Obituary: Gary France

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Posted at 4:11 PM, Apr 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-11 18:11:42-04

Gary France, 84, peacefully passed away on Sunday, April 9, 2023, at his home in Belgrade following a valiant battle against cancer. Gary was born on December 24, 1938, in Casper, WY to George and Francis France. The family moved to Bozeman, MT in 1945, first living in Moffit Canyon, and then Pony with Gary graduating from high school in Harrison, MT. He married the love of his life Grace Tschache France on July 26, 1964, in Evergreen, CO.

After graduating from high school Gary joined the National Guard completing his boot camp in California in the summer of 1956. He served in the National Guard for 8 years. Gary held a variety of jobs in his early years including working at the Bozeman Stockyards, where he later became the manager. His work career also included time as a field representative for ConAgra, an auctioneer, then owning his own real estate brokerage and appraisal firm, and ultimately was the managing partner and owner of Headwaters Livestock.

In his free time Gary enjoyed fishing, hunting, playing golf and evolved into a reluctant traveler after retirement. In his younger years he was an aspiring bull rider but gave it up when a bull ruined his hat and broke his leg. Despite his short career as a rough stock rider, Gary was an ardent supporter of college rodeo. He spent 25 years supporting the College National Finals Rodeo through the Lions Club and continued his support of MSU Rodeo through the Chute Boss Club. Gary was also involved with the Belgrade Volunteer Fire Department, the Masonic Lodge, Shriners and the Lions Club.

Gary was drawn to kids his entire life and kids were naturally drawn to him. If you ever lost track of Gary at a party, you simply had to go to where the kids were. He will forever be remembered and loved by his nieces and nephews and by his grand niece and nephew, Hannah and Carter Cape, who loved him dearly.

Those who knew Gary appreciated his unique way of telling a story using humor that was truly his own. Gary was both a kind and humble man who found the best of what life offered him. He was known and regarded for his humorous and uplifting Christmas letters, all of which ended with a sincere statement of gratitude for how the year went in the France Camp. In one of his letters Gary ended it with “By golly, when we look back, I guess there are a lot of good memories and things to be thankful for that we had and enjoyed. Remember to stop by the France Camp when you are in the area. The latch string’s always out.”

Some of Gary’s fondest memories surrounded the many animals he raised with Grace ranging from turkeys, cows, horses, sheep, dogs and cats. For a variety of reasons, Grace did not share the passion for the turkeys so that was an enterprise that only lasted one season. In fairness, Gary may not have been as enthusiastic about the horses as Grace. Their favorite place to spend time was their cabin on Cascade Creek in Gallatin Canyon, where many friends and family helped create some of his most cherished memories. Although Gary was a reluctant traveler, he created many wonderful memories in Africa, Europe, South America, Iceland and Alaska traveling with some of his dearest friends and family.

Gary is survived by his wife of 58 years, Grace France; his brother, Robert France; his nieces, Darcy Cape, Leah Kirkham, Debbie Caley, and nephews, Don Cape, Don Moran, Mike France, and Jim France. He was preceded in death by his parents, George and Francis France.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Tues., April 18, at 2:00 pm at Springhill Presbyterian Church, Bozeman Site. A celebration of life and reception will follow at the Hilton Garden Inn. Should friends desire, memorials may be made to: Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, MSU Rodeo Team, or Shriners Hospital for Children.