Thelma Hazel (Braden) Zeller

Thelma Hazel (Braden) Zeller

Thelma Hazel (Braden) Zeller passed on November 16th, 2020 at the age of 93 without the assistance of Covid-19 or any other disease.  Thelma went to sleep and joined her “sweet precious angel,” John, her spouse for 39 years.

Survivors include her sister-in-law Ruth Braden and children Dr. Gary Braden and Karen Braden Thompson. Thelma is preceded by: Edward Roy Braden (father); Laura Braden (mother); and Clayton Braden (brother).

Thelma was born 12-23-1926 in Great Falls and raised near Vaughn, Montana. She graduated from Simms High School as Valedictorian in 1944. Thelma received a scholarship to attend any Montana college but declined so she could live at home and help her father care for her mother, who was confined to a bed.  Thelma attended Great Falls Commercial College and graduated a Mountain Bell “FIRST” impression graduate.

Thelma started work for Burlington Northern Railroad on February 2, 1946 and retired on December 1, 1988.  Thelma married John J. Zeller, Jr. on June 6, 1970 at St Ann’s Cathedral (Great Falls) with a reception at the Presbyterian Church (Great Falls).

Thelma always called John her “sweet precious angel.”  She loved beautiful art, especially Charlie Russell. She sang until the day she took her final nap. Thelma was always concerned about the hardships of others and was always thankful for her home and other blessings. Memorizing, piano, and poetry were a few of her other loves.

Thelma was a High Plains Heritage Center volunteer, Sliver Leader for the disabled American Veterans, Secretary Treasurer of the Sun River Valley Historical Society, was voted Queen of the Sun River Valley centennial celebration in 1964, was instrumental in starting the Burlington Northern Credit Union and Burlington Northern Employee Club, and 30-year exhibitor at Montana State Fair.

Details were a hobby, especially commas and spelling. Thelma corrected water judges, attorneys, funeral homes, Department of Records, Bureau of Census, drivers’ manuals, song sheets, poems, and other documents.

Thelma and John traveled much of the world and Thelma wrote a poem about every trip.

In 2006 Thelma left the “valley” to be closer to John.  For nine wonderful years Thelma lived at The Lodge.  As her dementia progressed Thelma moved to another wonderful place, Highgate Senior Living Center, her final home.

Randy Knowles has been her “right hand” man since 2006 and wants to thank all of the doctors who cared for Thelma, provide guidance, and answered all of his many questions. Beauticians Judy Tocco and Vicky Jones treated Thelma like their mother and kept her beautiful.  Kerry Hoveland attended to her feet.

Since 2010 a team of wonderful ladies provided extra care for Thelma: Rosanne Mares, Jan Wenaas, Kate Buckles, Gail Korona, Lori Raymond, Linda Riddle, and Bernette Barnhard.  They loved her like their own mothers.

Memorials may be sent to: Sun River Valley Historical Society, Box 144, Sun River, MT 59483.

If you were a part of Thelma’s life, we thank you for being the blessing of a friend.

Viewing is by appointment only: at O’Connor Funeral Home, 453-7257, where Thelma will lie in repose from Monday November 23, 2020 through Saturday December 5th.   Thelma will be buried at the Sun River Cemetery next to her “sweet precious angel,” John.

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