On a warm summer day in a dugout on a homestead in Garfield County, Mont., Margaret Elizabeth Leuschen was born with the auspicious birth date of 8-18-18. She was the first daughter and second oldest of Matt and Martha Leuschen’s 10 children. Her childhood was a rich collection of memories of summers spent on the ranch and school years back in the town of Jordan. It was a tightly knit family and it has remained that way into the next generations.
After high school, Margaret worked her way through college at the University of Montana, graduating in 1941 with a degree in business. She’d come there hoping for the School of Journalism, but her father told her that was no job for a woman. But her talent for writing was apparent to anyone who ever had the good fortune to correspond with her.
After graduation, there was a teaching job in the tiny town of Moccasin, Mont., but it reminded her too much of where she’d come from and not where she wanted to go. So when she heard FDR’s speech after Pearl Harbor, she headed to Seattle to work for Boeing in the war effort. But polishing the brass knobs for submarines didn’t hold her interest for long either. She enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and wrote a postcard to her folks telling them what she’d done and mailed it from the Milwaukee Depot as the train passed through Missoula on her way to basic training in Ft. Des Moines, Iowa.
Margaret turned down Officers School as soon as she heard that officers wouldn’t be going overseas. In 1943, she boarded the Queen Mary which had been commandeered as a troop ship and sailed for England. She spent two and a half years as a stenographer in Eisenhower’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces in Bushy Park outside of London during the Blitz. She was moved to France during the Battle of the Bulge and located in St. Germain, Biarritz and Wiesbaden, Germany, for a year. She’d finally gotten her wish to be in the middle of history in the making instead of sitting in a backwater watching it all go by. It was an experience that shaped the rest of her life, and the women she met remained dear lifelong friends.
After the war, Margaret came back to visit her family in Jordan and just happened to go to the Fireman’s Ball at the VFW, where she met a handsome GI and love of her life named John Grauman, who was just back from four years in the Pacific Theater. They were married three months later and settled back in Miles City for the next 24 years. They moved to Billings in 1968 and built their home, which quickly became the bustling Hotel Grauman for friends and relatives.
Their five children remember Margaret as their biggest fan who encouraged them to do what she had done. Never settle for less. She always told her three daughters to go out and explore the world because you could always get married later. Margaret and John have 11 grandchildren and they all have very fond memories of Grandma’s teddy bear picnics, stories and hikes through the tall grasses of pretend jungles.
Margaret slipped away peacefully on April 25, 2015, at the age of 96.
She is survived by her children, Lisa (Jim) Blackburn, Seeley Lake, John Jr. (Joan) Grauman, Billings, Matthew Grauman, Juneau, Alaska, and Tamara (Mark) Tanberg, Lakeside, Mont.; and grandchildren, Hayley, Josh (Jordan) and Zach Blackburn, Elizabeth (Ruben) Mozzi, Jack Grauman, Sofia, Connor, Michelle and Ben Tanberg; her great-granddaughter, Rilee Ann Blackburn; her beloved sister, Irene Compton, Columbia Falls; and very special in-laws, Don and Wanda Grauman, Billings, Lucille Leuschen, Billings, Myrt Leuschen, Bozeman, and Kathy Leuschen, Fair Oaks, Calif.
Margaret was preceded in death by her husband, John; daughter Andrea Grauman; and two grandsons, Andrew and Colin Blackburn.