The I-O looks back at 2012


SPECIAL CERTIFICATE  —  Wednesday morning, mail carrier Joelle Peters (center) received a special recognition certificate from the Post Master General, presented by former Conrad postal carrier and clerk Denise Robbins, now the Manager of Postal Operations in Missoula, on the left and acting Post Master Carl Bonser on the right. Twice within two months while on her route, she noticed a mail build up at one postal customer’s residence and requested a welfare check be done, the individual was deceased. She assisted the other customer.   I-O Photo by Buck Traxler 




Compiled by Buck Traxler,I-O Editorand Tirsea McNeal,I-O Reporter

The year of 2012 was chock full of good times and a few not so good times. The I-O presents its annual look back at some of the events and stories that had an effect on our lives, either directly or indirectly.

JANUARY — The I-O began the year on a positive note featuring Bains’ Plumbing and Heating, a four-generation family business in Conrad.

Senya May Wolstad, the daughter of Shane and Alicia Wolstad of Valier, born Jan. 8, was the New Year baby. She was delivered at 9:40 a.m. by Dr. Jay Taylor.

The city has acquired property next door on Main St. to expand their offices.

District Judge Laurie McKinnon has announced she is a candidate for the Montana Supreme Court.

Gas prices actually dropped to $2.99 a gallon. The commissioners were advised that automatic doors were not needed at the new senior/community center on Virginia St.

Cashley Redd was the winner of the 26th annual American Math contest at UMS.

Ten area Honor Band students were slated to perform in Billings. They were Eli Garman, Jasmine Hilyard, Ariel Sauer, Jacob Gouchenour, Logan Gouchenour, Sam Carroll and Dan O’Brien, under the director of music teacher Todd Truscott.

From Valier, students were Kassady Sheble and Valerie Steele.

FEBRUARY — Wendy Wedum was announced as being the new MSU-Extension Agent.

Anna Pfeifer celebrated her 100th birthday at PMC Extended Care.

The Spotlight on Business was 4U Collision Center owned by Matt and Pam Wittmier. The Conrad Moose Lodge celebrated 60 years of service.

Future plans were laid out for Conrad Airport improvements at a meeting with the commissioners and scrappers began moving dirt at a grain building elevator project off Pendroy Road just south of Conrad.

3 Rivers Communications presented CASA/Gal with a grant of $1,300. A Karaoke for Cancer event filled Ed’s Tavern with a record crowd.

Cowboy wrestlers placed first at the divisional meet and will take 12 wrestlers on to the state meet in Billings.

The Cowboys Luke Schlosser won his fourth state wrestling title in Billings, along with three other wrestlers. He is the first Cowboy to earn four state titles.

Jim Carroll was named the Montana Athletic Director of the Year.

The Pondera Players donated $3,250 to the Pondera Medical Center for their bridge fund.

MARCH — A bit of history took place in Home Café with Steve Daines filing for the House of Representatives, Montana’s lone Congressional seat.

A benefit was being planned for Mike Meuli. Kyle Murack, Logan Garman and Clark Judisch were the top three placers at the UMS Geography Bee.

Agnes Fowler was named as the City Clerk of the Year. The top spellers in the annual Pondera County Spelling Bee were Angel Dugan, Clark Judisch, Lane McAlpine, Sheridan Johnson, and Bonnie Brown.

Katie Missik was named Manager of the Year for 2011 by Townhouse Inns of Montana and also Sales Manager of the Year.

Gloria (Auge) Rudd was named the Conrad Area Chamber of Commerce Unsung Hero for 2012 at their annual awards dinner.

Clerk and Recorder for the past 17 years, Janice Hoppes, stayed in the political arena, only she filed for the office of county commissioner and will run against fellow incumbent, Republican Cynthia Johnson.

Pearl Kauk, with family and friends, celebrated her 103rd birthday at the PMC Extended Care Unit. Ron Ries was named the Business Person of the Year at the annual CofC banquet.

Justin Kirkbride was approved to be hired for the city police department. Mark Jones (Pondera Medical Center) was named the CEO of the Year by the Association of Healthcare Providers.

Local artist Bob Moritz was showing his art work at the Western Heritage Art Show in Great Falls, one of 13 art shows making up Western Art Week.

