Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Viljo M. Nygard died at Eagle Cliff Manor in Billings on Jan. 29, 2009, a month short of his 95th birthday. He was born to Finnish immigrants, Oscar and Bertha (Kosola) Nygard, in Fitchburg, Mass., on Feb. 24, 1914. As a young child, the family moved to Frederick, S.D., and then to Big Sandy. After high school, he attended Northern Montana College in Havre. During his school years, he delivered coal from the Nygard coal mine which he helped operate with his father. During high school in Big Sandy, Viljo was an exceptional musician, taking first place in the state for a clarinet solo in his junior year and competing the following year with the saxophone. He and his sister also played for dances around the Big Sandy area.

He met his "Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten Cent Store" and married Taimi Peltola in Red Lodge, on Sept. 25, 1939. They lived in Big Sandy as well as Frederick, but during the war years lived in California where Viljo worked in the shipyards. Two daughters were born during this time. After the war they returned to Red Lodge and made their home on a farm on the two-mile bridge road just north of town. Viljo worked at numer-ous occupations, plumbing and heating, electrical, and coal and hard rock mining, along with farming. In their later years they owned several rental properties in Billings until retirement when they moved back to Red Lodge. Viljo retained his love of music and played clarinet with the Eagles and Finnish/German bands for all occasions around Red Lodge, including 4th of July parades, Festival of Nations, and many other festivities. He played drums with several dance orchestras as drummers were in short supply. He played with Niilo Lehman's Nite Owls around the Red Lodge area and with Wilho Koski's Jazz Katz after moving to Billings and played all around the Billings area for school dances and at Shrine Auditorium on numerous occasions.

Viljo and Taimi were formidable pinochle players and loved spending time with friends playing cards. You could count on playing pinochle almost anytime at their home while visiting. You could also count on Viljo putting on some home recordings of family, Finnish music, country music or almost anything he may have recorded from the radio.

Viljo was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 65 years, Taimi; his sister, Aune Hendrickson; and two grandsons, Mark and Michael Fee. He is survived by his daughters, Betty (Richard) Meek of Billings and Linda Shea of Whitehall; grandchildren, Larry Miller, Kiki Miller (Craig) Owens, Lisa Thormahlen (Craig) Miller, and Cheri (Mike) Ambacher; great-grandchildren, Teah VanMeter, Tori Miller, Holly Miller, Oskar Owens, Brent Cadwell, Connie Meislahn and Erik Lister; great-great-grandchildren, Justice and Isaak Van-Meter and Amira and Kacie Cadwell; one aunt, Irma Nygard, of Great Falls, two nephews and numerous cous-ins in the U.S. and Finland.

The family gives their heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the staff at Eagle Cliff Manor and Rocky Moun-tain Hospice. On his request, cremation has taken place and no services will be held. Condolences and remembrances may be made on the website of Cremation & Funeral Gallery at

Sign up to get each day's obituaries sent to your email inbox

Load entries