In the early morning hours of December 22, 2023, Frank E. Diebold woke up in heaven. He had planned to live 120 years with near daily workouts, but in the last year of his 88 years on earth, he struggled bravely with heart and kidney failure from years of untreated sleep apnea. And as with all of us at some point, our bodies decline, and we have to rely on faith and hope for eternity. Frank will be cremated, along with a mechanical pencil and pad for him to take notes, because we have put in a request for Jesus to show him around the universe and explain how the big bang actually happened. Frank was a professor of chemistry and geochemistry at Montana Tech for 30 years, teaching, and doing research. He had many beloved graduate students in the Geochemistry master’s program he developed at Tech. He retired as Professor Emeritus, and in recent years continued research into the adverse effects on global warming of using lime in treating mine water contamination. Frank was still talking about equations in his last week.
Frank was born on January 15, 1935, in Shanghai, China where his expat American parents met and married. His father Frank R. worked there for Kodak and his mother Opal Powell was a nurse whose family ran the newspaper, The China Weekly Review. When the Japanese invaded China near the beginning of WWII, the family fled China and his mother died before reaching the U.S., so Frank and his sister Margaret were raised by their maternal aunt and uncle, Margaret and Vernon “Parks” Woods, in Joplin, Missouri. Later his aunt and uncle had a son, Powell, and he and Frank were raised as brothers.
Frank served in the US Army from 1957 to 1959 followed by two years of reserve duty. He received his B.S. (1957) and M.S. (1961) in Geology from Iowa State University. He met his wife Siri from Sweden while she was waterskiing and he was bailing out a homemade boat on Clear Lake, Iowa. They married on November 4, 1961, in Des Moines, Iowa. The couple moved to Colorado where Frank received his Doctorate of Science in Geochemistry from Colorado School of Mines in 1967. Frank taught and published research at Montana Tech in Butte from 1967 to 1997 where he and Siri raised their children. In Butte, he also volunteered for the Red Cross and an adult literacy program. He was a 60-year member of the American Chemical Society. After retiring from Montana Tech in 1997, Frank and Siri traveled extensively and lived in Arizona and Bozeman. They especially liked to travel by cruise ship where Frank could often be seen enjoying the desserts. Frank also loved to hang out at car shows with his hand-painted 1971 VW double-cab pick-up truck. He also liked to ride and camp by motorbike and to fly ultralight airplanes and gyrocopters. He and his Swedish brother-in-law Svante Lindell made a long pilgrimage to the Sturgis motorcycle rally and the Oshkosh, Wisconsin Air Show by motorbike. Frank is known in the family to “do his own stunts” as he wrecked two motorbikes, two gyrocopters and a sailboat during his retirement adventures. His guardian angel worked overtime.
Frank was preceded in death by his parents; the aunt and uncle who raised him; and his older sister Margaret (Ed) Unger; brothers-in-law Leif Franzen, Ed Unger, and Svante Lindell. Frank is survived by his brother, Rev. Powell (Karen) Woods of Ohio; his wife of 62 years, Siri (Franzen) of Bozeman; and their children Tina (Chuck) Wambeke of Butte and Tod Diebold of Bozeman. Frank has five grandchildren, Anna Wambeke (Shawn Cooper) of Butte, Ariel Wambeke of Bozeman, Christine (Dan) Birch of Colorado, Erica Diebold (David Johannessen), and Tyler Diebold of Bozeman. He has six great-grandchildren, Kohen Smith, Iris and Opal Johannessen of Bozeman, and Evelynn and Benjamin Rodarte and Maya Cooper of Butte. He has a sister-in-law, Berit Lindell of Sweden, and several nieces and nephews.
There will be a family gathering in Frank’s memory in 2024. His was a life with purpose and love, well-lived and an honorable death with hope from faith. Memories & condolences may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com.