406 Woman Lifestyle VOL. 16 No. 6

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Local Author


Featured 14.
&Foodflavor 18.
l ane 23.
K the Butcher 26. a ll
g in 28.
8 406 w oman.com woman 4 06 Cover Girls...
Feature story on page 14 Home &Design 32. h ooper’s g arden c enter 50 Year h istor Y 42. the p erfect o utdoor l iving s pace 18...
Michelle Kropp
i n the Kitchen with
a s
t hings
Basil o live w heat pasta
photos by AmAndA Wilson PhotogrAPhy michelle KroPP
36. d e BB ie Bur K e
Story 46. a ngie & r ich 50. Madelaine & e liot 32... stellA hobbs Feature story in our Business & Health section on page 8

Publisher's Note

As we transition into the vibrant days of May and June, we want to take a moment to extend our heartfelt thanks for your continued support of 406 Woman Magazine. Your readership means the world to us!

We know this time of year gets incredibly busy. Between graduations, summer plans, and the rush of outdoor activities, it can be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. That's why we're dedicated to bringing you content that helps you celebrate, navigate, and find inspiration during these lively months.

We know the power of a strong community, especially for Montana women. That's the spirit we strive to bring to each issue. Whether you're seeking inspiration, practical advice, or simply a moment to connect, we hope these pages offer something just for you.

We hope you enjoy this issue and all the exciting things we have planned for the summer!


406 w oman.com 13

publisher cindy gerrity cindy@montanasky.net

business manager

daley Mcdaniel daley@montanasky.net

managing editor Kristen hamilton montanakristen@gmail.com

creative & social media director

amanda wilson afwphotography@me.com

view current and past issues of 406 woman at woman

www.406 w oman.com

Published by Skirts Publishing six times a year

704 C East 13th St. #138 Whitefish, MT 59937 info@406woman.com

Copyright©2024 Skirts Publishing

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daley Mcdaniel photography

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406 Woman is distributed in Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Missoula, Whitefish and every point in between. Check out www.406woman.com for our full distribution list.

Have a great story idea or know someone that we should feature? Email us with your comments & suggestions.

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14 406 w oman.com

Striving for Sustainability Michelle Kropp

The Flathead Valley’s art community is bursting with talent. Each person has their own passion, and their story of how they realized and pursued it into fruition. A very popular way to exercise creativity and discovery is to stop by Whitefish’s local art center, Stumptown Art Studio. There, you can find dozens of classes and events offered for kids and adults alike, led by many talented teachers. Michelle Kropp is one of those many. A skilled potter and class instructor at the studio, her work can be found in their displays, and her Instagram account is full of beautiful bowls and mugs with highly detailed stencils etched into the clay. Specializing in functional pottery, Michelle loves nothing more than to create something that can be used as well as cherished.

According to her, Michelle’s love for creating was always there, but instead of clay, it started in code. Like many people in the valley, Michelle grew up here and was fortunate to marry her high school sweetheart, Kevin; they even have their prom picture hanging next to their wedding picture!

In the beginning, Michelle moved around with Kevin while he completed medical school. At one point they needed to stay in Arizona for a while, which gave Michelle time to consider what she wanted to major in for college. She remembered the intricate love she had for computers.

“I was always on them when I was a little kid, they fascinated me. I even taught myself how to code!” She loved it so much; she decided her next goal was to learn more about computers. And so, over the years, she earned her degree in IT. With an emphasis, however, on art. During school though, Michelle realized she could take a wide variety of art classes. Elated by the new academic freedom, she took every class possible. Later when she and her husband moved from Arizona to Missoula, her interest in arts continued to wax while her inter est in computers waned. As she and Kevin settled

in Missoula for his medical residency in 20132014, Michelle continued to dive into the arts. She explored creating things with her hands, such as painting and screen printing. But it was pottery that ensnared her. What became an introductory class, turned into intermediate, then advanced with world-renowned potter Julia Galloway, utilitarian pottery specialist, guiding Michelle’s steps.

Utilitarian pottery is specialized by creating pieces that are made to be used. Instead of a sculpture to be looked at and admired, they are beautiful bowls to be filled with fruit or thick, stable coffee mugs. Michelle loved the idea of creating something that can be used. “Painting or drawing a picture is always so nice, but there’s only so much space on your wall to put up and enjoy the art. Having something you can utilize on a day-to-day basis like my own water container and garlic storage … I love them because I get to use them every single day. Having something like that makes it more useful in this world.”

Michelle remembers her move back north to the Flathead valley and brainstorming how to get back to the potter wheel. “We were in Whitefish one day, and I realized ‘wait this (Stumptown Art Studio) is a pottery place, how did I not know it has existed here forever?’”

Once she learned they hosted pottery sessions, Michelle signed up, hoping to learn more. Before she knew it, she was a co-op member, able to use the studio and the kiln to craft her desires. Those desires fueled her interest to dive further into the clay.

16 406 w oman.com featured}

eight years now, Michelle has been raising her own chickens, as well as a small clutch of quails in her backyard. This love, she claims, is rooted in her childhood.

Along with expressing her creativity, Michelle has come to love the friends she’s made working at the studio. “They’ve really gone out of their way to befriend me, they’ve all been super positive and supportive through my experience here, making me feel wanted and I wanted to be part of that community… They really drive the point home that I’m not alone and I will stand with them as well.”

In addition to Stumptown itself, Michelle sells her crafts on her own Etsy website.

As important as art is in Michelle’s world, her other great passion is…poultry. For eight years now, Michelle has been raising her own chickens, as well as a small clutch of quails in her backyard. This love, she claims, is rooted in her childhood. When her family moved to Montana when she was six, her parents wanted her and her sister to get involved with some after-school activities. She jokes that it was probably just to keep them out of trouble, but she fell in love with 4H and the coolness of raising your own animal. It was only once she and her husband fully settled in Columbia Falls that she considered raising birds again.

In the past few years, she’s won awards for her birds at the fair, become a state of Montana avian influenza authorized testing agent, and a returning showmanship judge in the junior poultry category. She also started her business, Cowboy Coop, providing high quality eggs and hatchlings for the Flathead valley and throughout the Northwestern states along with guides to take care of them. The Cowboy Coop Facebook group boasts over 1,500 followers, full of poultry lovers and egg enthusiasts sharing their stories and asking questions. “People look up to me because I have so much knowledge and expertise in poultry, and I want to share that with people. I’m glad to share it. I have people messaging me or asking me about stuff and I’m just

like ‘Hey, in my personal experience, don’t take it as gospel, but this is what I’ve done.’”

Though most of her animal husbandry work is with chickens, her personal love of late has been quail, particularly the Japanese Coturnix quail. Highly self-sustainable, they are one of the fastest maturing birds one can raise, with adults laying eggs by eight to nine weeks. “They also have a much smaller carbon footprint, with each bird only needing up to one square foot per bird to be comfortable.” Michelle’s passionate about loving the land we’re on and making sure to live sustainably. Her family lives in a rural area with a few others, feeding her family whatever she receives from her garden, and the eggs she gets from her quails and chickens.

She even began to rewild a chunk of her property and give it back to the land. “It’s something I recommend, even if you just have an eighth of an acre in city limits. Have your lawn, something you and your kids can play on, but just take a small portion that’s furthest away from your house and plant local flowers, and wild grass! Things that’ll encourage pollinators.”

Michelle is living the quiet life in her corner of Columbia Falls, with her husband and daughter. She’s hoping she’ll be able to set up her own little studio there one day. Her motivation in creation is to make something to love. “It’s so cool to me to think that ‘Hey I made that!’ And somebody uses it to drink their coffee. As many hundreds of thousands of ideas and types of pottery I’ve tried there's five times as many I haven’t tried yet. It’s about learning the most I can and growing the most I can while being able to provide that kind of joy to other people. Because in turn that brings me joy.”

