By Robert Lucke
Visit former Gov. and Mrs. Stan Stephens at their Kalispell townhouse and you would never know they once were governor and first lady of the state of Montana. Their home is spacious but unpretentious. It sits north of Kalispell with views of the Swan Range and beyond, right into Glacier National Park.
In fact there is much more of Havre in that house than there is of Helena. And that is as it should be since both Stephenses lived in Havre for many years before becoming governor and first lady.
Ann Stephens came to Havre with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Al Hanson, when she was 12. Hanson was the personal secretary of Frank Buttrey. Ann Hanson remembers the Buttreys fondly.
"I was always tiny as a girl," she said. "That worried Mrs. Buttrey, so each winter when she went to Phoenix she would scour the health food stores to find herbs and potions to make me grow taller. I
dreaded the time that she came back home each spring because I would have to drink all those potions.
"They never helped," she added.
Ann Stephens said she misses her Havre friends most of all. And she spoke of the wonderful hamburgers the old Beanery used to serve.
Stan Stephens echoed her sentiments. He told of his love of the Empire Builder coming into Havre around the middle of each day and of watching folks washing the train windows so people would get better views as they traveled on to Glacier National Park.
"I still miss all that," he said. "That was exciting."
Stephens recalled attending a meeting in Minneapolis and bringing back Chinese takeout to his wife. After he ordered the takeout, he told the restaurant owner that the takeout was going all the way to Havre, Montana.
"That's our longest takeout ever," said the proprietor. "Say, do you know Danny Wong in Havre?" Wong used to run Danny's Cafe in Havre.
Since Stephens left the governor's office in 1993, he keeps busy with many projects in Montana. One that he is very proud of is the Governor's Cup Golf Tournament.
"I started that golf tournament in 1990. There was everything else dedicated to the governors. Everything but a golf tournament. And I keep up with it yet. I am on the board of directors. It is always held in the Flathead and we invite all the other governors and around 250 out-of-state businessmen," Stephens said.
The main financial beneficiary of the tournament is the state Chamber of Commerce, which helps promote economic development in Montana. But more than that, he said, the tournament affords lots of time for lobbying those out-of-state businessmen to locate businesses here.
Then there is Stephens' pet project, Jobs for Montana Graduates. His face lights up when he starts talking about it.
Started during the Stephens administration, it works in schools throughout Montana to keep in school young people who might otherwise fall through the cracks. For students who don't graduate, JMG works hard to help them obtain GEDs and helps prepare participants for meaningful career-oriented jobs.
Last year, 90 percent of JMG students graduated, and 87 percent are either employed, in the military or attending post-secondary education.
Those kinds of projects keep Stephens busy. So does his family. He has two daughters, one in Missoula, the other in Billings. The Stephenses have three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
"I could already write a book about" the great-grandchild, said Stan Stephens, smiling broadly.
Having been in the radio business for years in Havre, Stephens occasionally dabbles in talk radio at KJJR in Kalispell. He downplays most all of the good projects he works on.
"I have no set schedule, and the most important thing I do these days is to take out the garbage," he said, laughing. "That and play golf all summer."
While Stephens loves the Flathead and his golf, Ann Stephens says she misses her childhood friends and many other things about Havre.
"All but the wind," Ann added.