Former Governor Judy Martz passes away at 74

Former Montana Governor Judy Martz has passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer this morning in Butte. She was 74. 

Martz, a Big Timber native, first served as the Lt. Governor to then-Governor Marc Racicot in 1996 before being elected as Montana’s first woman governor in 2000. Martz served as governor from 2001 to 2005.

Martz lived a variety of lifestyles, from politician to athlete. In 1964, Martz represented the United states at the winter Olympics, competing in the 1,500 meters, where she finished 15th. She was elected as the 1962 Miss Rodeo Montana and most recently was elected into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. 

She was born Judy Morstein on July 28, 1943, to her parents Joe and Dorothy Morstein. Judy was raised with her brother, Joe, and sisters Carol, Penny, Jerrie and Sherrie in Big Timber and in Butte. She graduated Butte High School in 1961 and went on to pursue her higher education at Eastern Montana College. 

Judy’s life was greatly influenced by her ranching lifestyle and rodeos. In 1963, Judy competed on the U.S. World Speed Skating team before qualifying for the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympic Games. 

In 1965, Judy married her husband Harry Martz and became parents of Justing and Stacey Jo. 

It wasn’t until the early 90s when Martz became involved in politics — first locally before moving her way of the ladder. 

Martz first served as the president of the Butte Chamber of Commerce and vice-chairperson of the St. James Board of Directors. In 1996, she ran for lieutenant governor with Racicot and became Montana’s first female governor in 2000.

After leaving the public office, Martz has remained active in the communities where she has lived. 

In 2014, Martz was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was moved to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.

From around the state

Here are what other leaders from around Montana are saying about the recent news of former governor Martz passing away:

“Lisa and I join Montanans in honoring the life and legacy of Governor Judy Martz, Montana’s first female governor. While she will always leave her mark in our history as a trailblazer for women, we will also remember the spirited enthusiasm she brought both in her service to Montanans and through her lifelong love for our state.” - Governor Steve Bullock

“Today, Montana lost a dedicated public servant, a valuable stateswomen, and an all-around good person. As a former Olympian, successful business woman, and Montana’s first female governor, Judy Martz achieved many great accomplishments throughout her life. Governor Martz was a longtime friend, and will be missed by many. My heart goes out to her family during this time.” - Attorney General Tim Fox 

“Governor Martz was a woman of grit and faith who fearlessly blazed new trails from the Olympics to the Governor’s Mansion. Judy was rarely seen without a pin of the humble turtle on her lapel and would often invoke a saying that embodied her fearlessness and courage ‘Behold the turtle, he only moves forward when his neck’s stuck out’.  Cindy and I wish her and her family prayers during this time.”  - U.S. Senator Steve Daines

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Governor Martz. In the end, Judy fought an unwavering battle and embodied the courageous strength of a Montana leader. Her dedication to serving Montana is one of the many reasons that I am proud to have known her. As the history books are updated, Montana students will learn of the many life accomplishments of our first female Governor.” - State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen

“Governor Judy Martz shattered the glass ceiling at our state’s Capitol showing young women all across Montana what’s possible if you work hard.  Judy’s faith, persistence and leadership are a hallmark of her lasting legacy.” -  U.S. Senator Jon Tester

"I'm incredibly saddened to hear that former Governor Judy Martz has passed. Her strong faith was inspirational and motivated her to lead an amazing life of leadership and service to our state, including as Montana's first female governor. Jean and I are keeping Governor Martz's family and loved ones in our prayers." - Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matt Rosendale

"We are terribly saddened by the loss of former governor Judy Martz," said Webb Brown, the Montana Chamber of Commerce's president/CEO. "Judy worked closely with the Montana Chamber, both in the political sense as governor, but also in the business sense as a member and on our board of directors. Personally, I admired her honesty and humor, even in her darkest hours. We will miss her leadership dearly." - Montana Chamber of Commerce

“Today, Montana lost a trailblazing leader. Judy had a tremendous heart for our state and cared deeply for all Montanans. She will be missed.” - Congressman Greg Gianforte

Check back with Pioneer as this story develops.

Stephen Kalb-Koenigsfeld / Pioneer Staff Writer