406 w oman.com 17 featured} Michelle Kropp

It’s More than a Flannel IN tHe KItcHeN


I have my favorite. I am pretty sure if you asked any one of my children they could, without hesitation, tell you what it looks like. I like to think of it as my “home uniform.” I really don’t know when I became my father in that respect, but here I am—I have a Dad Flannel. With that epiphany I realized that I have a dad hat, a dad vest, a dad spatula and yes, a dad pan. The irony of the latter is my dad pan was, well, my dad’s. Venturing further into the rabbit hole I realized that there are other dad-things, that are not things, that I share with my father. I, like my dad, am convinced that none of my children know how to point a flashlight, understand the concept of “lefty loosey, righty tighty” or that the key to spicing any recipe correctly relies heavily on what spice you can find in the cupboard—regardless of what it is. I remember fondly my dad rummaging around in the cupboard looking for some particular spice only to land on a can (yes can) of tarragon, tumeric or the mother of all misnomers: allspice. (Contrary to my adolescent preconception—it's not all spices in one can.) Whatever semi-rusty can of antique spice that my father landed on would eventually land in whatever he was cooking. More alchemy than science, my dad was the only man I knew that spiced by happenstance. And it always tasted GREAT. A talent I never acquired, and probably the single biggest reason I have THREE cupboards full of spices... But I digress.

I have done a few of these columns now. There are certainties that I have come to accept. I will forget something (pan, brush, knife, spice). I will burn something (most often it’s myself—that's a Smith thing). The photographer is the one ACTUALLY in charge. And whomever I con into cooking with me, I will discover something about them, or myself, just by being with them for a couple hours in a kitchen. When my oldest daughter agreed to help her old man, I thought the latter certainty would not come into play. Thankfully I was wrong.

My father was, well, colorful. A true jack of all trades, master of none. (More on that later.) Born west of Kalispell on Ashley Creek on a dirt floor in 1940, my dad literally brushed the dirt off and played the hand he was dealt in life with alacrity, tenacity and bullheaded stubbornness. A graduate of Three Forks High (barely) my father would go on to manage a Montgomery Wards in Miles City, oversee the introduction of Urethane foam installation in railway cars, run the largest Upjohn Foam Insulation plant in Fairbanks Alaska and run several bars and restaurants here in NW Montana (with varying success) after my mother told him she was moving back to Montana with or without him. He also owned a small grocery store on Bitterroot Lake, repatriated apartment complexes in the greater Seattle area and in the process raised four boys. Do you see a pattern here? Yeah, my father lived like he cooked—no recipes

and he would put whatever was on hand in every situation to make it work (unlike his cooking, this approach to life had varying success). The wild ride my father drug us boys on would lay the foundations for whom we would become, and as I found out on the day you see in these pages...much to the chagrin of my oldest daughter Cate.

“How much do you want me to put on there Dad?”


“Dad, how long will the pasta take?”

“Until it’s done.”

“How many basil leaves do you need?”

“Dunno, I will tell you if I need more.”

This familial detente would continue for most of the afternoon. From trying new baking modes on the Brazilian cheese bread for no other reason than to try it (hard as golf balls when straying from the recipe) to arguing over whether we needed 2 or 3 Basil leaves to plate the pasta... (She won.) Our conversational tone drifted back and forth between my sassy mouthed 12-year-old daughter and my beautiful and vibrant 28-year-old mother of one. I discovered that she had inherited certain things from her father and had developed her own ways of doing things as well. To be sure, some of what she did reminded me of my Dad. I asked her for a cup of shredded parm and got two cups of shredded Mozzarella. Close enough. And don’t

20 406 w oman.com
food} i n the Kitchen

even get me started of the mental anguish over trying to watch her pour batter from a blender into mini muffin pans...but alas, like my father...it all turned out spectacularly. And yet, through all of her neurotic father’s pandering, she just rolled with all of it. I knew she had no idea what I meant when I told her that we had to blister the cherry tomatoes, nor did she understand why we had to cut the cold butter into smaller cubes BEFORE adding them to a scalding hot cast iron skillet with the flatirons Sonny had so graciously provided. She just did it, albeit her way. I was learning a lesson that would have done me well with my father, because I was THAT kid that wore out the word “why.” She just dealt with what was in front of her with grace and sass. Lots of sass.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that when I told Cate what we were cooking for this article she never questioned, nor asked why I had chosen what I did. I thought I would explain it here. The very first thing that I learned to cook well were steaks. I obsessed over different methodologies: Sear first? Reverse Sear? Baste constantly? Room Temp or cold? Salt? Salt and Pepper? Salt Pepper and Garlic? THYME! You get the point. It’s where my neurosis for cooking turned into a healthy (mentally) and rewarding passion. (Note: No one technique works on all cuts of steak!) The Brazilian cheese bread is a homage to my Grandma Opal who may or may not have made her grandsons’ (yes plural) entries for the 4-H baking competitions at the fair. (Um Hello Blue Ribbon! Don’t judge—it was the 70’s.) Grandma’s baking was both simple and surprising—as long as you followed her recipe. Noted. And finally, the Spaghetti al Pomodoro? Well, it’s Love. Simple, unfettered, natural. Some things are just meant to be together and to be effortless in this thing we call life. Italian food does that for me. Nothing I cook anymore is random, I truly believe that “intent and memories” are my secret ingredients.

With Father’s Day approaching I thought about how my father would have dealt with having to raise daughters through all his “adventures.” I have little doubt that my boys Alex and Garrett would have held the flashlight wrong as I did, remained silent without having to be told do so and always remained close to help when beckoned. I guess I raised them as I was raised. Sorry fellas! Hopefully you do better with flashlight training than I did! With respect to my beautiful daughters Caitlin and Bristal though, I think he would have found worthy adversaries in his logic, and steadfast guardians of his dreams. Much like they have been for me. Ruthless in their commentary of my own adventures, and limitless in their support, my girls make me a better father every day, even beyond the days when I could still ground them. Although my father would have taken exception to their unwavering need to be seen AND heard, he would have reveled at their abilities to tackle any situation, fail and simply brush themselves off and try again. (The second batch of Brazilian cheese bread was perfect.)

As the weekends grow warmer, take the time to break bread with your siblings, your parents, your children and all that you call family. Make a meal with intent. You decide what that intent is, but just commit. Five second rule applies in life too, if it hits the ground, pick it up, brush it off and move on. No need to dwell. Take the memories that you are rewarded with and put them somewhere safe until you need them again.

Hey Dad, I am playing the cards life dealt me. Just like you taught me. And a quarter.


Note: You may have noticed the flannel pillow in the pictures. It’s more than just a flannel-- that was my father’s and there is a quarter in the pocket.

As the weekends grow warmer, take the time to break bread with your siblings, your parents, your children and all that you call family. Make a meal with intent.
406 w oman.com 21 n the Kitchen

Brazilian Cheese Bread


2 Eggs (Room Temp)

2/3 Cup Vegetable Oil

3 Cups Tapioca Flour

1 1/3 Cup Whole Milk (Room Temp)

1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese

1/4 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano (fresh grated)

2 Tsp Salt


Blend eggs, Oil, Milk, Salt, Tapioca Flour and Parmesan Cheese

Add the Mozzarella Cheese and pulse until fully incorporated

Pour into mini muffin tin pan and bake at 400°F 15 - 20 Minutes

Nothing I cook anymore is random, I truly believe that “intent and memories” are my secret ingredients.

Spaghetti al Pomodoro


16 oz spaghetti

16 oz mixed cherry and baby plum tomatoes

2 tbsp. Genesis Kitchen Olive oil (divided)

1 tsp Salt

1 cup fresh basil divided

3 garlic cloves peeled

1/4 cup (Or to taste)

Parmigiano Reggiano


Cook your pasta per directions on the package and drain, Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water

Heat olive oil over medium heat. When hot add garlic cloves and cook for a little over a minute to infuse the oil with the garlic

Add the cherry tomatoes (you can slice them in half if desired, I left them whole this time)

Hand tear approximately 3/4 cup of the basil and add to pan

Stir in 1/2 cup of water and let simmer for 5-10 minutes

Remove garlic when soft (about 5 min into the simmer), use the flat of your chef’s knife to smash into a paste and return to pan.

Add the Spaghetti to the pan with the tomatoes and remove from heat

Add the reserved pasta water

Grate the Parmigiano Reggiano and stir until well combined

Tear the remaining basil for garnish and add to taste (I added more parm as well!)


3-4 8 oz. Flatiron Steaks (I got mine from Sonny at the Chopp Shoppe in Whitefish)

2 Tbsp (Cubed into 1/2” Cubes)

Unsalted Butter

2-3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

SPG (Salt/Pepper/Garlic Blend)


Generously coat the steaks with the SPG mixture and leave out for at least a 1/2 hour prior to cooking. (I left mine out for an hour)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

When the steaks are at room temp, place cast iron pan over HIGH heat until the pan is smoking

Place the steaks in the cast iron pan (pending the size of your pan you may need 2 pans) - Do not overcrowd and DO NOT disturb!

