Marcia Anderson

Marcia Anderson, a philanthropist who gave generously to Bozeman causes, died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95.

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Marcia Smith Anderson — a physician, rancher, animal lover and philanthropist who generously supported projects throughout the Bozeman area — died Monday in Santa Barbara, California. She was 95.

“Marcia was a real maverick in her time,” said Terry Cunningham, a Bozeman city commissioner.

She became a doctor in an era when few women made it into the male-dominated profession, was a working mother and a working a rancher.

“She took part in cattle drives, and would ride the range, move stock from winter to summer range,” Cunningham said.

Marcia and her husband, the late Berrien Palmer “Buck” Anderson, owned the Climbing Arrow or CA Ranch north of Bozeman, one of the largest ranches in Gallatin County.

She also owned the Bridger Feeds store and the Bridger Canyon Stallion Station, and served four years on the Ninth Federal Reserve District’s board of directors in Helena in the 1980s.

She will likely be best remembered for the many causes she supported here, especially the $1 million donation she and her husband gave in 2005 toward building a $4 million state-of-the-art Heart of the Valley animal shelter.

She gave a similarly generous donation toward construction of the Bozeman Public Library, where a large meeting room is named for the Andersons, said granddaughter Kristin Sherwood.

Anderson also supported tennis courts at Montana State University and in Belgrade and Three Forks. She gave $400,000 to the Gallatin County Fairgrounds for the horse arena that bears the Anderson name and recently gave half the money to repair the city’s Bogert Park pavilion.

“Even though she was 95, every time I spoke to her on the phone there was never a sense she was diminished in any way,” Cunningham said. “She was curious, vibrant … She was sharp as a tack, right up to the end. It’s a life well-lived.”

He recalled that Bozeman’s old animal shelter was badly run down, with dogs and cats living outdoors in cramped quarters with no running water. The Humane Society and Heart of the Valley had competing visions for what should replace it, he said, and Anderson led an effort to bring to two together.

“It was just her love of animals,” Cunningham said, that prompted her $1 million donation.

Later Cunningham, as executive director of the Run Dog Run nonprofit that raises money for dog parks, asked Anderson’s help to create an off-leash area at the Gallatin Regional Park. She gave $175,000 in 2017 as a catalyst and Run Dog Run raised another $175,000 for what is today the Anderson Dog Park.

“Marcia never really cared about naming rights,” he said. “It was a way for a nonprofit to recognize a major donor’s contribution. … She wanted us to use her gifts to inspire others.”

Recently Cunningham approached Anderson again, when the Bogert Park pavilion partially collapsed under heavy snow after years of neglect left the structure weakened.

“She loved the community of Bozeman,” Cunningham said, and recognized the importance of the iconic pavilion. He told her the city was in a real jam, the repair would cost $700,000 and take years, and they didn’t want to burden taxpayers.

She said she’d be happy to donate $350,000, he recalled. She sent a personal check by regular mail to the city manager — not the first time she sent an eye-popping check so informally.

“It was all based on a handshake, trust and agreement,” Cunningham said.

A year ago she gave $250,000 to the Bozeman Library Foundation for programs to bring teenagers into the public library, including a Teen Book Fest that will be held again this April.

Cunningham said that as a person, Anderson was “extremely curious, always seeking new knowledge and experiences,” like traveling to Africa. “She never stopped learning.”

Anderson moved to Santa Barbara in 2011 for her health and sold her Montana home, said Sherwood, 26, one of six grandchildren and the Heart of the Valley’s volunteer and outreach manager.

Her grandmother loved tennis and helped start the Riverside Country Club, where her membership number was 4, Sherwood said.

In a 1988 interview for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Anderson talked about growing up in rugged country in Northern California, learning to ride horses, fish, hunt and love the outdoors, but also attending girls’ schools in the Bay Area. She was accepted at Stanford University, where she studied internal medicine.

She met Buck in 1949 when he injured his shoulder skiing in the Sierras and needed medical attention. A Harvard graduate, he had served in the Navy in World War II and survived the sinking of his destroyer in the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The couple married in 1950. Marcia Anderson practiced medicine in San Francisco from 1950 to 1960, when the couple moved to the Montana ranch, and she worked as a doctor again from 1970 to 1982. She and Buck raised four children — Page, Anita, Kathy and Frank.

Buck died in 2012 at age 92.

Sherwood said she last saw her grandmother was right before Thanksgiving in California. Up to the end she was playing cards and telling stories and jokes.

“She had a great laugh,” Sherwood said. “She was a very happy person. … She was still full of life, full of energy.”

Dahl Funeral and Cremation Service reported that services for Marcia Anderson are pending.

This story was corrected Jan. 3 to show that the date of death was Monday, not Tuesday. The incorrect information was taken from a funeral notice.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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