School 02

Marilyn Joyce Palmer

March 14, 1936 ~ April 12, 2020 (age 84)


Marilyn Joyce (Leske) Palmer, one of the kindest people you would ever know, passed away Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020, peacefully at home, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 84 years old. 

Marilyn was born in New Rockford, ND, on March 14, 1936, third of four children, to Otto and Addie Leske. She grew up and attended public school in New Rockford, graduating first in her high school class of 1953, then earned a two-year standard teaching certificate from Jamestown College. After teaching for a year in Rawlins, WY, she returned to Grand Forks and taught sixth grade for two years. She had met the love of her life Doug (of all places) at a basketball tournament in 1951, as high school sophomores, and the two were married in June 1957. Her teaching career continued in Bowman and Lisbon, ND, before moving to Fargo in 1963 where her fourth and last boy was born. In 1965 Doug accepted an offer to teach and coach basketball in Great Falls, at the newly opened CM Russell High School, so the two of them moved their family of six to Montana.

After a few more years of being a full time mother at home, Marilyn earned her B.S. from Northern Montana College and returned to teaching. She held various teaching and tutoring positions in the the GFPS system, mainly in the elementary and middle schools. She had a knack for relating to under-privileged students, becoming more than just a teacher to them. She often said it’s important that children WANT to learn, that makes the learning easier.

In addition to her long career as an educator and over ten years as a field representative for the US Department of Commerce (Census division), Marilyn was also active in the community. She was a member of the Junior League of Great Falls, worshiped at Our Saviours and Bethel Lutheran churches, and helped organize and participate in many social events. She was a wonderful wife and mother, had countless friends in the area and across the state, and her kind spirit and gentle nature was admired by all who knew her.

Marilyn is survived by her husband Doug, sister Donna Bowman in Greensboro, NC, children Kelly (Robin), Greg (Janet), Jeff (Kim), and Charlie (Chris Engel) Palmer, nine amazing grand-children Christopher (Emily), Andrea, Emily, and Maddie Palmer, Gabe Nordquist-Palmer, Serena, Elle, Skye, and Summer Palmer, and one great-grand child Claire Palmer. She was preceded in death by her sister Harriet Benson from Minot, ND and brother Dr. Gary Leske from Setauket, NY.

A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.
Memorials are suggested to the Great Falls Public School Foundation, or the charity of your choice.

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