Let the steaks sear for 1 min, then flip

After 1-2 Min check the sear and remove from heat

Add butter and Thyme sprigs and use a spoon to baste

Put in oven until you get to a 125-130 Degree internal and place on cutting board to rest for 5-8 minutes

Slice across the grain, drizzle with remaining butter and thyme from the pan

Top with a sprinkle of the SPG

Serve immediately

22 406 w oman.com food} i n the Kitchen Genesis Kitchen 270 Nucleus Columbia Falls, MT Mon-Sat 10am - 6pm 406-897-2667 - Info@genesis-kitchen.com Chopp Shoppe No hormones or antibiotics Choice to Wagyu Grade Hours 9am-7pm…all week long 721 Wisconsin Ave in Whitefish Mountain Auto & Marine 2505 Highway 2 East Kalispell, MT 59901 www.mountainautoandmarine.com
Recipe Spon S o R ed bY

Ask the Butcher

food} As K the Butcher 406 w oman.com 25

All things Gin

Let’s talk about gin. Gin has traditionally been a distilled alcoholic drink flavored with juniper berries and other botanical ingredients.

Gin originated as a medicinal liquor made by monks and alchemists across Europe in the 13th century. As a medicinal herb, juniper had been an essential part of doctors' kits for centuries: the Romans burned juniper branches for purification. Across Europe, apothecaries handed out juniper tonic wines for coughs, colds, pains, strains, ruptures, and cramps. These were a popular cure-all, but they eventually became a little too popular, and were soon being consumed for enjoyment rather than medicinal purposes. Today’s gin market includes a whole new flavor profile - Infused Gin.

Infused gin is made, not via redistillation of botanicals, but by adding approved natural flavoring substances to the basic gin formula. These gin-based liqueurs are reaching markets outside traditional gin drinkers. For it to be called Gin, the predominant flavor must still be juniper and the minimum bottled strength must be 40% ABV.

Popular botanicals or flavoring agents for gin, besides the required juniper, include citrus, such as lemon and bitter orange peel, as well as a combination of other flavors & spices, which may include anise, angelica root, orris root, cardamom, pine needles, pine cone, licorice root, cinnamon, almond, cubeb, savory, lime peel, grapefruit peel, dragon eye (longan), saffron, baobab, frankincense, coriander, grains of paradise, nutmeg, cassia bark or others. The possibilities are endless!

The helpful folks at the Bigfork Liquor Barn had several recommendations for their favorite gin products.

Whyte Laydie Gin by Montgomery Distillery in Missoula - a blend of wild, native botanicals compounded with locally grown and imported ingredients in a harmonious dry gin, built according to time-honored standards.

Wild Roots

o range & b ergamot i nfused Gin is fresh and bright. Infused with sweet orange and aromatic bergamot, it offers a distinct and lively citrus nose and taste. It comes in the most beautiful bottle.

28 406 w oman.com

Infused gin is made, not via redistillation of botanicals, but by adding approved natural flavoring substances to the basic gin formula.

e mpress 1908 i ndigo Gin is a 100% natural gin made in Canada with eight botanicals, including butterfly pea blossom, which gives it a vivid indigo-blue color. A traditional gin flavor, the palate has a hint of rose early, followed by ripe, boiled grapefruit, resinous juniper cones, earthy coriander, green tea, and dry cinnamon. The fun part is that the hue can change to bright lavender, soft pink, or fuchsia depending on the mixer.

Lavender Sour

- a fun color-changing cocktail recipe

1 egg white

2 oz Empress 1908 Indigo Gin

¾ oz Honey Cordial*

¾ oz fresh lemon juice

2 dashes lavender bitters (or add extra lavender flowers when making the Honey Cordial)

Fresh or dry lavender flowers, for garnish

*Honey Cordial, in a small bowl, stir ⅓ cup (80 ml) boiling water and ⅔ cup (160 ml) honey. Transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes 1 cup.

In a cocktail shaker, combine egg white, gin, Honey Cordial, lemon juice, and lavender bitters. Shake without ice (dry shake) to emulsify ingredients. Add ice, shake vigorously, and fine strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lavender flowers.

406 w oman.com 29 food}

Wheat Pasta with omatoes, Olives and Basil

food} c heese c entr A l
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Wheat Pasta with Tomatoes, Olives and Basil

An easy lunch for two, with make-ahead sauce! The wheat pasta has a great texture. Even easier, frozen pesto, defrosted, with sun-dried tomatoes added are a great substitute for the sauce recipe.

Sauce: Ingredients

2 C fresh parsley leaves

1½ C fresh basil leaves

¼ C pine nuts

6 anchovy filets


1 T chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

2 large garlic cloves

3 oz. Parmigiano-reggiano, grated 1/3 C olive oil

Puree the first 6 ingredients in the blender. With the machine running, gradually add cheese and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Can be made ahead and refrigerated.

Pasta: Ingredients

12 oz whole wheat spaghetti or linguine, or your favorite brand


1 C chopped seeded tomatoes

½ C chopped pitted Kalamata olives

2-3 T olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add pasta and cook until just tender, or al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add tomatoes and sauté until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Mix in olives. When pasta is done, drain and return to the pot. Stir in tomato mixture and ½ C of basil sauce. Toss to coat. Serve with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for topping, as desired.

Decades of Change A Look Into Hooper’s Garden Center 50 Year History

Nested in the small town of Evergreen stands a beloved landmark in the Flathead Valley community. A landmark for gardening enthusiasts that has been around for 50 years. Hooper’s Garden Center is not just a place to find plants; it’s a haven where stories unfold, families are created, and the spirit of community flourishes. As we reflect on the fifty-year journey, we discover that the history of Hooper’s is interwoven with threads of love and connection.

Chapter 1: The Roots (1974-1983)

It all began in 1973 when Bob Hooper spontaneously decided to purchase a nursery. His wife Cheri wanted nothing to do with the business thinking he had purchased a nursery for kids. At the time, Bob and Cheri lived in Lewiston, Idaho. Neither of them had any prior experience or formal knowledge of horticulture, but they were always driven by their love for nature and community. Armed only with their dreams and a shared commitment to cultivating something beautiful, Bob and Cheri loaded up all their belongings and moved to the Flathead. On December 7, 1973, they bought Pierce Nursery with only one old glasshouse and three cold frames.

Cheri expressed “Our first year was a disaster. Bob had no idea what a petunia was.” But to their rescue was their friend who had a number of greenhouses in Nebraska. Later, they were introduced to the owner of Holland Nursery who called them “Hucksters”– thinking they wouldn’t make a go in the business. But Bob and Cheri were motivated and they listened to everything their mentors told them and persevered.

Chapter 2: Flourishing Growth (1984-1993)

Once their nursery and garden center had the main foundation built, Bob and Cheri started to introduce a variety of plants and gardening supplies. It was a decade of experimenting and building relationships with local farmers and ranchers, but their commitment to education and innovation paid off and attracted a loyal customer base.

34 406 w oman.com home}
Hooper’s entrance today - Photo credit: Cari Klepper Two generations of Hooper’s Cheri & Bob Hooper with Bob’s parents.
We are excited to express our gratitude and appreciation through our season’s celebration of events, workshops, and collaborations.

Chapter 3: Cultivating Beauty (1994-2003)

The 1990s marked a significant time and was the biggest transformation period for the Hooper’s crew. Many individuals joined the business and they infused new energy into the garden center. It was key players, Danneen Schulze, the current Head of Production, and Tyler Summers, the Head of Maintenance since 2001, who brought innovation and expertise to the center. Together, alongside the seasonal crew, they led the Hooper’s to their new location of 15 acres on Montana Highway 35 E.

Chapter 4: Nurturing Sustainability


The Hooper’s team started to recognize the potential of their space. Their business began to reflect their values. They acknowledged that the world was shifting into gardening, eco-conscious, and homestead living. With 16 production greenhouses, the garden center and nursery had the opportunity to introduce a bigger, more extensive selection of annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs. They discovered gardening practices made uniquely for the Montana climate. This is why Hooper’s Garden Center thrives with education and community.

Chapter 5: Blooming Into the Future (2014-2022)

In 2014, the Hooper’s knew that they wanted to retire and hand off the business to the perfect owner. They spent years searching and interviewing for the person who could carry their legacy. When COVID hit in 2020, it proved to the Hooper’s that they indeed had to find the ideal candidate because it was a unique time when people showed the utmost love and enriching value for gardening.

