On the evening of Oct. 14, 2013, Agnes Hilda (Reno) Cada passed away at her Highgate apartment in Bozeman. She was in the closest company of her daughter Deanna and beloved granddaughter Chelsea. Agnes was 98 years old. Her grandson Alex later commented, “The air must be good in Montana.”
Agnes was born on July 29, 1915, in the eastern Montana town of Brockway to Gilbert and Emma Reno. Her parents were both second-generation good Norwegians working a small grain and vegetable farm with some livestock. She and brother Justy, a year her junior, both completed elementary and high school there. Brothers Homer and Ray were born later. Agnes attended Montana State in Bozeman to pursue a career. While there she met the handsome young construction worker and marten trapper Joe Cada. They were married in Fort Peck in 1936 and started their new family.
The construction trade required mobility and flexibility. Joe was assigned to jobs in Montana, California, Alaska and Washington. On occasion Agnes had to stay apart with in-laws or alone. Also, World War II broke out and the young family, including children Gene and Deanna, spent those years at the beach house in Manchester and then Bremerton, Wash. Their stay on the saltwater was wonderful for the family in numerous ways, with many outdoor fishing and camping adventures chasing the oysters, geoducks and clams. Also two new members joined the family, JoAnn and latecomer Larry in 1945. The war was over so back to Montana.
Joe started work at Hungry Horse Dam but suffered a construction accident that was both physically and financially devastating for the newly relocated Cada family. At this point, Agnes needed to become the breadwinner.
Agnes valued education. Her teaching career began in 1951 with a sixth grade class in the Talbot Building in Columbia Falls. She expected her students to “sit tall, stand tall and be tall.” During summers she attended Colorado College of Education and Montana State College and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees focusing in home economics. Agnes was named Montana State Home Economics Teacher of the Year and at one point wrote the State Curriculum Guide Home Economics. Agnes loved working with children and adjusted her curriculum to suit their needs as times changed. Her students learned home and family planning, focusing on early childhood development. She encouraged boys to take her sewing and cooking classes. Yes, they sewed aprons, mended football jerseys, made venison and elk jerky and cooked fish from the Flathead River. Staff were invited on a regular basis as students prepared and served lunch in a commercial foods class. In her 27-year career in the Columbia Falls schools, she mentored several thousand students, many became parents and she taught their children as well. She swelled with pride when she met them working in the community and shared their life events. Even in retirement after 1978, she taught evening classes at the Flathead Community College and enrolled in computer and jewelry-making classes. Agnes taught her grandchildren how to cook and bake the family favorites. She loved being the center of family activities and infected them with her love for life.
During the retirement years, Agnes and Joe enjoyed many activities and travels to renew their love of the saltwater. Agnes’ son-in-law Bill Pound describes those pleasures and his feelings, “I will remember Joe and Agnes for many things in my life, especially for Deanna, but also pie, cinnamon rolls, kolaches, hunting, fishing, sauerkraut, big tents, loaded pickups, four freezers, harmonica solos, gooseberries, chokecherries, slivovitz, genealogy, Gilbert, Emma, Christmas cactus, Black Velvet (I haven’t bought any other whiskey for probably 20 years because Agnes might come over and that was her drink); Alex cooks, Matt cooks, and everybody cooks. What could be better?”
After Joe’s passing in 1996, Agnes got the foreign travel bug and enjoyed numerous trips to Europe with her children. One specifically that she held dearly to her heart was a visit to her roots in Norway. Fortunately finding those roots was easier than expected.
Grandson Steve sums up Agnes’ life in a nutshell, “Grandma made it a long way down this relatively remarkable short and beautiful path, with grace and elegance, passing along many skills of life and living that make up the foundation of so many of us. She is to be remembered deeply within our hearts and minds for her loving ways and touching thoroughly with kindness so many people’s lives along her way. For now, she can rest. I hold close and keep always this warm memory of two of my favorite people.”
Agnes is survived by her children, Gene and Connie Cada, Deanna and Bill Pound, JoAnn Carlson, and Larry and Patsy Cada; her brother, Justy Reno, who just celebrated his 97th birthday; and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Agnes’ family and many friends plan to gather for a memorial service in Kalispell in the spring.
If desired, contributions may be made to CFHS Academic and Alumni Endowment Fund, P.O. Box 1259, Columbia Falls, MT 59912.
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com.