CHEYENNE – Well-known philanthropist and conservative megadonor Foster Friess died Thursday at the age of 81, his family announced.

Friess, who played a major role in conservative politics in recent decades, ran a formidable campaign in 2018 to become Wyoming’s governor, coming in second place in the Republican primary with about 26% of the vote.

His death was announced in a statement issued by his family Thursday.

“We are grateful for the wonderful life Foster lived and thankful to the many people who have shared their prayers during his illness,” the statement reads. “We know many of you mourn with us, and we will have more details soon on Foster’s funeral.”

A native of Wisconsin, Friess developed his considerable wealth largely through his investment management firm, Friess Associates, which he founded in 1974. As his wealth grew, Friess became a well-known name in GOP fundraising circles, contributing to many conservative candidates, including former President Donald Trump.

Friess is survived by his wife, Lynn, as well as their four children. Together, the couple donated more than $500 million to philanthropic efforts over the years to various humanitarian efforts, including for recovery from natural disasters and fresh water for remote villages.

Many elected officials quickly issued statements praising Friess. In a tweet Thursday, Gov. Mark Gordon, who defeated Friess in the 2018 primary election, described him as “a strong and steady voice for Republican and Christian values.”

“I appreciate his remarkable career and all he has done for Wyoming,” Gordon said. “My deepest condolences go out to his wife, Lynn, and their family – he will be missed.”

Wyoming’s three federal delegates also joined in praising Friess for his impact on the state and across the globe.

“With his heartwarming grin, infectious enthusiasm and fun-loving spirit, Foster lit up every room he walked into,” U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., wrote in a tweet. “Communities across the Cowboy State were made better by his generosity and advocacy for better education, health care and government transparency. I was honored to call him friend. My heart is with Lynn and his entire family.”

“My prayers and condolences are with the Friess family, in particular his wife of nearly 60 years, Lynn, and his four children,” U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a tweet. “His love of Wyoming, service to our state and legacy of philanthropy will never be forgotten. May he Rest In Peace.”

In a statement, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., described Friess as “a one-of-a-kind businessman, philanthropist and personality” who will be dearly missed.

“When Foster believed strongly in something or someone, as he often did, he jumped in with both feet and both arms,” Barrasso said. “He had an unwavering commitment to God, his country, his family and those less fortunate. Bobbi and I will miss his good nature and his warm heart.”

Plans for services in Jackson; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Rice Lake, Wisconsin, to honor Friess were in the works Thursday.

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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