Joan-Nell Macfadden

December 1, 1934


January 10, 2021

Joan-Nell Macfadden

December 1, 1934


January 10, 2021

Joan-Nell Macfadden passed away peacefully on Jan. 10, 2021. 

 Joan-Nell Bowron “Josie” was born to Frank and Evelyn Bowron on Dec. 1, 1934, in Chicago. She was born alongside a twin (Mounte Ella Bowron), who died shortly after birth so it can be said that right from the beginning, Joan-Nell was small in stature and arrived with a determined spirit. In 1940, her brother, Frank, Jr., was born. One of Joan-Nell’s favorite childhood memories was traveling to New York with her mother and grandmother to visit her Great-Grandma Merson, where they would drink tea late into the night and get caught up on family news. This love of visiting with others was a central theme throughout Joan-Nell’s life. She was known for her willingness to listen and for sharing her wise counsel. It was not uncommon for the person sitting next to her on a plane to hug her before parting ways. She was a relational gift to many through her warm presence, kindness and ability to easily create true connections.

 Joan-Nell attended her beloved St. Olaf College, where she earned a degree in Secondary English Education.  Her first job was in Great Falls, where she met Bill Macfadden in 1959. The two were introduced through friends and became engaged six months later. They were married in Minneapolis on April 2, 1960. They settled in Great Falls on Beth Drive, where they had three daughters: Molly, Sarah and Amy. Later they moved to Fourth Avenue South and raised their family among some of their closest lifelong friends. Joan-Nell was a homemaker who was a talented gardener and creator of warm gatherings with delicious food and lots of laughter.

Joan-Nell remained dedicated to Ol’ Bill for better or worse, in sickness and in health for 57 years. The two of them built their life in Great Falls with wonderful friends. They shared a deep dedication to their community. Their combined sense of humor about life became a trademark of their relationship and endured through Bill’s years of battling Parkinson’s — Joan-Nell always faithfully by his side. He was the adventurer who made her laugh and she adored him.

As a compassionate volunteer, Joan-Nell served the Montana Mental Health Assoc. for over 35 years. She was also active in Al-Anon, The Junior League, PEO, was an advocate for Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) and volunteered with Senior Services at Benefis Health System. Joan-Nell strived for people to be heard and served according to their need.

Joan-Nell was preceded in death by her husband, Bill. She is survived by her three daughters, Molly, Sarah and Amy (David Petsch); brother Frank Bowron; and grandchildren, Fredrick, Isaac, Simon and Seth Petsch, Isabella and Sam Hazlett, and Eleanor Macfadden-Collins.  

Due to Covid 19, a small service will be held in Billings at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15; a livestream of the service may be viewed here:

Plans for a larger gathering in Great Falls will be made for this summer when Joan-Nell’s ashes will be laid to rest. Memorial gifts can be sent to: Center for Mental Health, 915 First Ave. S., Great Falls, MT 59401.

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16 thoughts on “Joan-Nell Macfadden”

  1. So very sorry to hear of Joan-Nell. She was a wonderful lady and will always be remembered for her work in mental health.

  2. Vince and Maureen Marko

    So sorry to read of Joan-Nell’s passing may she RIP. She was a great lady and you daughters will have great memories of your Mom and Dad. God Bless you all, to accept his calling. She is flying high with the Angels now💐💔Maureen and Vince

  3. The first time I met Joan-Nell was about 30 years ago when she received the Sustainer of the Year Award from the Junior League of Great Falls. I was so impressed with the Tribute read and about all her work in mental health. I was so happy to be able to call her a Sister after joining her P.E.O. Chapter. She was a true inspiration and such a kind lady.

