Ralph C. Challender, age 93, longtime member of the Bozeman music community, died peacefully at home on July 5, 2015. Born in Bozeman, MT, July 3, 1922, he was the youngest of four sons born to Ralph T. and Julia (Bayles) Challender. His father moved from Kansas to Bozeman in 1909 and taught General Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at Montana State College (MSC) until his death in 1943. Ralph followed in his father’s footsteps and taught Mechanical Engineering at Montana State University (MSU), retiring in 1980.
Ralph attended Bozeman schools and was in one of the first classes to graduate from Gallatin County High School. He graduated with honors from MSC (now MSU) in 1944, where he was the top student in his class as well as a member of Septemviri and Phi Kappa Phi.
Following graduation, he served two years in the U.S. Navy during World War II with the Naval Communications Annex and Naval Code and Signal Laboratory in Washington, D.C. He returned to teach at MSC in January 1947 when the influx of students following the war caused enrollments to triple, and classes were scheduled from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. He received his Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from MSC in 1952, and completed coursework for his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.
Ralph married Marian Waters in Bozeman on September 2, 1951. To this union were born three children: Linda, Stuart and Donna, each whom attended Bozeman schools and graduated from MSU.
He was a pioneer in early music activities in Bozeman, being one of the charter members of the Bozeman Choral Union (now the Symphonic Chorus) and the Bozeman Municipal Band. He will be remembered for his announcing at the summer municipal band concerts as well as his annual rendition of “The Happy Wanderer.” The band shell in Bogart Park was named in Ralph’s honor by the Bozeman City Commission in 2006.
Ralph’s activities and memberships included the Bozeman United Methodist Church, the Methodist Men’s group, Kiwanis, MSU Alumni Association, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Masonic Lodge, and the Society of Octogenarians. After retiring in 1980 from MSU, Ralph and Marian became members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club and thereafter spent their winters traveling throughout the Southern states or Mexico with their Airstream trailer.
Ralph is survived by his three children, Linda (David) Roth of Estacada, OR, Stuart (Ita Killeen) Challender of Bozeman, MT, and Donna (David) Byerly of Lewistown, MT; grandchildren, Chris (Laura) Byerly of Arlington, VA, Jon Byerly of Ft. Collins, CO, Cassie Byerly of Washington, D.C., Kevin Challender of St. Paul, MN, and Ryan Challender of Los Angeles, CA; step-grandchildren, Israel (Jennifer) Roth of Aptos, CA, Bob Scott (Katie) of Capitola, CA; great-grandchild, Brady Louise Byerly; and great-step-grandchildren, Cassie Hartney, Austin Woodruff, Hannah Scott, Logan Scott, and Tyler Scott.
A memorial service will be held at a future date. Cremation has taken place and interment of his ashes will be alongside those of his wife, Marian, at Sunset Hills Cemetery, Bozeman, MT.
Memorials are suggested to the Ralph C. and Marian Waters Challender scholarship fund with the MSU Alumni Foundation, 1501 South 11th Avenue, Bozeman, MT 59717, or a charity of choice.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com