Chapter 6: Seasons of Change (2023)

On January 1, 2023, Phil and Kim Aitken bought the business. This couple from Shelby, MT, had no plans of changing the operations. Instead, their first-year goal was to improve customer service and maintain the level of excellence. It has remained a family business as the new leading team includes their sister, Leah Morrison.

At the end of 2023, the Aitken’s successfully partnered with over 11 local organizations and brought back a beloved tradition after many years– the Holiday Craft Bazaar, which welcomed 89 local artists and vendors and hundreds of happy customers.

Chapter 7: Celebrating 50 Years and Beyond

As Hooper’s celebrates its golden anniversary, it stands as a testament to the enduring love for gardening and beauty in nature. Our story is one of growth, transformation, and unwavering commitment to the community.

For us, 2024 is a significant year as we know we will embark on a journey new to all of us. At the helm of this endeavor stands Jeremy Fairchild, a passionate and committed horticulturist from Kalispell, MT.

Jeremy grew up on a small farm. With his dad as a landscaper, he spent long days valuing diligence and hard work. He was a boy scout for 13 years and spent a short stint in the U.S. Army. His career took off when he found his passion for art. For 17 years, Jeremy worked as a fine art bronze sculpturist and was promoted as CEO for five years. Overworked, Jeremy decided to take a year off to spend time doing woodwork, painting, and fishing. His love for the outdoors was attained once again, so he found the opportunity to work alongside the Hooper’s then General Manager, Michael Connolly. Jeremy learned how to run a nursery and cultivate his love for gardening and landscaping.

406 w oman.com 35 home} h ooper’s G A rden
Clockwise: Mariela Lopez, Leah Morrison (photos by Mariela Lopez) and Jeremy Fairchild (Photo by Kevin Klepper)
After fifty years of nurturing plants and building a loyal community. Hooper’s is excited for the possibilities that lie ahead.

After 34 years, Michael retired from Hooper’s and Jeremy has now stepped in to fill the leadership role. He recog nizes that he has big shoes to fill but it has been a seamless transition. Owner Phil Aitken is excited for the oppor tunity and says, “with Jeremy’s back ground, it should be an easy obstacle to navigate. It is clear that Jeremy is here to ignite a new era of innovation.”

Just the other day, I approached Linda L, a longtime patron of Hooper’s, and thanked her for being a part of this journey with us. She returned her smile and expressed, “I would not miss it for the world. Hooper’s has been my sanctuary for as long as I can remember.”


Years in Full Bloom Event Lineup - Join

DAy 1: M ONDAy, Ju NE 10TH 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Garden Flow

This day will celebrate nature’s flow in plants. To start the week, we will center this day around different activities that get the body moving.

y 2: Tu ESDAy, Ju NE 11TH 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Harmony in Nature

This day aims to celebrate the symbiotic relationship between art and nature. Attendees can enjoy an arrangement of interactive and immersive activities to explore the concept of harmony in nature and its significance.

y 3: W EDNESDAy, Ju NE 12TH 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Sprouting Seeds

This day aims to celebrate our next generations of young gardeners! It’s a day where kids can be kids while learning about gardening.

As an exciting addition to the 50th year, Hooper’s is completing one of their community goals by unveiling their new “Boutique” department, which has something for everyone. This new venture will allow Hooper’s to operate year-round, welcome new community members, and become a one-stop shop for home goods in the Flathead Valley.

And so, with the start of spring and the promise of new beginnings, Hooper’s Garden Center is celebrating fifty years of

growth thanks to the community and customer loyalty. We are excited to express our gratitude and appreciation through our season’s celebration of events, workshops, and collaborations.

After fifty years of nurturing plants and building a loyal community. Hooper’s is excited for the possibilities that lie ahead. And one thing will always remain constant–Hooper’s Garden Center will continue to be a hub of education, community outreach, and all things plants.

Hooper’s Garden Center 2205 MT Highway 35 E in Kalispell 406-752-2770 - www.hoopersgarden.com

DAy 4: T H u RSDAy, Ju NE 13TH 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Roots of Wisdom

Fifty years is a significant milestone, especially for Hooper’s which has left a legacy of education and wisdom. What better way to celebrate than with a day full of education!

DAy 5: F RIDAy, Ju NE 14TH 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM For the Love of Plants, It’s a Party!

Join us in celebrating our 50th Anniversary at Hooper’s with a lineup of food trucks, raffles, and just overall community fun!

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Sneak preview of the BoutiquePhoto by Cari Klepper

Honeymoon on Top of the World

Can you imagine a more romantic setting for a honeymoon than a cozy perch atop a mountain, gazing at stars and the full moon shining down on vast Montana forests?

In the early to mid-20th century, adventurous newlyweds who loved the outdoors applied for jobs as fire lookouts on mountain peaks. Honeymooning while earning wages was a pretty sweet gig.

Fire lookout towers came to prominence after the devastating 1910 wildfires in western Montana and Idaho. The Forest Service wanted to prevent similar catastrophes. From the 1920s through the 1950s, they built hundreds of towers atop mountains. Spotters in the towers reported lightning-sparked blazes so they could quickly be suppressed.

The lookouts were often staffed by young single men. But married couples who needed extra money also became fire spotters.

From July into September, they lived in 195 squarefoot cabins perched on stilts as high as 100 feet off the ground. Just climbing the stairs meant plenty of exercise! Wraparound windows and catwalks provided endless 360-degree views. At night, stars and the moon flooded the room with light.

Furnishings were spartan—a cot, a wood stove, a table, and chairs. No electricity, no running water. Provisions were hauled up steep trails by mules. Basic supplies included canned goods, flour, sugar, coffee, macaroni, dried beans, and split peas.

Residents had several options for water: melt snow and strain out the debris; boil water from a nearby stream; or wait for water delivered by pack mule in metal storage cans. Careful rationing was a must because resupply trips only took place every few weeks.

Without refrigeration, food preparation was a challenge. Forest Service wives responded with a cookbook (published in 1938, updated in 1954) that taught basic skills to young lookouts who were often away from home for the first time. Recipes included how to make sourdough starter, flapjacks, and endless variations of Spam and canned vegetables. Fresh produce was a rare luxury, except for huckleberries!

In 1958, newlyweds Kay and Keith Rosengren packed into Numa Ridge Lookout, near Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park. Kay credits the cookbook with teaching her how to make the "best pie crust ever" filled with fresh huckleberries that she and Keith picked. She recalls, "Numa was just magic to wake up to." Even the outhouse had a "fantastic view."

The old cookbook makes today's readers chuckle. One suggestion: “purchase a half or a whole mutton from sheepherders in the vicinity of your station. To keep, hang up in a tree or some other high point at night, wrapped in canvas, or put in a burlap sack during the day and put between blankets and mattress of bed."

The book also recommended using vinegar to wipe mold off ham.

No reports on how many cases of food poisoning occurred back then!

The job of a lookout was to monitor gathering storms and call in frequent weather reports by telephone or radio to Forest Service headquarters. When blazes started, lookouts pinpointed the exact coordinates with an instrument called the Osborne Firefinder. Then firefighters were deployed to that location, along with planes, and water tankers.

In between storms, lookouts enjoyed hiking, fishing, and watching wildlife. Sometimes the wildlife watched them. Mornings might find a curious mountain goat peering in the windows from the outside catwalk. What a fun way to wake up.

Peace, quiet, and an intimate connection with the natural world created indelible memories. Many lookouts describe the summers they spent on top of a mountain as a high point in their lives.

Starting in the 1990s, more women became lookouts and, in some regions of Montana, women now equal or outnumber men. Karin Connelly, member of the Northwest Montana Lookout Association, says, "Being a lookout has been an amazing addition to my life." Karin even created a colorful quilt as a tribute.

These days, with planes and satellites, few towers are still staffed. Many are abandoned. Others have been converted into vacation rentals, allowing new generations to experience lookout life.

I researched lookout history and interviewed former Forest Service employees for my thriller, Flight to Forever. After retirement, Kjell Petersen continued to volunteer at Firefighter Lookout on the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir. He shared amazing stories, including a memorable afternoon when the tower he manned was struck three times by lightning. He called that experience "a see-God moment."