PMC honored retiring EMT’s for a combined 85 years of service. They were Cheryl Sawyer, Raylene Stark, Carl Suta, Keith Start and Eddy Erickson.

A plane with four doctors aboard from Kalispell, plus the pilot, took a slide off the Pondera County airport runway. Luckily no one was injured. Kelci Watterud was named the Youth Volunteer of the Year at the Pondera County Health Department.

The Pondera County Rural Fire District received a $5,000 check from BNSF to help purchase digital communication equipment.

The Golden Triangle Gymnastics won the gold medal honors at the State Championship in Billings. The team included Samantha Aklestad, Skylar Connelly, Natalie Broesder, Sharidan Richter, Sheridan Johnson and Maria Murnane.

APRIL — Shari Gianarelli expanded her law office business. Prom royalty was named at the annual CHS Prom. The Queen was Caitie Bach and her royalty was Morgan Fowler, Alex Gage and Rachel Bokma. The King was Bryan Barker and his court included Austin Zomer, Henry Zu and Camron Janzen.

Stockman Bank completed their challenge to raise $20,000 for digital movie equipment at the Orpheum Theatre. PMC was getting ready for their annual fish fry fund-raiser. The annual event was number 13 for the hospital. CHS students were in Washington, D.C. for an annual Close-Up trip.

Gavin Grammar was named the District 10 Teacher of the Year and Byron Carter was named the Outstanding Employee of the Year.

PMC hires Susan Anderson to be the in-house pharmacist.

And Candy Balkenbush has retired after 26 years at Farm Services Administration.

MAY — The Independent-Observer hired Tirsea McNeal as a new reporter. She takes over for Deanna Wakkinen who tendered her resignation.

The ‘Soda Fountain Ladies’, Carol Bain, Donna Kellogg, Linda Sanders, Jean Duncan and Jean Baringer met at Olson’s Drug for the 11th year in a row. 

Cynthia Johnson  was seeking re-election to the Pondera County Commission post.

Cynthia Grubb RN, Erica Grubb, Jackie Bonser, Pete McKeone, owner of Olson’s Drug, and Robert Skorupa  took part in the National Drug Take Back Day. Over 50 pounds of prescription drugs were collected to be disposed of.

Councilman Sandy Syvertson submitted his resignation as council member, effective May 31.

Stockman Bank presented a workshop for students on how to save money and a lease agreement was approved for the Valier airport with Kevin and Heidi Forbes. Conrad Lions Club members Byron Grubb, Dan Wilcox, Gale Gustafson and Buck Traxler handed out bike safety helmets to third graders at Meadowlark School.

Ella Hanson, a sixth grader at the Conrad Christian School won first place in the Montana Letter about Literature writing contest.

Bob Olson, a candidate for Ninth District Judge was in Conrad to meet and greet people and the Society for Creative Anachronism put on a show in the swimming pool park.

The boys’ and girls’ tennis teams under the guidance of Coach Kendall Griggs and assisted by Greg Jensen and Curtis Janzen each won the B/C State Championships in Missoula.

Team members included Austin Zomer, Annabell Wittmier, Jade Rodriguez, Emily Weisgram, Manager Nate Pruttis, Luke Schlosser, Kesler Martin, Camron Jensen, Trinity Cox, Kristine Warlick, Megan Fetters, Morgan VanDyke, Brett Peters, Konnor Bjelland, Steven Peters and Tyler Padilla.

Forty-eight seniors received diplomas at the 102nd commencement exercise held in the CHS gym.

The Conrad Lions Club was getting ready for the 72nd Whoop-Up Trail Days Celebration with Elmer Philipps serving as the Grand Marshall of the general parade.

JUNE — The annual Whoop-Up Trail Days Celebration was a great success. H&R Realty was the first place winner in the floats category. Conrad’s Calvin Ophus placed second in the bareback riding.

The local IGA presented seven scholarships which went out to Rashelle Johns, Ciara Bender, Sam Larson, Austin Fowler, Joe Ries, Tanner Dyer and Shanae Newmiller.

Rick Moss was given the oath of office as a new city councilman. He replaced Sandy Syvertson who resigned.