  4. Dear Family, One great woman who shared her talents with so many…..Joan Nell will be remembered for her kindness, fun, community changes for the better and a delightful friend. From Strawberries and Champagne at the beginning of each school year to increased awareness and changes for our Great Falls Mental Health programs (and even beyond) she made a difference and we are all grateful.
    Peaceful thoughts and our love to you all, Charlie and Sydne Abernathy

  5. Oh what a beautiful neighbor in Great Falls and on the Smith River. She recruited me to volunteer for NAMI and I learned so much from her! Both she and Bill, stellar and lovely and committed to each other. They adored their daughters and grandchildren! A gifter a books, one such book has her notes in it. She wrote that her favorite time was laying next to Bill st night discussing their days activities and their family. I will plant a rose bush in her honor this Spring. Please do come and see it! Love to you three awesome girls!

  6. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time. Joan Nell was such a joy to be around and she accomplished wonderful things in our community. Her passion and caring personality was something to behold. Of course the same was true of your wonderful father. Our community will miss them both dearly.

  7. I am saddened by the loss of my first-cousin, Joan-Nell, who was very supportive of me during the most difficult time in my life. She guided me in a loving way to attend Al Anon meetings and stayed the course with me with weekly phone calls to my home in California. Her guidance led me to later become a Life Coach for abused women. Joan-Nell’s legacy not only positively impacted my life but indirectly supported the lives of many other women with whom I supported — passing on the love that many needed to improve their lives.
I am sure that she left a legacy of love among all who knew her.
    Blessings to the family, 

Dabbie Bowron

  8. So sorry to hear of Joan-Nell’s passing. She was a great and compassionate woman. It was rewarding having worked with her on several mental health community endeavors throughout the years. She was a tireless and dedicated advocate to improve the mental health system throughout the entire State, not just here in Great Falls. The community has truly lost someone special.

  9. Joan Nells family is in my thoughts and prayers! She will be dearly missed by many. I was very blessed to have her in my life! God Bless!

  10. Betsy Bowron-Komerska

    Aunt Joan-Nell has always been and will remain one of my favorite people. She and I always had great conversations and visits. I was so blessed to be able to live with my grandmother Evelyn and that aloud me to know my Aunt better. So many miles between us, but she always had time for a phone call listening to my woes and laughing about silly things. She and uncle Bill where just wonderful, loving, practical, people. They definitely left their mark on the world. God bless them and their family. Love ❤️ Betsy and family – I’m so blessed to have her and Uncle Bill in my life.

  11. Gene & Nancy Dillner

    We knew Joan-Nell almost from the time we moved to Great Falls. She and Nancy had many of the same interests like Junior League and PEO We were also included in a lot of the 4th Avenue South shenanigans over a lot of years.
    We have many great memories of the grace and humor that Joan-Nell shared with all who were lucky enough to have her in their lives.

  12. Denise Mickealson

    Sooo very sorry to hear of Joan-Nell passing. I just happened to look through the obituaries tonight. So glad I didn’t miss this opportunity to tell the family how much your mom (and your dad) meant to me. I use to clean for them in GF and they were so very sweet to me. I loved them both and have many wonderful memories. I hope the girls (and their families) know how very blessed you were to have them in your lives. Please let me know when you will be holding services in GF as I would love to say a proper goodbye. May God bless you all and may grant you peace.

  13. Sandra Schmidt~Pepos

    A great dedication to Mental Health and its advocacy is how I remember Jo-Nell. I was the administrative assistant for a board where I met her and was always learning from her. She will always be remembered for her grace and her willingness to serve her community and others.

  14. Dear McFadden Family: I was so sad to hear about your Mom. She was such a lovely lady! I’m so glad she got to live near you her last years. I got to know her and Bill during Eagle Mount years for my daughter Kelly. Bill was huge in my family and then he got to live in the Beehive where my dad lives. While there, I saw Joan-Nell often because she took such amazing care of Bill. Your parents were such incredible people! May the Lord comfort you in your loss. Most sincerely Jan Stoick

  15. Joan Nell was a friend and mentor to me when I worked in Mental Health. She was a powerful advocate for recovery. I just searched for her on Facebook today and found her obituary. She spoke of her daughters so often. My deepest condolences on the loss of your Mom. -Kathleen

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