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Ernest "Fran" Fox

May 9, 1923-Dec. 19, 2009

Ernest "Fran" Fox, 86, beloved husband, father and grandfather, died Saturday, December 19, 2009, ending a fierce battle with complications from a stroke.

Fran was born to Ernest and Alice Fox on May 9, 1923 in Wibaux, Mont. His family moved to Bismarck, N.D., and then on to Grand Forks, N.D., in 1933. Fran graduated from Central High School in Grand Forks in 1941. The following fall he began his college education at the University of North Dakota.

In 1942 Fran enlisted as an aviation cadet in the Air Corps, where he went into active service in February of 1943. He then proceeded to graduate from Twin Engine Advanced in Pampa, Texas, where he continued his aviation education with B-24 pilot training. After his tour in the service, Fran returned to UND and graduated with a Math and Physics major and Economics minor. He used his education to run a successful farming operation in North Dakota until 1959, when he moved to Billings, Mont., to pursue a career in the oil business.

Fran's first marriage produced two sons, John E. Fox of Stevensville, Mont., and Geoffrey L. Fox of Portland, Ore.

In 1967 Fran married Mary "Lou" Langston Cottle. In addition to Lou, the joys of his life were his family and friends. Fran enjoyed spending time with Lou at their cottage on Lake Melissa, and on all of their traveling adventures.

Fran was the owner of Fox Oil Company and from the 1950s throughout the oil boom, and was active in many aspects of the oil business. He was a benefactor to many local organizations. Fran was a member of Hilands Golf Club; past director at the Billings Petroleum Club; a UND Alumni Board member for nine years and UND Foundation Board member for 15 years. He was a Trustee of St. Patrick's Catholic Church and a faithful member of the congregation for 50 years.

The most memorable traits of Fran were his honesty and integrity, his unending ability to tell jokes, his gifts of grace and forgiveness, and his resilience in hard times for himself and those around him. Fran was a visionary who worked vigorously at everything he did. He had a special fondness for studying medical science and how it could better mankind.

Preceding Fran in death were his parents, Ernest and Alice Fox; and his sister, Alice Rudh.

Surviving Fran are his wife Lou; his son John (Elizabeth) Fox of Stevensville, Mont., and their children John Jr. (Miranda), Sarah Jo (Paul) Braden and children Payton and Noah; and son Geoffrey Fox of Portland, Ore., and his children Jeremy and Stuart; his stepdaughters Teri Lee (Henry) Hildreth of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and children Kendra and Tera, Janice (Fred) Schweitzer of Bozeman and children Rachel and Erin and Sidney Nelson (Steve) of Denver, Colo., and children Jake and Andy; and niece Sue Rudh Riley.

A special memorial service is set for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29 at St. Patrick's Co-Cathedral at 25 North 31st Street. Memorials may be made to the Fran and Lou Fox Stroke Research Fund, St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation, 1106 North 30th, Billings, MT 59102. Cremation has taken place.