Then Councilman Wayne Anderson submitted his resignation to the council. He and his wife were moving to New Mexico. A search has begun for a new alderman.

In the primary election, Janice Hoppes upset incumbent Cyndi Johnson in a race for county commissioner. She would face off in the November election against Dan Cobb.

A sex offender, David A. Knaff, who had moved to Conrad didn’t stay long and moved back to Great Falls.

Kristi ‘Grubb’ Calvery was selected as the new curator at the Conrad Transportation and Historical Museum. She was a graduate from CHS in 2002.

Connie Bitney has spotted Grizzly bears on her property out on Sanders Road, just 14 miles north of Conrad.

Conrad golfers came on to win the Tri-City Ryder Cup competition for the third year in a row, defeating Cut Bank and Shelby in the two-day event. Conrad has bragging rights for another year as being home to the best golfers in north central Montana.

JULY — Conrad centenarian celebrates.  Clyde Prewett’s 100th birthday was held July 12 and his birthday celebration was hosted by Lisa and Amanda at the Home Café.

Drew Lesnik voted new Alderman’s chair as Council member for Ward I.

Conrad Area Chamber of Commerce (CofC) hosted a Summer Market Festival in July every second and fourth Wednesday of the month.  

AUGUST — New Tennis Courts constructed behind Prairie View School to replace the old cracked ones.

New digital movie equipment installed at the Orpheum Theatre for clearer picture and enhanced sound.

An ‘eye catching’ first place Ad award was awarded to Barb Stratman for best black and white ad.  Stratman is advertising manager in production for the I-O.

On Aug. 25, Schwans had a fundraiser supporting the March of Dimes. 20 percent of their total gross sales went to the March of Dimes family teams in each city.

National Night Out in the park.  The Conrad Area Chamber of Commerce, Conrad Police Department and Gary and Leo’s Fresh Foods IGA, with the Conrad Lions Club sponsored events and cook off for a successful evening of fun for the community. 

PMC Community Health Fair was held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Church on Aug. 8.

Conrad had a free electronic waste collection at the Pondera Center parking lot and Conrad residents seemed very glad to get rid of some of their old electronics. 

SEPTEMBER — Pondera County dispatch crew won the CJIN (Criminal Justice Informational Network) trophy. The dispatchers have been audited six times in a row and have received no deficiencies. They are Carol Strickland, Steve Rose, Judy Sawyer, Joan Farnstrom, Linda Welch and Linda Arends.

K-9 officer Lucy retires from the Pondera County Sheriff’s Dept. Her handler is Deputy Sheriff Shannon Gabbard of the Pondera County Sheriff’s Department.

Prairie View School received The National Title I Distinguished School Award for superior educational programs and academic achievement for two or more consecutive years. 

Safe Routes to School grant awarded to Conrad schools. The Pondera Port Authority and Cheryl Curry helped secure this $8,000 grant for raising awareness of traveling to and from school safely. The grant will help with infrastructure needed in the community. 

OCTOBER — Oct. 25, The U.S. Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus Concert performed at the Conrad High School auditorium.  Colonel Tim Holtan presented the I-O Owner and Publisher, Pat Lee with a picture of the Military’s Most Traveled Musicians. 

Front Range CASA announced Becky Meier from Conrad the winner of this year’s playhouse raffle, This is an annual event titled “Casas for CASA” which has become CASA’s signature project for the region.

Conrad Volunteer Fireman Mark Leys, retired after serving 32 years with the department. There was a special gathering of firemen at the Fire Hall.

UMS Magazine sales winner was Ryan Fetherston’s homeroom won the Homeroom Challenge by selling 167 subscriptions for $3,503. This year the students collected 668 subscriptions for a total of $14,198 in magazine sales with the top individual seller a sixth grader Colton Taber who sold 63 subscriptions for a total of $1,252 dollars. 

MSU alumnus and former teacher and resident of Conrad, Bill Jimmerson, was selected as a White House Champion of Change and was honored during a ceremony at the White House Oct. 9. He’s known for developing opportunities for Native American students through FFA and has worked to connect leaders and teachers in Montana’s Indian reservations to the organization.