One of Kjell's stunning photos became the cover of Flight to Forever

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Of the eight books in my Tawny Lindholm Thriller series, Flight to Forever is closest to my heart. It was inspired by the pandemic when loved ones were often separated by circumstances beyond their control. A couple in their 90s were friends of mine. She was locked down in a memory care facility and he was not allowed to visit her. Every time I saw him, his eyes filled with tears because he couldn't hug her. Their real-life plight moved me to create the fictional story. The book wrote itself, pouring straight out of my heart.

In between storms, lookouts enjoyed hiking, fishing, and watching wildlife. Sometimes the wildlife watched them. Mornings might find a curious mountain goat peering in the windows from the outside catwalk.

In Flight to Forever, Vietnam veteran Lou Belmonte is prevented from seeing his beloved Cameo who's in memory care. In desperation, he busts her out, but critically injures a security guard while escaping. Soon deputies are in hot pursuit, but no one knows where the couple disappeared to.

Investigator Tawny Lindholm becomes involved because the fugitives are the parents of Tawny's best friend.

By painstakingly piecing clues together, Tawny deduces they might be hiding at a remote fire lookout in the Bob Marshall Wilderness where they had spent their honeymoon 50 years before. She embarks on a perilous search to find the couple before the law does.

Flight to Forever became a finalist for the Montaigne Medal from the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for "thought-provoking books that illuminate, progress, or redirect thought."

During research, I ran across a surprising number of people who said their parents or grandparents had honeymooned at a fire lookout. For more than a century, lookouts have symbolized the romantic adventures of life in the wilderness. The allure remains strong.

Second honeymoon, anyone? Visit Recreation.gov to stay in a lookout. But hurry because reservations are snapped up quickly.

d ebbie b urke's award-winning Tawny Lindholm Thriller series is available in Kalispell at The b ookshelf and b arnes & n oble, and in c olumbia Falls at b ad Rock b ooks. e books are for sale through all major online booksellers.

BOOK CLu BS! - Would you like Debbie to visit your book club? Email debbieburkewriter@gmail.com

Visit debbieburkewriter.com for a free short story and book news.

Email: debbieburkewriter@gmail.com

Website: www.debbieburkewriter.com

Twitter: @burke_writer

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local author} d e BB ie Bur K e
When Kjell photographed this heart-shaped puddle, he didn't notice until later that the shot also captured the reflection of Firefighter Lookout. Lookout Karin Connelley enjoyed her days in Firefighter Tower so much that she created this colorful lookout quilt.

5 Tips for the Perfect Outdoor Living Space

Montana life means living your outdoor life to the fullest. This can be hiking, skiing, biking, or being on the water. This outdoor life can follow us home where we can have a comfortable and versatile outdoor living space. A functional and beautiful outdoor space does not require acres of space or breaking the bank. Here are 5 top design ideas to achieve the perfect outdoor living space in your home.

1. Inventory available space. Creating an outdoor space can make a big impact on your health and well-being. Your space doesn’t have to be large to be able to take advantage of the beautiful outdoors.  The available space is one factor, the other factor that should be taken into consideration is the environment surrounding you such as the trees, level changes, wind gusts, and sun

This is the time of year when there are plenty of outdoor options in the store to test out and choose from, making your outdoor space only a few steps away.

2. What will the space be used for?

After reviewing the available space, go over your goals for the space.  Are you looking for an outdoor eating space, a garden, a kid-friendly play area, a sunbathing area, a fire pit, or even a nice place to hang your hammock? Once your goals are outlined you will be able to better create a space that fits your needs and wants.


3. Scale of design elements.

Be smart about the space that you have. If you have space to work with, you will want to look at what pieces best fit the area.  When working with a smaller space, a possibility is using nesting furniture and smart storage options to help maximize space. In tighter spaces, lightweight materials like wicker and aluminum may be a good option for easy moving. While in larger spaces sturdier materials can be used such as wood and iron since they will most likely stay in place longer.

4. Identify Anchor Pieces.

Anchor pieces are your investment purchases, durable, and functional, that your design can be built around.  Think of these as your outdoor couches, dining tables, storage chests, and side tables. These anchor pieces can be customized to your environmental needs such as woods or metals and customized to your design needs with custom cushion fabric choices. Wright’s Furniture can help you create a design that will best suit your style and will be durable through the seasons.

5. Accessorizing with unique pieces.

This may be the most fun part of creating a new space or revamping a current one. Selections for your indoor-outdoor pillows, rugs, and other accessories help add layers to your outdoor space. Outdoor accessories have come a long way over the years and now you have virtually endless options and combinations. These accessories are also ones that can be adjusted with each season to give you a more versatile design through the seasons allowing you to increase the longevity of your design.

Outdoor accessories have come a long way over the years and now you have virtually endless options and combinations.

The biggest tip that I can give is to take advantage of the complimentary design service that is available at Wright’s Furniture. you are not only getting unique ideas for your space but also getting access to all customizable choices that Wright’s has to offer to create the space of your dreams. This is the time of year when there are plenty of outdoor options in the store to test out and choose from, making your outdoor space only a few steps away. And remember, you can’t go wrong when you shop at Wright’s.

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6325 HWY 93 SouTH, WHITEFISH, MonTana 59937 | 406.862.2455 | oPEn DaIlY |FREE loCal DElIvERY | FREE DESIGn SERvICES Wright’s Furniture is open 7 days a week, offering complimentary design services with free local delivery and install. visit the Wright’s Furniture showroom in Whitefish or learn more at wrightsfurniturestore.net design}


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Gratitude Ranch in Kalispell - October 7, 2023
After our first date I knew she was the one.

Tell us about yourselves...

Angie – I’m from Kalispell. I own Angie's Greenhouse and the Gratitude Ranch wedding venue. I’m also a Realtor/Broker at Keller Williams Realty Northwest Montana.

Rich – I work at AmeriGas and I’m the co-owner of Gratitude Ranch.

Angie – What is the trait that you most admire in Rich? How he works so hard to take care of me.

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Venue gratitude ranch

Photography Kiralee Jones


ffa alumni, Bonelli’s Bistro, and lots of help from family and friends

Rich - When did you realize you wanted to get married to Angie? After our first date I knew she was the one.

Why did you choose the venue you did to get married? We own Gratitude Ranch.

Angie – What did you enjoy most during your wedding day?

Rich’s loving speech that he surprised me with during the ceremony.

Rich – What is your favorite activity to do as a couple? Going on a drive.


Miller’s Bakery


dan harmon and cascade country


J scott couture


western outdoor rings riddles

Flowers sally priest and angie’s greenhouse

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Madelaine &Eliot

Instagram: @mcguiremcmanus 52 406 w oman.com The
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Photos by McGuire McManus -
Clydesdale Outpost
9, 2023

Tell us about yourselves...

We both grew up in Texas just two cities apart, Eliot from Celina and me from Frisco, but we didn’t meet until after college when we returned to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and started our careers at the same company. Well technically… We met in 2013 in Panama City Beach during Spring Break when we were unknowingly at the same party, which we discovered on our first date 5 years later. We currently reside in a suburb of Dallas with our two dogs, with hopes of moving to Whitefish full time. We are expecting our first child this fall and look forward to raising a family in the mountains one day. We were introduced to Whitefish about 6 years ago through my work and immediately fell in love with this town. We knew when the time came, this was the spot we wanted to be married.

Madde - What is the trait that you most admire in Eliot?

This is an easy one. His humor. He is so incredibly witty. I don’t think I have gone a single day since knowing him without laughing. He has a unique talent that outside of our family and close friends, most don’t know about. He is an ordained minister, but not the average kind. This all started when he was asked to ordain his sister’s wedding, then it led to a family friend’s wedding and now he has 5 under his belt, including my oldest brother’s wedding. Each one tailored to the couple with heartfelt words, but not without including hilarious rhymes about their relationship or specific traits. There’s humor in the love notes he writes to me and the individualized poems he writes/recites to anyone close to us. It’s fascinating how quickly he can come up with it. I love that his presence is missed, and people are disappointed if I show up to events without him because I know they love and admire his humor as much as I do. I’m lucky to have a lifetime of it.

He is so incredibly witty. I don’t think I have gone a single day since knowing him without laughing.
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I realized that her love could heal me through tragedy, keep me calm in hopeless scenarios and quite simply bring me back.

Eliot – When did you realize you wanted to get married to Madde?

