It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Wilmer Francis Zeller, “Big Willie,” on April 23rd, 2023, at age 76. Willie was a beloved son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather who lived a full and remarkable life. Willie was born in Wolf Point, Montana, on March 31, 1947. He grew up in Wolf Point and graduated in 1965. He then went to college in Bozeman and Billings, where he attended school and enjoyed the nightlife. He then moved in with his sister in Virginia, Minnesota, to continue his education. He was drafted in 1968 and spent his military time in Germany during the Vietnam War. He was discharged in 1970. Willie and Rita were married in August of 1971. Rita’s dad helped him get a job with the school district, where he worked as a school janitor from 1971 through 2007, a job he held with pride and dedication. Willie also cleaned Joe’s Bar after closing, and during tax season, he worked for an accountant for several years. At times he had a full-time job and two part-time ones. He believed in the value of hard work and instilled that same work ethic in his children and grandchildren.
In 1981 he began a new chapter as a political figure and was elected to a slot on the Glasgow City Council, then ran for a two-year term as Mayor in 1983. In 2001 Willie was elected to his fifth term as Glasgow’s Mayor, making him Montana’s longest-serving Mayor. Willie served his community with distinction for 28 and a half years, making countless contributions to the city’s growth and prosperity. Willie was also a member of the St. Raphael’s Parish, Knights of Columbus, Elks Club, Eagle Scout, and Boy Scout Leader. Upon retirement, Willie held many positions at the Glasgow VFW and was instrumental in moving the post from Mahon Street to Highway 2. Willie and Rita (Stein) were married for over 50 years and were loving parents to two children, Willie Junior and Alicia. He was also a doting grandfather who enjoyed spending time with his grandson Hunter, picking him up in the Chevette with a cigar in hand and taking him to McDonald’s, attending his sporting events, and playing cribbage with him at the VFW every Wednesday, where Hunter learned a lot more from the vets than cribbage.
Willie’s commitment to his community and family was unwavering, and he will be deeply missed by all who knew him. His legacy of service and dedication to others will continue to inspire those who knew him. Big Wille will be forever remembered for his time as mayor, his cigars, and the baby blue Chevette. Willie Senior is preceded in death by his wife Rita and baby Mary, parents Ethel (Hartse) and Wilmer A. Zeller, sister Sharon, and brother-law Leon. He is survived by his son Willie Junior and Heather Zeller of Glasgow and grandson Hunter of Denver; daughter Alicia and furbabies Lulu and Otis of Glasgow; sister Nora and Jerry Monson; Nephew Michael and Dawn Erickson, children Miles and Laura, Nephew Bruce and Kim Erickson. A rosary will be held at St. Raphael’s Catholic Church on Thursday, April 27th, at 6:30 pm. Join us for light snacks and memories at the VFW after the rosary. A memorial service will be held at a later date. The family requests that in place of flowers, donations be made to the Glasgow Beautification Fund, a cause that was near and dear to Willie’s heart.
Thursday April 27, 2023
Glasgow, Montana 59230
Thursday April 27, 2023
Glasgow, Montana 59230
Read the thoughts and memories, then feel free to add your own.
Lierow Nancy says
To the Willie Zeller family,
I am so sorry to hear about Willie. He always had to give me a hard time whenever he’d see me and always with that grin on his face. He was so good about taking my son Joe along with little Willie to different places around the state for games or concerts and other activities. I pray he rests in peace. He will be missed. 🙏🏼😥. Nancy Lierow
Denise Forbes/Kegel says
Our horse Quincy has really formed a bond with Willie and Rita. They would feed him his special treat over the fence. He is mourning over his death, by looking in their windows. He will be truly missed.🐎😢
Diane Hayden says
I didn’t know Willie but I know his sister Nora who is married to my brother. From Willie’s very well written obit I am sure I would have liked him. And from his photo I can tell he was exceptionally handsome!
Wanda Daley Dale says
I remember Willie coaching a little league team which my daughter was on. After she batted, she threw the bat and hit Willie right across the shins. All he did was smile. Thank you Mr.Zeller for your patriotism of our country and our town. Thank you for your service.
Colleen Monson Gebhard says
I’m sure my husband Pete would have enjoyed spending time with Willie. Pete was also a Vietnam vet who served in Germany; and like Willie, Pete enjoyed a good cigar.
I extend my condolences to Nora and all of Willie’s family and friends.