On Norwegian Independence Day, May 17, 1927, Thelma May was born to Norwegian Immigrants Hans and Andora Tutvedt in Kalispell. She was a little early and was baptized right at the hospital not sure if she was going to survive. She did and welcomed three siblings after herself. Harold in 1929, Paul in 1931, and Doris in 1936. They grew up on a farm in the Stillwater community. Their life was that of a Norman Rockwell Painting — hard work, grow your own delicious food, church at Stillwater Lutheran on Sundays and lots of love.
She graduated from Flathead County High School in 1945 and went to work at the County Extension Office. While at a community dance in high school, a handsome young man named Vernon came and asked her to dance. They were married a year later.
They farmed their place on Stillwater Road for the next 55 years. They had three children, Debbie, Brent and Brenda. Mom was Dad’s anchor and they worked as a team. Mom did the food, books, house and garden. Dad did the farming and ranching. When her children were 4-H age, Mom was a 4-/H leader, usually for the cooking class. She was an active member of the Stillwater Grange. Their biggest fundraiser each year was the Stillwater Grange Harvest Dinner. Flathead County residents came from far and wide to enjoy that community event featuring Norwegian meatballs, lefse and homemade pies.
Mom and Dad were active members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Through Bethlehem, Mom met with a group of women for Circle. They met once a month beginning in the ‘60s and the group continues today. Imagine the history, service, commitment and love those women poured into our entire community.
Mom also made some beautiful friendships through bridge. Mom and her friends wore out quite a few decks of cards as they all played through their many stages of life.
In the 1980s Dad and Mom became snowbirds and spent winters in Mesa, Arizona. Mom enjoyed the pool with her water exercise class, hiking, bridge and another group of wonderful friends. They were members of Victory Lutheran Church when they were in Arizona.
In 2001 Mom and Dad sold part of the farm and built a house at Village Greens. They made some more new friends, kept the old, enjoyed each other, played some bridge, enjoyed their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren. Dad died in 2015 and Mom bravely marched on. Debbie called it “kept the beaters going” as Mom made cookies and muffins for friends and family, plus the crew at Flowers by Hansen and Smith Valley School. With help from friends and family, Mom stayed there until she fell in September, 2017. Since that time she has been lovingly cared for by the staff at The Retreat and Buffalo Hills Terrace and her caregivers from Frontier Hospice.
Mom lived a beautiful life in service to God, her family and her community. She was a rule follower, a Bible verse memorizer, a great cook, a generous donor and a loving soul who didn’t speak a bad word about anyone. We learned from Mom until her last breath and will continue to do so.
Mom is survived by daughter Debbie Snyder, son Brent (Janice) Johnson, daughter Brenda (Kelly) Bernard; grandchildren, Jason (Nicole) Johnson (plus 3), Joshua Johnson (plus 5), Brock (Jenny) Johnson (plus 1), Cassandra Bernard (plus 2) and Brandon Bernard; and a host of nieces, nephews and friends. She cherished those people and they cherished her.
Mom passed away peacefully July 11, 2019.
A celebration of Mom’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Aug. 9 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Following the service coffee, cookies and ice cream will be served.
Memorial contributions can be made to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp, 603 South Main, Kalispell, MT 59901, or charity of your choice.