In 2018, just a few months into dating, I took Madde on a trip to Boston for her birthday. Sadly, during that trip, I had to put my dog down after an emergency surgery didn’t take. We were on a sunset cruise in Boston Harbor when my sister, our vet, called us with the news. Madde and I cried together on that boat surrounded by strangers. She was the only person there I knew, let alone loved and confided in. Eventually, with dry eyes, she improved my mood and we toasted to Daisy as the sun went down. After that trip, I realized that her love could heal me through tragedy, keep me calm in hopeless scenarios and quite simply bring me back – something I’ve never experienced before. She was my partner for life as soon as we landed back home.

Why did you choose the venue you did to get married?

It was quite difficult finding a venue that suited us and the specific vision we had for our day that wasn’t going to break the bank. I was searching for months. We knew we wanted our wedding to take place outdoors because we wanted to truly capture the beauty of Montana. We were recommended

the Clydesdale Outpost by a friend and after visiting we knew this was it. Not only was this location minutes from town which would make it easy for our guests, but the property was stunning with perfect backdrops, beautiful Clydesdales AND lodging on property - we were sold. The cabins were brand new and thoughtfully positioned on the property for privacy, but close enough to enjoy time with our friends and family all weekend long. Plus, it made getting ready on the wedding day easy and seamless - the men in one cabin and all the ladies in another. We were next to the river, surrounded by evergreen trees with mountains in the distance, watching a Montana sunset and ended the night dancing under the stars. It could not have been more perfect. In fact, we talk about this weekend almost weekly and wish we could do it over and over and over again.

Madde - What did you enjoy most during your wedding day?

Our family means an immense amount to both of us. We had our mothers be a part of our wedding day in a non-traditional way. As my father walked me down the aisle to my handsome groom, behind him stood both of our mothers. My mother opened the ceremony with a beautiful prayer over our


Venue the clydesdale outpost

Photography Mcguire McManus


empress tents, the party store, Barndoor rentals

caterer the chef guys

music diamond empire Band dress chosen by Kyha

boutique alice in ivory tux suit supply rings Jacqueline pinto

Florals forage & floral

Wedding Planner Moments By allie + ashley event planning


sarah Benedict – covet Beauty

transportation wild horse limousine

marriage and Eliot’s mother, a truly talented writer, ordained our wedding (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). Our adorable nephew and niece at 1 and 2 years old attempted to walk down the aisle as our ring bearer and flower girl. Eliot’s mom took an alternative approach to the mother/son dance, because the “only thing scarier than singing in front of a large group of people, is dancing in front of a large group of people.” Eliot’s father played guitar while his mother sang a long-standing family song. The whole day felt truly so special. The shot ski too - we enjoyed the shot ski.

Eliot – What is your favorite activity to do as a couple?

We shared a nature-filled childhood growing up, so we love to be outside as much as possible. Add travel in the mix and that’s as good as it gets for us. We accomplished a 3-day, 33-mile backpacking trip through Big Bend National Park a couple of years ago which was my all-time favorite activity we’ve done to date. The ability to take those types of weekend trips is a driving force for us to move to Whitefish. For now, I’ll settle for starting our days with a dog walk, wake surfing at the lake, playing twilight rounds of golf, or simply watching the sun set off our back patio. I just love experiencing all of it - outside, together.

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Pretty Blues, Karen Young Ursa Major, Karen Young The Great Egret Plumage Karen Young Bighorn Sheep, Karen Young
Featured 8. s tella h o BB s Finance 12. f inancial s uccess 20. eM powering c o MM unities 64 406 w oman.com 4 704 C East 13th St. #138 Whitefish, MT 59937 info@406woman.com - Copyright©2024 Skirts Publishing Published by Skirts Publishing six times a year view current and past issues of 406 woman at www.406 w oman.com woman 406 8... 16... Profile 16. far M to Mar K et f loral 22. M ann K ind Board of d irectors 27. d r. Katrina w eaver Health 28. p ediatric t ea M Brings s urgical c are i n-state 32. w hat is o ffice hY steroscop Y ? 36. d r Miller

Stella and her husband, Willie, are turning the corner on 8 years of ownership of the small bike and ski shop located on the south end of Central Avenue. The shop is known for its warm atmosphere, high end alpine ski and bike equipment as well as the expertise to back it up. While her responsibilities at Great Northern Cycle & Ski are vast, and “random” as she puts it, Stella’s work ethic goes beyond her business's brick walls. She is the volunteer President of Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, a local nonprofit, the co-director of The Last Best Ride, a local gravel race, and an aspiring off road bike racer. At 30 years old, she is one of the movers and shakers of the Whitefish biking community and couldn’t be more proud to know she is making a difference in her hometown.

Stella was born in Whitefish and was fortunate to get to participate in many sports throughout her childhood. Cross country skiing, however, stuck. Stella’s natural athleticism brought her early success in the sport and she started racing regionally and nationally in middle school, finding national podiums in high school and finally pursuing the sport further at Middlebury College in Vermont from 2011-2015. Over the years, riding a bike became the perfect way to supplement Stella’s

Enjoying the Ride Meet Stella Hobbs

When I sit down to get to know Stella Hobbs, she makes it clear that she is proud of herself for taking the time for a one-on-one conversation amidst a busy week at Great Northern Cycle & Ski. “We’re hosting a big spring clean out sale right now and the response has been great,” she explains. “So many familiar faces through the door and nonstop action. It’s been super fun, but exhausting.” When I ask her what she does at the shop she smiles almost mischievously, “business ownership takes many forms. Sometimes I get to make lattes for my friends while they swap ride stories, sometimes I dive deep into a basement inventory organization project, sometimes I sell skis or bikes or I get to share some of my favorite details on a pair of shorts with a new customer, other times I just walk around and ask the staff about their weekend plans.”

nordic training hours. “I mostly rode through double tracks with this old, funky bike my parents found for me.” The hours on the bike gave her just enough confidence to enter into any local event with a goal to improve and put in a hard effort. Through these events and her roots in the nordic community, Stella was supported and embedded in the greater endurance community of the Flathead Valley at a young age.

While home from school for the summer in 2014, Stella stopped by GNCS to get her bike serviced and was offered a summer job as a barista. She enjoyed the atmosphere there, but the thing that really intrigued her most was her coworker and former high school classmate, Willie Hobbs.

“By the end of the summer, we were hanging out and he was teaching me how to mountain bike, and naturally we started dating.”

In the fall, she’d head back to college, then return to Whitefish in the summer to train for the upcoming ski season and work at GNCS. She and Willie continued to date through their last two years of college and upon graduation Stella chose to retire from the competitive side of nordic skiing. Willie

completed his undergrad at MSU Bozeman and the geographic strain had worn on their relationship so the two chose to move back to Whitefish, work at GNCS and give their relationship a more realistic test.

By the fall of 2015 Stella was part time guiding for The Cycling House, a cycling vacation company based in Missoula, working locally as a media manager for a graphic design firm, spending her afternoons coaching the Glacier Nordic Ski Team and was still running the till and making coffees at GNCS a few days a week. While working a guided cycling trip Stella received a call from Willie explaining the current owner of the shop was ready to move on. “I think we should buy it,” Willie said. After 8 months of paperwork and consideration, the two purchased Great Northern Cycle & Ski in June of 2016. “I was 23, Willie was 25. We figured if we changed our minds in 10 years we would still have our whole life to do something else!” Stella laughs.

Over the last 8 years, Stella and Willie worked hard to bring the shop to where it is now. “We have always wanted to create a third space outside of home and work where people can express them-

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selves and explore their passion in a place where they can find like-minded folks and those who will support whatever it is they are most excited about.” Since their takeover, GNCS exploded in popularity; it’s now physically twice as large as before thanks to an addition on the back of the building, but still hosts a welcoming patio out front perfect for coffee sipping and pre-ride meetups.

In 2019 Stella was approached by a then board member to consider joining the volunteer board of Flathead Area Mountain Bikers. Knowing it would be a perfect fit and a great way to support the community through her connections at the shop, Stella joined the board and later became president in 2020. FAMB is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and advancing mountain biking through advocacy, trail building and maintenance and free youth and women’s clinics. As president, Hobbs spends most of her time “steering the ship” and making sure that the other volunteer board members stay engaged through participation in projects that inspire them and uncover personal passions. Stella’s proud of the growth that FAMB has experienced in the years under her guidance as this growth has prepared them for impending large scale projects. She is most excited for the groundbreaking of the Taylor Hellroaring trail project this fall. FAMB has been given the opportunity to develop more than 20 miles of trail from the top of Whitefish Mountain Resort over to the top of Werner Peak and stretching down to the Holbrook Overlook and Taylor Creek Road.

