(HELENA) Montana state leaders paid their last respects Friday morning to former Governor Judy Martz, the state’s first female governor.
Montana Highway Patrol troopers and Butte-Silver Bow police escorted Martz’s family from Butte to Helena. When they arrived at the Montana State Capitol, Gov. Steve Bullock, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, Attorney General Tim Fox and other state leaders were on hand to meet them.
Members of the MHP Honor Guard escorted Martz’s ashes, carried in a silver heart-shaped urn, up the Capitol’s front steps and into the rotunda. There, Martz lay in state throughout the day, with troopers continuing to stand guard.
The Honor Guard includes 16 MHP members from across the state. They take part in a number of ceremonies, including memorials for people who have served Montana.
MHP Sgt. Jay Nelson was chosen to command the Guard during Friday’s ceremonies. He served on Martz’s protection detail while she was governor.
“The biggest thing that I can say about Gov. Martz is her sense of love, her sense of faith, and her sense of leadership, being the first female governor of Montana,” said Nelson. “She treated us that protected her as her own children. It was an honor to serve under Gov. Martz.”
Nelson said it’s not always easy to be part of solemn occasions like this, but it’s an important responsibility that MHP takes seriously.
“It’s truly an honor to be here and be able to present her the respect and professionalism that is the true basis of the Montana Highway Patrol,” he said.
Bullock issued a proclamation, ordering flags in the state to be flown at half-staff through Monday, to honor Martz’s memory.
A memorial service will be held for Martz on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Butte Civic Center.
Martz, who had pancreatic cancer, died in Monday morning at her home in Rocker, west of Butte.
A Republican from the Democratic stronghold of Butte, Martz served a single term as governor, from 2001-2004.
The former Olympic speed-skater had been plucked from political obscurity in 1995, when then-Gov. Marc Racicot chose her as his lieutenant governor.
The pair won re-election a year later and Martz then won the governorship in 2000, defeating Democrat Mark O’Keefe, 51 percent to 47 percent.
Martz was born in Big Timber, but made her name in Butte, as a business owner, civic booster and rare Republican in the heavily Democratic town. She had skated in the 1,500-meter event at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, and she and her husband, Harry, co-owned a garbage-hauling business in Butte.
She was a field representative in Butte for Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns when she was chosen by Racicot to be his second lieutenant governor.
Martz was also the state’s first female lieutenant governor, appointed to succeed Denny Rehberg, who resigned to run for the U.S. Senate in 1996.