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Jean Guy

Former first lady Jean Guy died on July 5 in Fargo. Guy was North Dakota's first lady from 1960-1972. This is a photograph from June 2010.

Family members of Jean Guy say she’ll be remembered as a warm and highly-engaging person who opened the doors of the governor’s mansion to thousands during the administration of her husband, the late Gov. William Guy.

Jean Guy died Friday morning at Sanford Palliative Care in Fargo. She was 90 years old.

“Mom and Dad really, for 70 years, really functioned like one unit,” said daughter Nancy Guy.

Nancy Guy said her mother had suffered a stroke about two weeks ago. From there, her health rapidly deteriorated. She died barely two months after William Guy died, on April 26. He was 93.

Nancy Guy said her parents had been so close during their 70 years of marriage that she was “not surprised her health began to decline shortly after Dad died.”

Jean and William Guy were married Jan. 30, 1943, in Fargo.

After a single term in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1959-61, William Guy defeated C.P. Dahl to become the state’s 26th governor. He served a pair of two-year terms and two four-year terms, from 1961-73, to become North Dakota’s longest-serving governor.

Guy was widely considered the man who brought state politics into the modern era and helped firmly establish the Democratic-Non Partisan League as a political force in the state.

During those years, Nancy Guy said, her mother opened the governor’s mansion to the public. She estimated tens of thousands of people had toured the residence during the Guy administration.

Guy said her mother took it upon herself to be a gracious hostess to the procession of people who visited over the years and worked to spruce up the residence.

“She really set the standard on how to manage the governor’s mansion,” Guy said. She added, with a laugh, that her mother was “Martha Stewart before there was a Martha Stewart. She could’ve taught Martha Stewart a thing or two.”

Nancy Guy said her mother’s other interests included knitting, dancing and the opportunity to go sailing when on family vacations.

Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued a brief statement Friday afternoon on Guy’s passing.

“She was a great asset to the state of North Dakota and was an invaluable partner to Bill Guy in his 12 years as North Dakota’s governor. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Guy family,” Dalrymple said.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., also spoke highly of Guy. He called her a great ambassador for the state during the time of her husband’s administration.

“She represented our state on the national and regional stage with grace, poise and intelligence,” Hoeven said.

A message left with the state Democratic Party on Friday for comment wasn’t returned.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home, Fargo.

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Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

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