“It will be a huge undertaking for our organization and will take significant fundraising to support the building and additional administrative efforts”,

The momentum of this project is thanks to the passion of the mountain biking community and to see these trails completed will be an incredible reward for years of hard work and dedication. It is sure to become a crown jewel in this valley and will serve for generations to come.

she says. The US Forest Service, Whitefish Mountain Resort and Whitefish Legacy Partners will be working closely with FAMB to see this vision through. It sounds complex and intimidating, but after 10 years of behind the scenes work, FAMB, Stella and the other partners are thrilled to see the project step into the public eye and finally start to take shape on the ground. “The momentum of this project is thanks to the passion of the mountain biking community and to see these trails completed will be an incredible reward for years of hard work and dedication. It is sure to become a crown jewel in this valley and will serve for generations to come.”

Aside from pulling strings behind the scenes for FAMB, Stella is making time to co-direct The Last Best Ride, a 500 person gravel race that starts and finishes in front of GNCS. In its 4th year, the event will host riders from across the country and provide a unique experience through two different course lengths, a vibrant expo, and the opportunity to support a scholarship fund dedicated to higher education for underprivileged women. TLBR was co-founded by Sam Boardman and Jess Cerra, an accomplished professional cyclist and longtime friend of Stella’s. For three years the event has partnered with GNCS based on the location of the start and finish, but when Sam was given the opportunity to further his own cycling career with a position on a new team and an expansive schedule that would take him overseas for much of the season, Stella stepped in to support Jess in the behind the scenes work needed to keep the event rolling. Despite her new organizational role, Stella still plans to race the long course on

July 28th and hopes the community will come out to ride, volunteer, or support the event.

After a successful ride to second place in 2022 at TLBR, Stella was overwhelmed by the encouragement from Jess and fellow riders to pursue more race starts. So, last summer, she and Willie traveled across the West and as far East as Arkansas to bring Stella to 17 start lines in highly competitive fields. “I experienced some success, lots of heartbreak and challenge but I also felt complete freedom in the opportunity to see how hard I could push myself during races”. Thanks to support from their staff at GNCS, the pair are already two races into a long season that will again give Stella the opportunity to line up with some of the best gravel and mountain bike racers in the country. “Why now? Lots of people want to know, what is the point - which is fair” she muses. “Because I can. My body is healthy, my brain is motivated and my heart wants this. Plus, my partner and my community supports me. Why not now?”

According to Stella, fitting it all in requires balance, commitment, and color-coded calendars. “Stay organized,” she says. “I have gotten really good at compartmentalizing my schedule. I used to be an excellent multitasker, but these days I try to do one thing at a time and do it really well. Compartmentalizing helps me do right by the people around me and I have found that to be not only personally rewarding but the fastest way to success.”

406 w oman.com 69 featured} s tell A h o BB s

In selecting or retaining a financial advisor for your personal portfolio or your businesses retirement plan, how do you know if you’re making a wise choice?

First, the stakes are high. The quality of your selection, or lack thereof, can literally make or break your family or business’s fortune.

Also, the choices can be bewildering. It can be difficult to determine what to look for and who to trust.

Fischer Investment Strategies, your local fiduciary, is here to help you cut through some of the confusion in finding an advisor who is a good fit for you and your wealth.

First, look for the “Fiduciary” designation In the medical profession, physicians practice according to a familiar standard: “First do no harm.” It seems there should be a similar level of commitment for anyone who wants to advise you about your financial well-being, right?

Unfortunately, not always. Financial advice remains subject to troublesome double standards. It’s still up to you to spot the subtle differences and heed the quality of advice accordingly.

Financial Success Fischer Investment Strategies

As the flowers bloom and the days grow longer, spring offers a fresh look at our gardening plan, but can also be an opportunity to get new insight on our financial well-being. Just like new soil and fertilizer can set this year’s garden up to flourish, finding sound financial advice and working with the right type of advisor can refresh your financial trajectory and set you up for financial success in the years ahead. BuT HOW IN THE WORLD DO yOu CHOOSE A FINANCIAL ADVISOR?

Why Fiduciary Advice (Still) Matters

Investors like you deserve nothing less than the fairest possible shake from anyone entrusted with advising them about their personal wealth. For decades, the fiduciary standard – in contrast with a lesser “suitability standard” – has shaped this highest level of care for those of us committed to delivering it.

However, to our frustration, a 2020 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) overhaul has downplayed rather than strengthened the fiduciary standard. The SEC has overlaid fiduciary duty with new industry protocols, paradoxically called Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI).

Despite its promising name, Reg BI may muddy what clarity had existed between higher and lesser standards of advisory care. By attempting to apply the same broad rules to financial providers of every stripe, Reg BI threatens to discount the still-stark differences between them.

In theory: Anyone offering investment recommendations is supposed to minimize their conflicts of interest and disclose any inherent conflicts they cannot eliminate.

In reality: Not all financial advice and investment recommendations are created equally:

Even if a broker-dealer is doing their level best to recommend sound investments, they are unlikely to be aware of the intricate interplay among your total wealth interests. Without that critical context, how can they know whether a particular recommendation is truly best for you and your bigger picture?

So, how do you recognize good financial advice in a crowded field of look-alikes?

Beyond accepting fiduciary duty, there are other important qualities to seek from an advisor who is willing and able to sit on the same side of the table as you and your highest financial interests.

Qualities to look for include business Structure:

The Registered investment Advisor Firm

By law, independent Registered Investment Advisor firms (like Fischer Investment Strategies) must provide strictly fiduciary advice to their clients across everything we do for you. In contrast, brokerages, banks, insurance agencies and other transactional businesses are not primarily in the advisory business. A broker’s primary role is to transact trades; a banker custodies accounts; an insurance rep sells insurance. Stand-alone investment recommendations are secondary to these roles, and not all of their services are subject to a fiduciary standard of care.

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A transparent, fee-only relationship ensures your advisor is on your “team,” and nobody else’s. They’re best positioned to offer the impartial, product-neutral advice you deserve.

Compensation Arrangements:

is Your Advisor Fee-only?

Another way to tell how well your advisor’s interests are aligned with yours is by determining their sources of compensation.

Is your would-be advisor or their parent employer receiving commissions or other incentives from third-party sources (i.e., not you)? Even if these arrangements are disclosed in the fine print, your relationship can become tainted by incentives that have nothing to do with you and your best interest.

Why accept an awkward arrangement, when it can be easily eliminated by working with a feeonly advisor? A transparent, fee-only relationship ensures your advisor is on your “team,” and nobody else’s. They’re best positioned to offer the impartial, product-neutral advice you deserve.

A fee-based advisor warrants further inspection. Fee-based advisors receive your fees, plus commissions from others. If the advisor is entirely fee-only, except they can write insurance policies for you as needed to protect your primary investments (with full disclosure of all commissions being received for this singular activity) then a fee-based relationship may still complement your best interests. If the commissions are instead coming from investment activities, the same conflicts arise as those described above for a fully commissioned advisor.

Investment Planning and Execution:

• How Stable Is the Strategy?

• How is your advisor managing your money?

• Do they offer a written Investment Policy Statement that documents your personal financial goals and your strategies for achieving them?

• Is your portfolio structured according to decades of robust evidence indicating how to capture long-term market growth according to your personal goals and risk tolerances?

• Is the strategy implemented with efficient, low-cost solutions that use this same evidence?

• Are your assets being considered as an integrated whole, whether directly under your advisor’s management or held in outside accounts such as your company’s retirement plan?

Look for a comprehensive investment approach your advisor can integrate into your total wealth and overall financial interests.

Finding the right financial advisor involves due diligence and communication. Take your time, ask questions, and choose someone who understands your unique financial situation and goals.

Fischer Investment Strategies is a true fiduciary firm who stands out by exceeding expectations. Their comprehensive financial planning advice, coupled with white-glove customer service, ensures that clients’ unique goals and dreams are not only understood but also meticulously addressed. unlike many other advisors who remain distant from their clients, Fischer Investment Strategies embraces a personal approach. As you navigate your financial journey, consider

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Jessa Ash, Registered Investment Advisor Fischer Investment Strategies 406-212-1983 jessa@fisfp.com
finance} well-being

Melissa Russell has a few under her belt-The Re-Finery, Mimi’s Bridal and Farm to Market Floral.

