A Life Well-Lived Makes Lasting Impact
Lee Powell met the love of her life on freshman move-in day at the University of Montana. Fifty-eight years later, she tells his story like it was yesterday.
In 1955, Jim Powell was the most sought-after prep hoopster in Montana. As a 6’3” forward for the Grizzlies from 1955 – 1958, he continued to astound with his consistent shooting ability.
“Jim would stand at the free throw line, shoot 100 baskets in a row and miss less than five,” Lee remembers. The two eloped just before Jim’s senior year.
After graduating from UM with a degree in business administration, Jim worked in insurance for 46 years. He continued to play basketball in a men’s league and volunteered steadily around town. Missoula born and raised, he touched countless people before his death in 2014.
When his obituary was published in local papers, contributions toward Jim’s memorial fund flooded in. The family directed the influx of donations toward a UM basketball scholarship in Jim’s name.
“When we were thinking of something to do to honor his love of Missoula and love of basketball, the scholarship just seemed like the right thing to do,” Lee says.
Sixty years after Jim was averaging 13.1 points per game, the Jim Powell Memorial Scholarship was awarded to another basketball standout, Brandon Gfeller. Like Jim, Brandon is one of the Grizzlies’ top scorers and is pursuing a business degree.
“Jim was an incredible person – I am honored and grateful to be awarded a scholarship in his name,” Brandon says. “Lee is always sharing old newspaper clippings from when Jim played basketball for the Griz. She has inspired me to set a great example for people like Jim did.”
For Lee, the scholarship has provided a way of healing and a chance to stay invested in the sport that has shaped her life for so many years.
“It helps me in the journey of missing my darling,” she says. “Brandon Gfeller is the joy of my heart. Like Jim, he has the accounting brains!”
Lee attends every game, and cheers hard for her basketball boys.
But her work is not finished.
“I want people to know it doesn’t take a big amount of money to make a difference in someone’s life,” Lee says. “When everyone gives a little, it adds up to make a big impact.”
Pictured above: Seven members of the Powell family have attended UM, including Lee Powell (front row, center).