produced the first Simmental calf in the United States in 1968 and held the first production Simmental Sale. Schweitzer Simmentals produced award-winning Polled Fullbloods. The Schweitzer Simmental cattle won numerous awards, including: grand champion with a bull named Montana in Argentina, and grand champions in Europe, Australia and Mexico. Her final show was in Fort Worth, Texas, where she won the title of World Championship Bull. Kay was the driving force behind Schweitzer Simmentals; everyone knew that Kay was the one who marketed, groomed and trained the cattle.
Kay also became passionate over world and political events. She organized a group of women to protest the low price of wheat in Great Falls, Mont. Later, many of these same women became the founding members of Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE). She organized a protest to the boycotting of eating meat movement, also held in Great Falls. During the early 1970s, she wrote countless letters to Montana's legislators regarding her political beliefs. She even tried acting when she played Eleanor Roosevelt for a play about First Ladies produced by the Flathead Women's Democratic organization. She became active with the Hibernian Women's organization in Helena, Mont. Kay was a devout Catholic. She was the coordinator for mass at Waterford Retirement facility for the past several years. In her later years, she enjoyed world travel to countries such as Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. Kay was proud that all six of her children attended college and pursued successful careers as doctors, real-estate agents, farmer, rancher, consultants and governor.
Kay is survived by her sisters Nora Nelson of Havre and Pat Warhank of Rudyard; her children Darwin (Sharon) of Oregon; Warren (Ingela) of California, Mike (Jolyn) of Billings, Mont., Brian (Nancy) of Helena, Walter (Cindy) of Helena and Mary of Ohio; 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Adam; two siblings; and one grandchild.
Donations may be made to her grandson's Beau's Catholic order, the Society of our Lady of Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), P.O. Box 149. Robstown, TX 78380.
Condolences may be left online at www.RetzFuneralHome.com