IN MOURNING: Funds pour in to show support for Montana family
for Last Best News
On February 16, over 600 people converged on the Garfield County gymnasium in rural Jordan, Montana, to bid farewell to Owen Murnion during a heart-wrenching ceremony. Just days earlier, Feb. 12, the 38-year-old rancher was killed in a tragic accident while unloading a tool bar from a flatbed, leaving behind his loving wife, Briana and their seven daughters, including two sets of twins ranging in ages from 5-15.
Owen was often described as a jack of all trades. Besides his passion for ranching and farming, he enjoyed snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and trapping the coyotes that would often intrude on his sheep herd.
As a proud member of the NRA and an avid gun lover, he also got a kick out of posting pictures of the dead varmints proudly on his Facebook page, with a witty comment. He was also a skilled carpenter and had recently finished building his and Briana’s dream home. There was never a task too big or too small for Owen. When he wasn’t working on the ranch, you could find him building grill guards and replacing windshields at his business, Murnion Auto Glass.
While living on the family ranch, Owen raised both sheep and cattle and also ran a custom-combining business with his father, Joe. Owen took great pride in being raised in the small ranching community of Jordan, Montana. Owen often proclaimed that there was no better place on earth to raise his daughters while teaching them to hunt and fish.
Owen’s wife and daughters were the light of his life. While speaking about Owen’s daughters at his funeral, the Reverend K.J. Ellington said “Owen manned up and did what most men in this room wouldn’t do. He lived in a house with eight women.” Owen was actively involved with their local church in Jordan where he served as the treasurer, led men’s Bible study and helped remodel the church building.
When remembering Owen, friends and family would describe him as hard working and generous. He was fiercely proud of his family, his community, and his faith in God.
–by Bailee Murnion
Thursday evening, Feb. 12, on the day a Jordan-area rancher died, friends started a Web-based fundraiser to help the wife and seven daughters he left behind.
By Sunday afternoon, more than 500 people had donated over $54,000 to the family of Owen Murnion, who died Thursday while unloading farm equipment he had bought in North Dakota.
“It has been pretty humbling for all of us,” said Anne Miller, a neighbor and family friend who started the fundraiser on GoFundMe.
Owen Murnion was 38. He and his wife, Briana, had three daughters from previous marriages when they wed in 2006, then had two sets of twins, all daughters. The girls range in age from 5 to 15.
Miller and some other friends, after talking to Briana, launched the GoFundMe page and set their goal at $15,000.
“We had quietly hoped it would go higher than that, but we had no idea what to ask for,” Miller said.
They were stunned when they hit their goal in just six hours, and then watched as the donations more than doubled within 24 hours. They climbed to $45,000 by Saturday afternoon, then to $54,000 by Sunday afternoon.
Help and offers of help have been pouring in from other sources. Miller said they have been in contact with a national group that helps farm families in crisis, and the Miles City Livestock Commission has tentatively scheduled a “rollover” during its March 3 bull sale.
During that interlude of the sale, which attracts a lot of Jordan-area ranch families, donated feed and livestock will be auctioned off, with all proceeds going to the Murnion family. An account has also been set up at the Garfield County Bank for people unable to donate online.
An especially touching tribute took place Saturday night, during the halftime of the boys’ varsity basketball game in Broadus. Following the lead of Circle fans, who rallied a week earlier to help a Culbertson athlete fighting a brain tumor, the Broadus Lady Hawks went through the crowd with buckets to collect donations for the Murnions.
The Broadus team also made a card for the Murnions’ oldest daughter, Siera, and all of them signed it.
That kindness, Miller said, “kind of sent people up here over the edge.”
On top of all that, friends and family are working to schedule six months’ worth of donated meals for Briana and her daughters.
Miller said what they are doing is nothing the Murnions wouldn’t have done themselves.
“They are the epitome of a selfless family,” she said. “If someone here had a need, you would see multiple generations of that family coming to help.”
Owen died on the day his family started calving on their farm and ranch near Brussett, northwest of Jordan. As word of Owen’s death quickly spread, more than 20 vehicles full of volunteers showed up to help the Murnions with their calving. They were not forgotten on the GoFundMe page.
“Family friends are handling calving in shifts,” an update on the fundraising page said, “so having things easy to eat for the barn help are also appreciated.”
Miller said Owen and Briana moved back to the Murnion family home place in 2010, from Forsyth, with plans to take over the operation from Owen’s parents, Joe and Bev Murnion. They worked on an estate and transition plan for several years.
“They had just completed a handoff and had built a home,” Miller said.
Miller said she will keep the GoFundMe page active for a month. With seven girls to raise, Briana will need all the help she can get.
“We’ve been more worried about the coming months and years than the next few days,” Miller said.
Details: For complete information on how to help, online and in person, go to the GoFundMe page and click on “updates.”
–reprinted with permission from Last Best News
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