On April 19 at nearly midnight, Genevieve Ellen Morgan, our beautiful mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt and Morgan family matriarch passed away peacefully after a brief illness at Peace Hospice in Great Falls, Montana.
Gen was born at home in 1928 to immigrant parents Joseph Basti of Italy and Mary Fende Basti of Slovenia in East Helena, Montana. Her early years in East Helena included tending the family garden for flowers for the parish church and canning produce with her sisters and mother for the long Montana winters. She occasionally ventured out to the old Broadwater Hot Springs with her aunt Angela and found herself huddled under the kitchen table with her mother and sisters during the 1935 earthquakes. She graduated eighth grade in 1942 with 5 other students from the old St. Ann’s Grade School, and made the move to Helena High School, where she graduated in 1946.
After graduating, Gen went to work at the Montana Industrial Accident Board (Workers Comp), until fall of 1948 when she married our father, Robert F. Morgan. The first offspring of that union was Jeanne in 1949; followed by Bob in 1951, Tim in 1955, Tom in 1957 and Sue in 1963. Along with raising these children, another birth occurred: the emergence of her husband as a successful and accomplished western artist and historian. The old adage was about to be proven true: “Behind every successful man is a woman!” While Dad excelled in his reputation as a gifted artist, it was Mom who managed the behind the scenes work to keep the business end of things flowing smoothly. She was his biggest fan and toughest business manager. Because of her, he was able to establish himself in the exciting world of art and art shows.
The art world brought many new adventures and events into our home, including artists, collectors and dealers coming and going. This gave Mom the opportunity to showcase her fabulous cooking. Many a visitor was lucky enough to enjoy her lasagna, homemade pizza and her signature dessert, lemon meringue pie. If they were really lucky, and it was a holiday time, she would prepare traditional potica (or povitica in Butte and Anaconda) from her mother’s old Slovenian recipe.
As well as being a homemaker and artists’ business manager, Mom was also a bit of an athlete and big-time sports enthusiast. In the 1980’s, she won numerous awards and ribbons and she was quite proud of running in the Governor’s Cup 5k and 10k races, as well as races in Missoula. She was a great sports fan, and was especially fond of any local team, but especially the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Seattle Mariners. It was rare to call Mom or walk into her home and not hear or see a game of some sort on the TV. Tuned in on her final day, and just moments before her passing, the Mariners eked out an improbable victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In later years, we were treated to Sunday “happy hours” at Mom’s home, where we could all gather and share in a culinary delight and rehash events of the week and learn of what was coming up in the days ahead. Mom also enjoyed weekly “ladies’ night” activities on Thursday evenings, where a group of wonderful women gathered for wine, merriment and companionship.
For all of us in the extended Morgan family, Mom was a counselor, confidant and coach. She was always present, listening and offering her wise counsel and support. She loved unconditionally and was most concerned with the comfort and well-being of others. She taught us kindness and compassion, and always looked for the best in everyone. She loved her family and friends deeply and reached out to others and welcomed them into her heart and home. She was particularly fond of her second family at the Parrot Confectionary, where she for many years almost daily had her cup of coffee and a chocolate wedge. She knew all the staff personally, and they treated her like royalty, referring to her as “Miss Gen.” She also shared a special relationship and kinship with her longtime housekeeper and friend Tim Furshong, who she referred to as her second son.
As a first-generation resident of ethnic East Helena in the 1920’s and 30’s, Mom grew up in a tight knit community, and her early life centered around her parish church and family. Here Mom’s lifelong Catholic faith was nurtured and grew into her lovely spiritual formation. She was very private in her faith and had a deep connection with the Lord and all the Lord’s creatures and creation. She kept a prayer list with the names of dozens of people for whom she prayed daily, regardless of whether alive or deceased. She expressed no fear of passing and said matter of fact that she spoke with God every day.
Thanks to all who cared for and visited Mom in her final weeks and days. In particular, the family wishes to extend our gratitude to Benefis Peace Hospice in Great Falls. The loving comfort and care she received was exceptional. The kindness, compassion and professionalism of the staff helped her and our family navigate a very difficult and emotional time, and we are forever grateful to them and their wonderful volunteers.
Gen was preceded in death by her husband, Robert, her parents Joe and Mary Basti, her sister Marie Vollmer, and her sons-in-law Allen Ahmann and Michael Rieley. She is survived by her children Jeanne Ahmann, Bob Morgan (Carl), Tim Morgan (Colleen), Tom Morgan (Jean) and Sue Morgan (Dana). She is also survived by her sister, Josephine Basti Cordell. In addition, she is survived by grandchildren Rick Ahmann (Jen), Drew Ahmann (Susan), Jon Ahmann, Josh (Katie) Ahmann, Sarah Crowley (Joe), Mary (Tyrrell) Ahmann-Hibbard, Joe Morgan (Melissa), Katie Leary (Joe), Erin Morgan (Holden), Patrick Morgan (Katie) and Anna Morgan. She is survived by 18 great grandchildren, and 6 nieces and nephews.
A funeral mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 27 at noon at the St. Helena Cathedral, followed by committal at the Fort Harrison Veterans Memorial Cemetery at 2:00 p.m. The family requests that all Covid-19 protocols be followed, including the wearing of masks, out of consideration of others.
Memorial donations may be made to the Montana Historical Society, 225 N Roberts St, Helena MT 59620; the Lewis & Clark Library Foundation, 120 S Last Chance Gulch, Helena MT 59601; or to Benefis Peace Hospice, 2600 15th Ave S, Great Falls, MT 59405.