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Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, Published July 05 2013

Jean Guy, wife of former ND Gov. Bill Guy, dies

FARGO - Jean Guy, first lady of North Dakota from 1961 to 1973 and a mentor for many young women interested in public service, died Friday surrounded by family members in Fargo. She was 90.

She had suffered a stroke two weeks ago, according to a statement released by her five children through the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, and “had not been the same” since her husband, former Gov. Bill Guy, died April 25 at the age of 93.

“She spent more than 70 of her 90 years with the love of her life, our father,” the statement read. “She was his best friend and closest adviser. Their marriage was, in every way, a true and loving partnership.”

Myron Bright, a senior judge with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a longtime friend and political ally of the Guys, called Jean Guy “a beautiful, intelligent lady … a truly accomplished woman,” while Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven said she was “a formidable ambassador for North Dakota (who) represented our state on the national and regional stage with grace, poise and intelligence.”

With his wife, Mikey, Hoeven said Jean Guy’s passing so soon after her husband “is unsurprising, in that they were inseparable” through 70 years of marriage.

“The Guys will long be remembered with affection and admiration,” the Hoevens said in a statement released by his office.

Nancy Edmonds Hanson, a writer and teacher of communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead, called Jean Guy one of her lifelong heroes.

“She’s always been one of the North Dakota women I admire most,” Hanson said, “from my high school days, when she was an intelligent, gracious and fearless first lady, through her last years as a wise and thoughtful elder. She and Bill set the standard for progressive, effective North Dakota leadership for me and my generation.

“As a teenager growing up in outer North Dakota during the ferment of the ’60s, I was starving for women role models, and there she was. … She demonstrated that the same kinds of women I read of in the news were at work even here.”

A ‘strong partner’

In a 2008 interview, Bill Guy provided an example of Jean’s influence.

He had come home to farm near Amenia, N.D., after serving in the Navy during World War II. He was encouraged to run for precinct committeeman — by the Republicans. He started to collect signatures on a petition to run, but he was troubled that the Democrats, while hopelessly outnumbered in Cass County, seemed a better fit.

He went home and told Jean about his dilemma. “I am interested in politics,” he told her, “but there’s no future in North Dakota in politics unless you’re a part of the Republican Party.”

“Well,” his wife said, “there could be a Democratic Party in North Dakota if people wouldn’t give up before they start.”

“She was really a strong partner for Bill,” said Lloyd Omdahl, who served in several positions during Guy’s administration and later as lieutenant governor.

“She was a strong personality,” Omdahl said, “and I think she contributed immensely to his success by offering sound advice on a regular basis.”

Jean (Mason) Guy was born in 1922 in Selfridge, N.D. She attended what then was called North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo, now North Dakota State University, graduating in 1944 with a degree in home economics.

While her husband served as governor and after, Jean Guy was engaged in many public activities, including with the Kennedy Foundation Memorial Center, the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, the NDSU President’s Advisory Board. In 1979, Gov. Arthur Link appointed her to the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. She served as the board’s chair in 1985.

Memorial services will be held Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., with visitation one hour prior, at First Presbyterian Church in Bismarck and Thursday at 1:30 p.m., with visitation one hour prior, at First Presbyterian Church in Fargo.

A private burial was held at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery south of Mandan.

Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home in Fargo is handling arrangements.