On the evening of Jan. 6, 2014, Gail Milton Stensland, 84, passed away peacefully at the Missouri River Medical Center in Fort Benton, Mont., surrounded by family.
He was born Oct. 28, 1929, in Glasgow, the second child of Harold and Annette (Cotton) Stensland.
Beginning in his early years on the family farm/ranch on the Milk River outside of Glasgow, he developed an early interest in agriculture, an interest that he carried throughout his life. 4-H and Future Farmers of America were organizations he was involved in. Upon graduating from Glasgow High School he enrolled at Montana State University in Bozeman. He was soon active on campus in the Lambda Chi Fraternity and was elected freshman class president. He received a bachelors degree in vocational agriculture and later a masters in education from MSU. Later in his life, he was honored as the first recipient of the Montana State University Alumni Achievement Award.
Following up on his involvement in ROTC at MSU, he enrolled in the United States Air Force and served in Korea. He then embarked to Portugal as part of the International Farm Youth Exchange.
The most rewarding decision and commitment he made in his life was to marry Elinor Kathryn Tarum in Glasgow, who he shared his life with for the next 58 years.
He accepted a teaching position in Fort Benton in 1956 and would teach Montana history and vocational agriculture for the next 17 years. During this time, as they raised their family, he and Ellie made many life-long friends. He continued in education as superintendent in Inverness (1973-1976) and Culbertson (1976-1978).
The Stensland family felt fortunate for the opportunity to return to Fort Benton, buying and operating Stensland's IGA from 1978-1991. Upon retirement, he and Ellie valued the trips they were able to take with old friends and the time they spent with their children and families. His family referred to him as "Mr. Fix-it," and he graciously shared these talents with family and friends whenever he could.
In addition to his family, a principle focus of his life was his involvement in the community. He volunteered his time and energy in the following positions and organizations: St. Paul's Episcopal Church; Kiwanis and Lions clubs; Fort Benton CIA; Chouteau County Fair secretary; Chouteau County Airport Board; Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation; Sunrise Bluffs; Upper Missouri Wilderness Waterway Cruise Company; and the Montana Agricultural Center & Museum.
He also valued his time as a "river rat" floating the Missouri River. Whether it was with the teacher group, family or guests, he loved the opportunity to retrace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and share the history and experience with others.
He was outgoing, kind-hearted, enjoyed life and always liuked to make a new friend. He worked hard, but took time to have fun with friends and family.
Survivors include his wife, Ellie Stensland; three sons, Dean Stensland and his wife, Kim, of Missoula, David Stensland and his wife, Karen, of Bend, Ore., and Loran Stensland and his wife, Julia, of Ulm; one daughter, Sherry Kosena and her husband, Ron, of Helena; one brother, Warren Stensland and his wife, Dorothy, of Pocatello, Idaho; 10 grandchildren, Desi, Jaren, Abby, Grace, Rachel, Lane, Logan, Kohlson, Karson and Alison; two great-grandchildren, Liam and Ellie Jo; and numerous nieces and nephews.
The Stensland family would like to express their appreciation to the caring and dedicated employees of the Missouri River Medical Center who took such great care of Gail during his last years.
Public viewing was Jan. 10 at the Episcopal Church in Fort Benton. Graveside services with military rites were Jan.11, at Riverside Cemetery in Fort Benton. A Memorial Service was conducted Jan. 11 at the Fort Benton Ag Center, followed by a reception.
Arrangements were by Rockman Funeral Chapel in Chester.
Memorials can be made to any Fort Benton organization of donor's choice or to the McGlaughlin Research Institute for Alzheimer's.