Conrad native Shane Bishop, producer for Dateline NBC was recognized and nominated for three Emmys for coverage of the 2011 tornado outbreak that caused 324 deaths and $11 billion in damage across a ravaged U.S. from Alabama to Virginia. Bishop credited a large portion of his success to the humility and emotional grounding he received growing up in Conrad.

The Conrad Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Harvest Fest on Oct. 6 starting with a Redneck Rockin’ Hillybilly Parade. A Motor Show with antique, classic, vintage, custom and special interest cars and trucks lined Main Street. Arts and crafts vendors The musical group Kickstar . A kids’ carnival with a jump house, and stage coach rides.

CASA had a a spaghetti fundraiser dinner from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Moose Lodge.

The Vigilante Theatre Company presented House Arrest at the Conrad Orpheum Theatre.

Pondera Medical Center (PMC) recognized ECU Auxiliary ladies Maxine Schlosser, Carol Bain, Betty O’Tremba, Peggy Douglas, Patricia Giard and Virginia Dyrud, for their diligence and hard work.

NOVEMBER — The Pondera Regional Port Authority (PRPA) is working with the Conrad School District and the City of Conrad on a Safe Routes to School Program.

The application was made through the Montana Department of Transportation and is grant funded.  The Safe Routes to School Program (SRTS) gives children an opportunity, including those with disabilities, a chance to walk and bike to school. The program is designed to make walking and bicycling to school safe and more accessible for children

To avoid the Christmas Crunch felt this time of year, the Conrad Area Chamber of Commerce is once again offering a Week of Holiday Wonders for the annual Christmas Stroll.

The CofC will be purchasing gift certificates from businesses participating in the Christmas Stroll to put on the Chamber Tree.

Nov. 26 will be the Warm-Up To Winter bonfire at the swimming pool parking lot. This was a new addition to the Stroll. 

The I-O and several parents had Santa photo opportunities at Stockman Bank while the Jolly Ole’ man listened to Holiday wishes from young people during the Friday Christmas Stroll.

The Live Christmas Tree/Wreath Auction was held in the G&D Hardware building (old Fleet Store) during the Christmas stroll.

Nov. 30 you will feel the spirit of the season as Santa leads the Christmas Cardboard Parade, starting at 6 p.m. to the Tree Lighting Ceremony with the Invocation being delivered following the parade.

Mayor Wendy Judisch proclaimed November as Cardboard Recycling Awareness Month at the city council meeting on Nov. 5.

“We are asking that every business in town join this effort by having one employee responsible for hauling their corrugated cardboard in once a week during the month,” Carey Monahan told the I-O.

The container for cardboard collection is in place at the city public works yard just north and across the road from Van Motors. The hours are from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Conrad High School Speech and Drama team participated in the Shelby Invitational Tournament taking home first place in both Speech and Drama categories for Class B schools. 

On Nov. 11 at 3 p.m., Pondera Arts Council presented Erik “Fingers” Ray with Rastus and as the one-man band at the OrpheumTheatre/Wiegand Auditorium.

DECEMBER — The annual traditional Christmas Community Choir performed their Christmas Cantata on Dec. 8-9, at Conrad High School Auditorium, with an array of traditional and contemporary pieces sung and performed including a first time comedy sketch entitled, Missing Out on Christmas. 

Montana farmers who bought state hail insurance will receive a refund of 40 percent of the premiums they paid. The state Board of Hail Insurance approved the refunds after reviewing an actuarial report at its Dec. 5 annual meeting. The Montana Department of Agriculture issued 1,925 hail insurance policies covering nearly 1.8 million acres during 2012.

The new Conrad rest area was officially opened during special ceremonies and a ribbon cutting on the morning of Dec. 3. The state-of-the-art building, very high tech on the inside, will be emulated by other rest stops as they are able to be constructed.  Brian Johnson of Collaborative Design Architects in Billings told the I-O on Monday, “I hoped to create something that not only catered a little more to tourists but something that was really different in its’ structure and environment.”The overall project cost $4.1 million and the building itself was about $1 million. Johnson said with almost 90 percent of federal highway dollars and a matching grant paid for the project.

Editor’s Note: The I-O wishes everyone a very safe and Happy New Year!