July 19, 1928 — Nov. 6, 2016
Edward was born the fourth living child of McCone county homesteaders, Halvor and Clara (Martinsen) Lien. He was raised on the Montana prairie south of Wolf Point on Sand Creek. The 1930s, the Dust Bowl years, bred a hardy stock and Edward was no exception. “These are the time that try men’s souls,” per Winston Churchill, one of the many political and literary writers Edward was fond of reciting.
Edward attended a one-room school, and learned to work to rope and ride and survive. At a young age, he lost the tip of his finger in a dally, and proudly displayed his stub. In 1946, he married his high school sweetheart, and love of his life, Eldora Harlow. She was 19; he was 20. Edward attended Montana State College in Bozeman, studying civil and mechanical engineering. He left school to manage his father-in-law’s wheat farm south of Wolf Point in the Nickwall community.
Edward was the first to help a neighbor, serving on the county extension committee and school board. For several years, he taught at the Nickwall School, and was still in contact with many of his students in later years. Edward practiced rational conservation and pioneered diversified crops. “We don’t own the land,” he was fond of saying, “we are stewards of it for our lifetime.” For several decades Edward served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association and was active in anti-trust litigation against beef packing houses. In the 1970s, he was an organizer for the National Farmer’s Organization, campaigning for collective bargaining of agricultural production. A lifelong Democrat, Edward served three terms as a member of the Montana House of Representatives. As a member of the House Taxation committee, he was a part of the team that developed and implemented Montana’s Coal Tax Trust Fund.
To supplement the costs of operation of a dry land farm in a dozen years of continuous drought, Edward served as editor of the Circle Banner, covering local and regional commission meetings and encouraging others to be involved in their communities. He assisted his wife Eldora, a talented seamstress, with the operation of the Circle of Threads, a retail home goods and notions store. For several years, he was employed by the Montana State Land Department as a field agent and moved his family to Helena.
Edward also served seven years as a member of the Montana Human Rights Commission, and took his quasi-judicial responsibilities very seriously, studying each case in detail. Recalling his experience as a journalist he would say, “it’s important to give equal ink to both sides.” Edward was a 32nd degree Mason and a member of Loyalty Lodge AF&AM Masonic Lodge #121 in Wolf Point.
Edward farmed south of Wolf Point until his retirement to Billings in 1995. He owned and operated The Stump Doctor, a landscaping company. Edward continued his commitment to community service and served as a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels and as a Senior Companion. He was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year by Big Sky Senior Services. Edward was a voracious reader, and was the most active library card holder at the Parmly Billings Library.
Edward will be remembered by his family and many friends for his sense of humor and infectious positivity. His jokes and stories were many and frequent. He was appreciative of the many caregivers at the Billings Clinic, St. John’s and Eagle Cliff Rehab Centers, which he credited for “doing a great job of keeping me alive” in the past several years.
Edward was preceded in death by his parents; his beloved wife, Eldora (Harlow) Lien; his brothers, Harold and Eldon Lien; and his sister, Prudence (Lien) Draeger; brother-in-law, Walter Draeger; and daughter-in-law, Dixie (Lasich) Lien. He is survived by his sister, Shirley Lien (Russell) Zimmerman and sister-in-law, Delores (Loendorf) Lien of Wolf Point; and his son, Russell Edward Lien of Henderson, Nevada, and his grandson Bill (Katie) Lien of Miles City; daughter Nancy Jane Lien of Pipestone, Montana, and her children, Benjamin James Griffin, of Kalaheo, Hawaii, Emily Kathryn Griffin of Missoula, Patrick Martin Griffin of San Diego, and Julia Dolores Griffin of Dublin, Ireland; and daughter Nora (Neil) Mann of Phoenix, and her children, Kevin Edward (Sarah) Mann of Phoenix, Brian (Melissa) Mann of Denver and Laura Mann (Jason) Wright, of Bend, Oregon. He is also survived by seven great-grandchildren; his special friends, Ed and Peg Kraft; Dorrie and Mike Mangum; and his best friend, Madi French of Billings.
Memorials can be made to the Billings Meals on Wheels program, http://www.allianceyc.org/left-navigation/how-you-can-help/donate-now/.
Edward has been cremated. A remembrance service for family and friends will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at the Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave., Billings.