Our Beginnings


The funeral home was established at 118 North 3rd Street, its present location, in 1925, when the building was built by George Walter Selby, a licensed mortician.  Selby worked as an undertaker in Livingston. His September 10, 1918 draft registration card lists him as an “undertaker and merchant” and as a renter at 217 W. Park Street. It also lists his date of birth as December 6, 1878, so he would have been about 38 or 39 years old at the time.

The June 1, 1880 census of Marionville, Lawrence Co., Missouri, lists him as the one year old son of James and Elizabeth Selby, both of whom were from Illinois. In the June 16, 1900 census of Tower Hill Township, Shelby Co., Illinois, Walter G. Selby, age 21, is listed as “boarder” and grocery clerk in that community. It is possible that he worked at the grocery store owned by his brother, John Selby, also listed on the same census. A May, 1910 census lists a Walter, age 29, and LaBelle Selbey, age 27, living in Ransom, North Dakota. The January 9, 1920 census places a George W. (41) and Labelle Selby (38) in Livingston, living in apartment C3-2 in the Ebert on West Callender Street. It also shows him as an undertaker, working in his own “parlor”. The Montana Funeral Directors Association records show that he served as its president in 1923. He was also a member of Livingston Masonic bodies, including the Shrine.


The last evidence of G. Walter Selby in Montana is on the April 23, 1930 Livingston, Montana census. He lived with his wife, in their home at 115 N. Yellowstone Street, just one block directly west of the funeral home. An adopted son George W. Selby, age 4 ½, was in the home with them. According to a Florida State census for Tampa, Florida in 1945, Selby lived with his son, George W., (age 20 & born in Montana) in a municipal trailer park. It shows that he had a college education and his profession was mortician. The 1946 death record for Tampa, Florida indicates that a George Walter Selby died that year. He would have been about 67 years old.

Following the construction of the funeral home by G. W. Selby in 1925, it was sold in about 1930 to Merrill Mortuaries, a conglomerate out of Utah, which also had funeral home locations in Great Falls, Butte and elsewhere, including Utah and Idaho. Robert F. Franzen from Helena, Montana was lessee and manager of the funeral home in the early 1930's. He subsequently worked out a deal to purchase the business from Merrill and continued to lease the building and property. It was operated as Franzen’s Merrill Mortuary. Robert Franzen was also a member of the Masonic fraternity. He died in 1963.

In 1940 R. F. Franzen hired John D. “Jack” Davis to work for him. Jack Davis was a Hamilton, Montana native who had attended the University of Montana and received his mortuary science education at Worsham College in Chicago. He had worked for a couple years at the Eddy Funeral Home in Winnemucca, Nevada before taking the job in Livingston. It was then known as Franzen Mortuary. Jack Davis subsequently became a partner in the firm. He was to become the longest serving funeral director in Livingston’s history. He died in April of 2005 after 67 years as an active, licensed funeral director, having touched the lives of thousands of families over that period of time. He was very involved in the Livingston community, serving as coroner for many years, served on the school board, was past president of Livingston Rotary Club, and was an active Mason, Scottish Rite, Shrine, and Elks member. From 1975-1976 he served as the Grand Master for Montana Masonic Grand Lodge.

In the early 1950's, Robert E. Franzen, son of Robert and Grace Franzen, joined the firm after attending mortuary school in St. Louis, Missouri. Robert E. Franzen died in 1974. He enjoyed the outdoors, snowmobiling, photography and was a Mason and member of Lions Club.

In 1971, Gary L. Bebee, a Malta, Montana native, went to work at Franzen Mortuary as a licensed mortician. Gary had attended Mortuary Science School in Los Angeles. A later partnership agreement was made naming the firm Franzen-Davis-Bebee Mortuary, reflecting the new principals. Gary may be best remembered as an amateur fiddler, active in the state fiddler’s association, and was also a member of the Masonic fraternity and Kiwanis International Club. Bebee died suddenly of natural causes in August of 1995.

John T. “Tom” Davis, son of Jack and Bobby Davis, attended Livingston schools and Montana State University. He returned to Livingston in 1975 after attending Mortuary Science School at the University of Minnesota and working for the Evans-Nordby Funeral Home in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota for two years. He soon became a partner at Franzen-Davis-Bebee. Since Bebee’s death, the business has operated as Franzen-Davis Funeral Home until the present time. The firm installed a crematory in 1999, and the name is sometimes noted as Franzen-Davis Funeral Home and Crematory. 

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