Memorial Service


Kim Kron - “Solace” from David Whyte’s book Consolations

Solace is the art of asking the beautiful question, of ourselves, of our world, or of one another, in fiercely difficult and un-beautiful moments. 

Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life and every endeavor; when longing does not come to fruition in a form we can recognize; when people we know and love disappear; when hope must take a different form than the one we have shaped for it.

Solace is the spacious, imaginative home we make where disappointment goes to be welcomed and rehabilitated. When life does not in any way add up, we must turn to the part of us that has never wanted a life of simple calculation.

Solace is found in allowing the body's innate foundational wisdom to come to the fore, the part of us that already knows it is mortal and must take its leave like everything else, and leading us, when the mind cannot bear what it is seeing or hearing, to the birdsong in the tree above our heads, even as we are being told of a death, each note an essence of morning and mourning, of the current of a life moving on, but somehow also, and most beautifully, carrying, bearing and even celebrating the life we have just lost - a life we could not see or appreciate until it was taken from us.


Michelle Kennedy Hartman - Memories and poem “Friends”

Thank you all for being here today to honor and remember our classmates who have sadly gone before us.

The recent Air Show featuring various aerial acts and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels (I could never grow tired of that unique, almost deafening sound they make as they slice through the air) was organized within two years.  Since we’re all much older and slower, this reunion took three years to organize.  Kathi Bjorgum brought us all together beginning in 2020. Tom Vandel created our Class of ‘73 website in December, 2020. Barb Butler, Chairman, has tried to keep us in line, but it’s been like herding cats.  

My personal thanks to the Memorial Committee (the Memorial would have never happened without you all), consisting of Tom Vandel, Kathy Reather Kaufman, Kim Kron, and Susan Axe O’Leary who made the most heart-wrenching video we’ll see at the end of the service.

Each and every committee member has brought so much to the table,  and all deserve a big bear hug for their inexhaustible time, contributions, ideas, and blood, sweat and tears.  Those who have tirelessly and selflessly given of themselves to make this weekend possible are:

Karen Ostrom Bailey
Sue Grosshuesch Beckers
Kathi Bjorgum
Barb Butler
Patti Morin Harcharik
Michelle Kennedy Hartman
Kathy Reather Kaufman
Kim Kron
Cynthia Lofthus
Sandy Boland McCaffree
Susan Axe O’Leary
Geno Redmon
Sue Wirtala Solomon
Glenna Sibbit Staebler
Tom Vandel

The committee would like to thank classmate, Jerry Hammerbeck, for his generosity in printing our mailings free of charge, to classmate, Bill South, for composing a song dedicated to the Class of ‘73, for the generous, anonymous “Bill Gates” style donation of $500.00, and to Jered Scherer for allowing us the use of this facility, free of charge.

My best friend and deceased husband, Rod Hartman, once argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Throughout his entire speech, he never said, “Uhm,” stumbled over any words, his voice didn’t crack, he didn’t ask someone else to read his speech, and he never got choked up or cried.

I, on the other hand, will probably do all of the above, as I most certainly lack his powerful voice, charm and presence for public speaking.

Whenever I hear my recorded or amplified voice, I wonder how I even have friends.  I have two things in common with RFK, Jr. - same last name, and I sound just like he does, but enough about me.

To our deceased classmates who have gone before us, way too many and all too soon, we honor you today.  Maybe you were the smartest kid in the class, or tried to make yourself invisible, hoping you’d never be called on.

Maybe you were a jock, freak, snob, geek, nerd, a member of Honor’s Society or the buck-a-month club, played sports, participated in after-school activities, or maybe you hated school and were simply there because your parents made you.

Fifty years ago, our lives were so simple and carefree.  We were wrinkle-free, could remember why we walked into a room, or where we parked our car, we didn’t need glasses to read anything smaller than a billboard, our brain cells were mostly intact, and none of our body parts required a major overhaul.

We respected our teachers, our parents most of the time, and we referred to our friend’s parents as Mr. and Mrs.

We grew up in a magical time and were all so very fortunate, whether we realized it at the time or not.  

There were no campus cops, our school doors were never locked, there were no lock-down drills, and we never had to face the unimaginable fear of a school shooting.

Almost everything we read came from the printed pages of a book, our phones were connected to a wall, milk was delivered to our doorsteps, and gas was 40 cents a gallon.  We wore bell bottoms and hip-hugger jeans, hideous gym uniforms, and guys were their hair long, and girls wore their skirts short.

We didn’t have early-out Wednesdays, snow days, or kids-are-always-out-of-school days.

We drove classy cars and our music didn’t suck.

There were no personal computers, cell phones, online shopping or banking, only astronauts went to the moon, and we had two t.v. stations that went off the air at midnight, followed by the National Anthem.  Stores were closed on Sundays, and we ate our evening meals with our families at the dinner table.

