Raymond O. Tweeten, 81, of Havre died peacefully at his home in Havre on Saturday, April 1, 2006.
His funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at First Lutheran Church in Havre, with graveside services with military honors to follow at Calvary Cemetery.
Ray was born April 7, 1924, on the family farm near Ulen, Minn., son of Christian and Gina Braseth Tweiten. He learned the lessons of thrift, self-reliance, optimism and hard work that would serve him all his life growing up on the farm during the Depression of the 1930s.
Ray graduated from Ulen High School in 1942 and entered the military later that year. He served during World War II, attaining the rank of technical sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, mostly flying as a crew chief on B-25 bombers. Ray sacrificed his hearing in service of his country, but he remained a proud military veteran for the rest of his life, holding life memberships in the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans. He took particular pride in leading military graveside honors for his brother and sister veterans, and teaching school children the proper handling, folding and respect for the flag.
In 1945, Ray's crew drew the assignment to fly the brass from Chanute Field in Illinois to New York City for the Army-Navy football game. While there, one of his crewmates took him to a wedding where he met Virginia Angelbeck. Ray and Ginny married April 18, 1947, in Hempstead, N.Y. They made their home and raised their family there until 1961.
Ray's career ambition was to own and run his own automobile business. Pursuing that dream in 1961, the family loaded their belongings in a grain truck and moved across the country to Great Falls, where Ray found work at Rice Motors. Six months later, the family moved to Havre, and Ray entered a long and successful partnership with Gordon Nordling in the Nordling and Tweeten auto dealership. Together they built Nordling and Tweeten into one of the most successful car businesses in Montana.
Ray and Ginny were active in their Lutheran communities in Hempstead and at First Lutheran Church in Havre. Ray served the First Lutheran congregation in many capacities, including deacon and congregation president. He and Ginny enjoyed socializing with a large circle of friends, playing bridge and golf, and entertaining at home and at their cabin at Fresno Lake. Ginny passed away in 1980 after a long illness, during which Ray was her rock and devoted helper.
Ray retired from the car business in 1980. Some months after Ginny's death, Ray was looking for a Viking flag to fly at his cabin at Fresno Lake. He contacted the local Sons of Norway and got his flag design from Vineta Peterson. Ray and Nita married on Feb. 6, 1982, and made their home together in Havre.
Ray and Nita enjoyed many years of retirement together, traveling around the United States and Canada, and enjoying long visits to the Scandinavian old country. Ray loved his motor home, and he and Nita were active Good Sams. They motor-homed to many a turkey barbecue in Ulen and Norse Hostfest in Minot, N.D. Ray was a renowned lutefisk chef, traveling the lutefisk trail across the Hi-Line and tutoring an entire generation of fish cooks. Ray also pursued the love of flying kindled during his days in the military, and flew his Cessna far and wide. He loved old tractors, buying them all over the country and towing them behind the motor home back to Havre where he restored them. Ray also loved spending time at the Peterson place north of Havre with Nita's family.
Nita passed in 2004 after a lengthy illness. Ray was a devoted and loving caretaker during her last years.
Ray was affiliated with many Masonic organizations. He was a York Rite Mason and past master of Havre Lodge No. 55, AF&AM and past potentate of the Algeria Shrine. He was a tireless supporter of the mission of the Shrine Hospitals to provide critical medical care for children. He was a booster of the Havre community. He served as a longtime member of the Airport Board and worked to keep Essential Air Service for north-central Montana. He was active in the Chamber of Commerce and many local business, service and fraternal organizations. Havre recognized Ray and Nita's contribution to the community by naming them grand marshals of the Festival Days Parade.
Ray was preceded in death by his wives, Ginny and Nita; parents; older brother, Luverne; sisters, Gladys and Evelyn; and daughter, Carol Sue Peterson.
Survivors include his mother-in-law, Helen Angelbeck; daughter, Gina (Stan) Farnham of Laurel; sons, Hank (Donna) of Havre, Chris (Jeanne) of Helena, Mark Peterson and Kim (Nola) Peterson of Havre; daughter-in-law, Nancy Peterson of Havre; 14 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; sisters, Myrtle Sather of Ulen, Deloris Hilde of Bismarck, N.D., and Betty Nelson (Jerry) of Aurora, Colo.; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
If friends are inclined, the family suggests memorial gifts to the Algeria Shrine Center Patient Transportation Fund, P.O. Box 1174, Helena, MT 59624; Ulen Minnesota Viking Sword Historical Society, Ulen, MN 56585; First Lutheran Church, 303 Sixth Ave., Havre, MT 59501; or to a memorial of one's choice.