• Date Of Birth: September 2, 1927
  • Date Of Death: August 5, 2014
  • State: Montana

James M. (Jim) Wylder, 86, of Great Falls, passed on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at St. Patrick’s Hos­pital in Mis­soula in the company of his family and pastor after the sudden onset of an aggressive pulmonary fibrosis.

Jim was born September 2, 1927 in Havre, Montana, the third child and second son of Robert and Myrtle Wylder, both of whom came to Mon­tana in the homestead era.

Jim was a Blue Pony, hav­ing graduated from Havre High School in 1945. In the summer following gradua­tion, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as an elec­tronic technician until 1947, when he entered the Univer­sity of Montana, where he ma­jored in history and political science, graduating with hon­ors in 1951. At the University he was on the varsity tennis team, was a dormitory resi­dent assistant, was tapped as a member of Silent Sentinel, and was president of the his­tory honor society. More im­portantly, at the University he met his future wife, Frances Jorgensen, whom he married in 1953 after attending the Princeton University Wood­row Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

After holding several ad­ministrative positions in the Bureau of Land Management in Washington D.C. and Bill­ings, Montana, Jim worked in the land and human rela­tions departments of Mobil Oil and Husky Oil in Billings and Cody, Wyoming. During this time he and Fran became the parents of Tim and Carrie. In 1960 Jim joined Great Falls Coca-Cola Bottling Co., a busi­ness owned by the Jorgensen family. He retired in 1985 as president and CEO. While active in the bottling compa­ny, Jim led it to acquire four additional franchise areas and products, and it became the largest soft drink opera­tion in Montana. Great Falls Coke installed a canning line in 1980 to take advantage of conversion of the soft drink business from glass deposit bottles to cans, to supply its own needs and those other dis­tributors. Wylder was elected to the board of directors of the National Soft Drink Asso­ciation in 1980, serving until his retirement. He was also a board member and president of the Montana Soft Drink As­sociation, and served on the Coca-Cola Mainstream Coun­cil, made up of small and mid-sized Coca-Cola bottlers.

Following his retirement from the soft drink indus­try, Jim went to photography school and undertook a sec­ond career as a professional photographer, focusing on nature, landscapes, and early Montana settings, which he pursued down Montana’s back country roads. Jim’s photo­graphs were shown in exhibi­tions at the Russell Museum and Paris Gibson Square, and he was published in various magazines.

Jim was a significant com­munity leader and philanthro­pist, where he served as both a fundraiser and a major donor. He and his wife Fran chaired the major gifts committee for the first capital campaign for Paris Gibson Square Mu­seum of Art in 1996, which was over-subscribed, after which he served on its board of directors and president. Wylder was a board member of the Great Falls Symphony, McLaughlin Research Insti­tute, the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Optimist Club, Meadowlark Country Club, and the Eastside Bank of Montana. He was presi­dent of Riverview PTA dur­ing the children’s elementary years and was appointed to the Great Falls School Board in 1966. Wylder was a 50-year member of First Presbyterian Church, and served terms as elder, deacon, annual cam­paign chairman, and Souler Energy TV broadcasts chair­man.

As an alumnus of the Uni­versity of Montana, Jim be­came increasingly active in support of the University. This included membership on the School of Business Ad­visory Board, Davidson Hon­ors College Advisory Board, Grizzly Riders International, The UM Foundation, and the UM Alumni Association. In 1996 Jim was elected UMAA president and helped organize the U to You lecture series, which brings UM and MSU professors to Great Falls each year. In 2009 Jim received the UMAA Distinguished Alumni Award, which is the high­est honor presented by the Alumni Association. Fran and Jim endowed a Presidential Scholarship at UM, and they also supported scholarships at Benefis Healthcare and the University of Great Falls. In addition, Jim provided sub­stantial support for many individual students in their quest for higher education.

Jim was an avid tennis player since high school and lettered in tennis at the Uni­versity. He was an active player at the Meadowlark Country Club and at tourna­ments throughout Montana. Jim represented Montana on three occasions in Super Se­nior events in Las Vegas.

Since 1966 a series of cab­ins at Seeley Lake were the center of fun for the family and friends in both winter and summer. In the winter Jim en­joyed cross-county skiing and the occasional snowmobile ride. In the summer Jim loved to hike, photograph wild flow­ers, pick huckleberries, and tell stories around the beach fire, and he enjoyed a series of boats, including his last, a favorite pontoon boat, which he used for evening cocktail cruises. In the fall, the Seeley cabin served as a base camp for 25 plus years of Grizzly football games in the family stadium box and later in the Canyon Club. A lifetime of memories for the family were created at the Seeley Lake cabin.

Throughout the business and retirement years, Jim and Fran travelled extensively to Europe (eight times), Austra­lia, New Zealand, and China, including the grand slam of championship tennis venues. Yet as active as he was, Jim was always an inveterate reader and a man of ideas. He read fiction of all kinds, non­fiction history and politics, and meaty periodicals.

Despite his many activi­ties and accomplishments, in Jim’s final view, his legacy was his family. He lived to see his children and all of his grandchildren graduate from college and start successful adult lives. Jim was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. Jim was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Robert C. Wylder, and his sister Martha Williamson. Jim is survived by his wife of 61 years,

Frances M. Wylder, son Timothy J. Wylder (Martha), daughter Carrie F. Matsko (Mark), grandchildren Mor­gan Wylder, Marshall Wylder, Kellee Hardesty (Mike), Kar­en

Hostetter (Jared), Robin Peeples (Sam), and great grandson Luke Hardesty.

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