To our deceased classmates, you are at everlasting peace, never to suffer or feel sadness again.  You were the world to your spouses, families, friends, and all who had the pleasure of knowing you.  You made the world a better place, simply by being in it.  From your BWHS Class of 1973 classmates, rest in peace, until we meet again.

Here’s a little poem called Friends.

One day, we will get separated from each other.

We will miss our conversations.  Days and months will pass until we rarely see one another.

One day, our children or grandchildren will see our photos and ask, “Who are these people?”

And we will smile with invisible tears and say, “It was with them that I had the best days of my life.”

Thank you all again for being here today. May we all stay forever young and continue to have many more “best days of our lives.”

Tom Vandel -  Excerpts from classmate obits 

So great to see you all here - you look fabulous, really. So, do you like obituaries? My wife read one recently about a man who died (he was 68 I think, maybe not). The obit said he had quit smoking at the age of five. He started at age four when his brother showed him, but decided to quit when he turned five. Smart kid.  

You can learn a lot from an obit. I read through every obituary of departed classmates on our website and thought I’d read some snippets of a dozen or so - to get to know them better. These are tidbits of obits, verbatim, as they were written.  

Tim Arneson was as changeable as a crisp fall wind; he might
decide that rappelling off a cliff with a garden hose would be
the endeavor of the moment, perhaps a bit of blacksmithing,
or spear throwing, or bicycle polo, helmets optional.
His pursuit of wild artistic expression knew no bounds.

Jeff Ashworth passed away doing what he loved most, playing
golf with his wife. Jeff always had a smile on his face and a
sarcastic comment. His nieces and nephews were always
nervous to bring friends over because of what he might say.

Roger Copeland’s love was flying. He was a world-class
competitive skydiver in the Navy. Roger died at age 38 of
injuries sustained in a plane crash by Mullan Pass in Idaho.

Garry Crawford aka Gar—Uncle Mo, Gar Mo —had a way
of making us laugh and then looking back with a kind of
amazement, as if he had only just then realized how funny
he really was.

Kevin Duecker loved and cherished his family, his friends,
his caregivers and the Green Bay Packers (possibly in reverse
order). He hated his wheelchair and being told he couldn’t
do something. He co-owned the Western Bar in the 1980s,
then earned an accounting degree and CPA certificate.
In 2001, he and Susan O’Leary formed a consulting firm that
he continued to run until his death. 

Doug Jensen had an infectious laugh and warm smile.  Ask
Doug how he was doing and you'd almost always hear
"I'm a dandy," or "Just livin' the dream," and sometimes,
when the answer eluded him, "It is what it is."

Nancy Newell, 19, died when the car she was driving was
in a collision with a truck. Nancy was returning to Billings
from Red Lodge where she had been employed as a ski
instructor. She had just completed her first year at
Montana State University. 

Hal Parrott made a family tradition of cutting down a
Christmas tree every year, and it always had to be at least
twelve feet tall.

Andrea Rollins was one of 8 sisters.  Andrea loved animals.
She changed the life of a stray cat, an adoptee with eyelashes
that grew in, by paying to have Mr. Big's eyelashes corrected.
She also adopted dogs, often the mutts nobody wanted.

Pat Scott was many things - a singer, orator, author…
a Scrabble playing “Verbavore" whose own body somehow
betrayed her and robbed her of speech.  A pin on her bedroom
curtain said … “There is no Pat answer.”  

Dana Woolston, age 19 was on tour playing in a band called
"New Found Joy.” At a stop in South Dakota, Dana went
swimming in a lake. He heard cries for help and saw a
youngster floundering in deep water.  Witnesses said Dana
swam out to the boy and pulled him toward shore, finally
pushing him to some women who had waded out as far as
they could. When they turned back, Dana had gone under,
never returned to the surface. 

Monte Yates, our class Vice-President, lived in Edmonton with
his wife and two daughters. On August 23, 1987 he went on a
fishing trip with a friend to Great Bear Lake, Northwest
Territories. On their last day, they went back out on the lake
one final time at 10:00 at night (land of the midnight sun).
They never returned and searchers were unable to find them.
They did find their boat, which was beached on an island.
Apparently there were two open beers on the dash.
Exactly one year later,  Aug. 23, 1988, Monte’s body surfaced
and was discovered. Locals in Canada presume that either
Monte or his friend was knocked out of the boat by strong
winds and one tried to rescue the other. In his will, Monte stated
he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread on a
dance floor so people could take him home with them on their shoes.

Wow -  such amazing people. All of us are, unique in our own way.
What can you say? To those who are gone - rest in peace.
To the rest of us - savor the day. Play on. 

Susan Axe O’Leary  -  Memorial Video producer