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925 S 27th Street
BILLINGS, MT 59101
Phone: 406-245-6427
Fax: 406-259-3558
Obert Undem

Obert M. Undem

Saturday, January 13th, 1934 - Saturday, July 27th, 2019
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Obituary

Obert Undem descended from pioneer Norwegian ranchers, born to Mike and Evelyn Undem in the Great Depression and hardened by toil on the family ranch north of Glendive, Montana. Obert Undem later lived an extraordinary life as a lawyer, banker and philanthropist.
His life was filled with art, music, travel, and gourmet cooking — his own --- any dish that he cooked would be a delicious part of wonderful meal. He loved to cook a meal for a party of friends or family. Obert enlivened his time with friends through a lively wit and intelligent conversation. He was known for his “Obert-isms”, pithy observations, like “Every good day is one day less of winter” and “I’m not a quitter, but I have a fast watch”.
He was devoted to his steadfast companion, his wife Ginny, who was always at the heart of his life. She, along with many friends, advocated he publish a cookbook of his recipes. That never materialized, although he unselfishly shared them when asked.
Undem attended a one-room schoolhouse on Deer Creek before going to high school in Glendive where a kindly couple, who hired him to mow their lawn and shovel their walks, took notice of his academic achievements. Retired banker, Robert H. Watson, and his wife, Ino DeLong Watson, who he fondly called “Auntie Mame,” underwrote his education at Carleton College, which they had attended, and later his pursuit of a post graduate education at Harvard.
“My education was provided by someone who gifted it to me,” he recalls. “They paid all my expenses -- that was an incredible thing for them to do -- and all I did was mow their lawn when I was a kid.”
That memory inspired his work at Rocky Mountain College where he raised millions of dollars to help students through building endowments that would ensure the future benefit of students.
His bachelor of arts degree was awarded cum laude in 1957 from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota; his master’s in business administration was from Harvard University School of Business Administration, Boston, in 1957; and his juris doctorate degree was conferred by William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1963.
Undem came to Rocky Mountain College in 1995, after a 15-year career as a solo practitioner as an estate and tax planning attorney in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Prior to that he had a 20-year career as a bank president, trust officer and consultant in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Arkansas. He was a recently retired member of the Bar Associations of Montana, Arkansas and Minnesota. He served 30 years as a director of the Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, Missouri.
Undem served as a board member of many civic, cultural and commercial organizations, among them the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, the Minneapolis Art Institute, the Arkansas Symphony, the Montana Community Foundation, the Billings Community Foundation and the Rocky Mountain College Institute for Peace Studies.
His honors include selection as the Outstanding Professional Fundraiser of the Year 2008, awarded by the Montana Chapter of the Association of Professional Fundraisers, and an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service by Rocky Mountain College in 2010. The Billings Community Foundation honored his legacy by creating the Obert Undem Community Vitality Endowment, in recognition of his determined advocacy for community foundations across Montana.
Undem is survived by his wife of 36 years, Virginia (Ginny) Undem, his son, Steve Undem of Morrow, AR, and his daughter, Carolyn Hollingsworth of Springdale, AR. He is also survived by his grandchildren – Amanda Bayley, Sara Tice, Mia Undem and Zac Undem along with several great grandchildren.
Services will be held at Smith Chapel in Billings, Friday, August 2, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers Undem wished for donations to promote and encourage the use of charitable endowments to uplift nonprofit services to the local community via the Billings Community Foundation, Obert Undem Community Vitality Endowment Fund, P.O. Box 1255, Billings, MT 59103. The BCF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Condolences may be shared with the family at smithfuneralchapels.com.
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Service Details

  • Service

    Friday, August 2nd, 2019 | 11:00am
    When
    Friday, August 2nd, 2019 11:00am
    Location
    Smith Downtown Chapel
    Address
    925 South 27th Street
    BILLINGS, MT 59101
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    Officiant
    Pastor Dave Merkel
  • Reception

    Location
    Smith Downtown Chapel
    Address
    925 South 27th Street
    BILLINGS, MT 59101
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email

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4 trees have been planted in memory of Obert M. Undem
DT

Dee Tustison

Posted at 02:18pm
Dear Ginny, I was so shocked to hear that Obert had died. I tried to call you, but the number I have for you was no longer in service. Call me if you will, I feel so badly for you. With Obert, you were blessed -- Love you, Dee
IK

Inez Krohn

Posted at 10:53pm



What a joy it was to know Obert and claim him as a very special part of our (Ginny’s) family. Though we were separated by many miles he always made us feel close. He will be greatly missed. Cousin Inez
GN

Gary and Mona Nelson

Posted at 01:52pm
Obert and I were roommates in the 60’s in Minneapolis. He is perhaps the most intelligent person I have known, also kind and loving, humorous and interesting. Being 4 years my senior he also was an important mentor both business wise and socially. We are both so thankful that we had the opportunity to visit Ginny and him in Billings, last summer. Rest easy My Friend.
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Karen Hyvonen

Posted at 11:26pm
Ginny and Obert's family, we were so sorry to learn of Obert's death. He was such a genial, generous and gentle soul and did so much good. I'm glad that we had a chance to know him! Our thoughts will be with you all during this time.
JD

Jane Deschner

Posted at 10:48am
It was always a true and absolute delight to share a conversation with Obert.
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