Cover photo for Joel H. Fenger's Obituary
Joel H. Fenger Profile Photo
1943 Joel Fenger 2024

Joel H. Fenger

April 16, 1943 — February 2, 2024


  On February 2, 2024, Joel Herbert Fenger, 80, a well-known area pilot, farmer, car restorer, and businessman, died of complications derived of a blood infection at the Liberty County Nursing Home.

Joel, the oldest of two sons was born on April 16, 1943, to Herbert (Herb) and Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Fenger in Chester Montana. He grew up on the family farm north of Lothair Montana and acquired his high school equivalency GED in 1960. Joel served twelve years’ active duty in the Air National Guard from 1960 through 1972. In 1968 Joel acquired his commercial pilot’s license.

 Joel met his first wife Karen Midge in 1964, they were married on June 2, 1965. Joel and Karen had two daughters Renee Elizabeth Fenger born June 25, 1967, and Rachelle Lucille Fenger born July 29, 1968. Joel and Karen were divorced in 1987. Joel met Ruth Emerson Jones in 1995 and the two were married on November 8, 2001.


Joel’s career spanned many variations. Crop duster, charter pilot, air taxi/ambulance, flight instructor, fire fighter, farmer, fabricator, plastic molding, film production, among others. Joel began Frontier Aviation based in Chester including a second facility in Dutton Montana in the early 1960’s which was a full fixed-base operation where Joel oversaw and participated in aerial application, flight instruction school, air taxi, and complete aircraft maintenance including annual inspections and overhauls. Joel maintained his pilot’s license with the Montana Aeronautics Board until 2023. Joel had logged over 14,000 hours of flight time and flown in all the fifty states. Joel was the personal pilot for Montana Governor Stan Stephens and Lieutenant Governor Allen Kolstad during Stephens’ administration. In 1989 Joel was appointed to the Montana Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division by Governor Stephens.


Joel farmed eight thousand acres east of Chester in Liberty County for forty-eight years. Along with farming, Joel owned an implement business out of which he sold Claas Combines, Honeybee headers, and Rem grain vacs. Joel established the largest parts inventory for Honeybee Headers in the United States.

Joel had a keen mind and intellect for all things mechanical and after Joel “retired” he became immersed in his love of old cars and began restoring antique, classic, vintage, and modern vehicles, as well as tractors, and a few airplanes. This hobby allowed Joel’s natural ability to really shine as there was nothing that Joel could not create, fabricate, fix, or paint. In addition, Joel created and fabricated vehicle hand controls for his daughter Renee and had his design patented. Joel continued to tinker on cars to within a couple of months of his passing. As fate would have it, in 2008, Joel purchased several lots from Mr. Mike Mattson along the south side of highway 2 in Chester. This was the location of the original Chester Hospital established by Mary Buck where Joel was born. In this location Joel had a sixty foot by one-hundred-twenty-foot building erected of which he named Awesome Autos Etc. Museum. Here he housed his restored creations as well as old car-themed memorabilia. Joel was very proud of this museum and sharing his hobbies with the public.  


In 1987, Joel, along with Loyd Boyer, who were both on the hunt for a cabin recreation location, purchased forty acres in the Little Moose Creek drainage of the Little Belt Mountains in Montana. Here he erected a timber beam style cabin of his own design. In fact, he constructed his cabin structure within his airplane hangar prior to carefully taking it all apart with the appropriate structural pieces marked for re-assembly. Joel enjoyed his cabin and the opportunity to “get away” but in 2017 Joel and Ruth decided to finally sell their cabin after years of enjoyment.


Joel’s hobbies were many and varied. Experimental aircraft, model airplanes, snowmobile riding and racing, motorcycles, hunting, boating, fishing, traveling, snorkeling, scuba diving, flying, aviation safety counselor, and of course car restorations. Joel was a member of many clubs and associations, which include but are not limited to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Association of Montana Aerial Applicators, Experimental Aircraft Association, Montana Aviation Safety Council, Academy of Model Aeronautics, Montana Pioneer Car Club, Hi-line Antique Car Club, and the Early Ford V-8 Club of America.

 Joel was preceded by Herb Fenger, Betty Fenger, and his first wife Karen Midge/Fenger. He is survived by his wife, Ruth Fenger; brother, Gerald Fenger; daughters, Renee Kralic and her spouse Jim Kralic, Rachelle Fenger; grand-daughters, Kimberly (Cody) Wilson, Joy (Josh) Blystone, and Kelli Cicon; and great-grandchildren, Hayden Yarbrough, Jackson Yarbrough, Harrison Wilson, Logan Blystone, and Bridger Blystone; his second wife, Denise Thompson and her two children, Heather and Corey. He is also survived by a great many cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends that Joel was very close to.

Funeral services will be held at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 10 East Madison Avenue, Chester, Montana, at 2:00 PM on Friday February 16, 2024, with a reception to follow.


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Service Schedule

Past Services

Funeral Service

Friday, February 16, 2024

Starts at 2:00 pm (Mountain time)

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