Prior to starting Farm to Market Floral, Melissa purchased the Re-Finery in 2003, a designer women’s consignment clothing store. She currently still owns and operates this high scale re-sale shop located in downtown Kalispell. She started Mimi’s Bridal in 2006. She created a fairytale like bridal salon providing everything for the bride and her bridal party. She sold that business in 2016 and went back to school for floral design and became a certified florist. Voila…Farm to Market Floral is born.

Melissa is a designer, artist and an "out of the box florist." Her creative abilities include everything weddings, custom arrangements for the home, funeral pieces, prom, special event floral and holiday homescaping for clients.

Another favorite occasion for her to show her talent is to do elopement bouquets for visiting couples to the Glacier National Park area. Our

Farm to Market Floral Melissa Russell

en·tre·pre·neur - The term “entrepreneur” refers to a person who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise. Entrepreneurs are individuals who take initiative and are willing to face potential losses in order to create and run their own ventures. They play a crucial role in driving innovation and economic growth.

beautiful backyard is in the top five wedding destinations in the United States.

The first step to hiring a florist is to make an appointment and sit down to discuss your budget, date of wedding, favorite colors, dress, men’s formalwear, wedding party and any other pertinent information pertaining to the big day! She will work within the client’s budget and suggest options if specific flora isn't available at the time of the wedding. She reaches out and purchases floral locally, when possible. If the wedding occurs at an “off season” time of year, for local growers, she sources several wholesalers within the five-state area to accommodate her bride.

She is a proud member of the slow flowers movement. What is this you ask?

Customers are realizing that buying local means fresher, more fragrant, and more longlasting blooms. It also means supporting their local growers. The other benefits of buying locally are endless: lower emissions, zero toxic fumigation, more heirloom plants, and less gas emissions transporting products locally instead of globally. In that vein, Farm to Mar-

ket Floral sources from local growers when available.

Melissa is so passionate about her business. When she hears a bride say, “we are going to do our own flowers, we want to use fake flowers, or real flowers are so expensive.” She sets the record straight.

A single stem faux flower is anywhere from $3.00 to $12.00 for each stem. When do the math, if a bride wants a bouquet, boutonnieres, bridesmaid bouquets, a floral enhanced arch and centerpieces you are looking at thousands of dollars.

Also, do you really want to tackle creating floral arrangements the day before your wedding? Leave it to the florist, work within your budget and relax on your big day! Melissa’s favorite thing to do on the wedding day is to hand the bride her beautiful, fragrant, custom bouquet!

She extends her reach to wedding clientele by carrying beautiful new and gently used gowns, mother of the bride dresses, brides-

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Customers are realizing that buying local means fresher, more fragrant, and more long-lasting blooms. It also means supporting their local growers.

maid, prom and reception dresses at The Re-Finery. She carefully chooses these items that need to be within 3 years old and clean. When it comes to bridal gowns, she prefers appointments to try them on so she can give you the attention you deserve!

Melissa grew up in Minnesota where she learned about roses from her grandmother and watched her mom create huge perennial gardens and planters.

She has realized working with wedding floral in hot temperatures and freezing weather can wreak havoc on floral traveling. She has always come up with a solution in a dire situation and resolved problems with grace and humor! Her father taught her that - laughter is the best medicine, Melissa says “this phrase has served me well for years!”

Melissa attends yearly continuing education through the Slow Flowers Movement workshops. This has been so informative and keeps her “on trend” with today’s brides. Last year’s continuing education was in Seattle, this year in Canada! Floral is a worldwide passion!

When Melissa isn't working with floral or busy in her consignment clothing shop, she enjoys kayaking, paddleboarding, riding her 4-wheeler and hiking. She has two daughters and two beautiful granddaughters and whenever possible spends time with them teaching them how to be independent business owners/entrepreneurs. You can reach Melissa by phone 406 212 2155 or emailfarmtomarketfloral@hotmail.com

Check out her Facebook and Instagram pages-Farm to Market Floral

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The Compassionate Journey of Mann Kind

In a world where every individual's journey towards stability and independence is unique, Mann Kind stands out as a beacon of hope and support. With a mission deeply rooted in compassion and tailored assistance, we have been making a profound impact on the lives of those in need. From matching motivation with support to forging partnerships with local non-profits, our commitment to community empowerment knows no bounds.

About Us: Tailored Support for Individual Needs

At Mann Kind, we recognize that one size does not fit all when it comes to support. That's why we are dedicated to providing tailored assistance that adapts to the individual needs and motivations of each person we serve. Our approach is centered on listening, understanding, and empowering individuals to overcome barriers to stability and independence.

We believe in the power of collaboration and community support. By partnering with local non-profits and other resources, we amplify our impact and ensure that no one is left behind. Together, we bridge community gaps, offering essential mentorship and support to those in need.

Our Mission: Matching Motivation with Compassionate Support

Our mission is simple yet profound: to match individuals' motivation and commitment for growth and independence with compassionate support. We understand that the journey towards independence can be challenging, but with the right resources and encouragement, anything is possible.

Through our commitment to compassionate support, we create a safe and inclusive space where individuals feel heard, valued, and empowered to take control of their lives. Whether it's offering crisis intervention, supporting educational journeys, or providing stability through transitional periods, we are there every step of the way.

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Mann Kind Impact: Making a Meaningful Difference

Our impact is not just measured in numbers but in the lives we touch and the communities we strengthen. Through our partnerships and collaborative efforts, we have been able to make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and families across our community.

From empowering education and ensuring housing stability to offering family support and crisis intervention, our impact stories are a testament to the power of compassion and collaboration. By sponsoring fundraisers for local non-profits, we reinforce our commitment to collaborative community support, raising awareness and funds for important causes.

Conclusion: Building a Stronger, More Supportive Community

As we reflect on our journey, we are filled with gratitude for the opportunity to serve our community. At Mann Kind, we are not just a service provider—we are a compassionate partner, a source of support, and a catalyst for positive change. Together, we will continue to empower individuals, bridge community gaps, and build a stronger, more supportive community for all.

For more information, visit mannkindfoundation.org

We believe in the power of collaboration and community support. By partnering with local non-profits and other resources, we amplify our impact


In 2011, a journey of volunteerism led me to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, where I mentored two girls before becoming a mentor to a special someone, my "little." Her childhood was marked by adversity, enduring things no child should ever face. She escaped a harrowing situation and bravely stood up against her abuser when she discovered he was grooming her younger sister.

Inspired by her resilience, Don and I decided that we wanted to do more to extend a helping hand to those in need, not just in her circumstances but for anyone facing adversity. For my “little”, we stepped in to support her, guiding her to obtain her GED, helping her find a job, and continuing to work toward her higher education.

Mann Kind's foundation is rooted in the belief that together, we can uplift and empower individuals like my "little." Our purpose is to create opportunities for transformation, turning hardship into hope, and ensuring that everyone can reach for a brighter future.

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Don Mann

With over 30 years in the mortgage industry, Don Mann has dedicated his career to helping clients and employees. Starting from humble beginnings as a bus driver and banker, he founded his own mortgage company based on the cooperative principle. Known for going above and beyond to assist clients, Don's commitment to community support led to the founding of Mann Kind Foundation, which aims to provide mentorship and assistance to those facing life challenges.

Cindy Moon

Having spent most of her life in the mortgage business, Cindy Moon is known for her extensive network of friends across the US. She deeply cares for those in her life, often going out of her way to show people how valued they are. Cindy's dedication to charity work includes raising awareness and funds for various causes, including her role as a big sister at Big Brothers/Big Sisters of NW Montana, which inspired her involvement in founding Mann Kind Foundation.

Tonia Paulson

With many years of experience in the mortgage business, Tonia Paulson shares Jason Mann's dedication to community service. Serving as a board member at Doug Betters for the Children for over a decade, she has been instrumental in raising awareness and funding for numerous charitable organizations.

Caleb Wilson

As the CFO of Mann Mortgage, Caleb Wilson is not only responsible for financial matters but also embodies a spirit of philanthropy. He finds joy in coaching youth sports and empowering children, particularly young girls like his daughter, to pursue ambitious goals.

Jason Mann

As the CEO of Mann Mortgage, Jason Mann follows in his father Don's footsteps by striving to make his community a better place. He actively supports causes related to assisting survivors of domestic violence and children's medical charities, demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility and community welfare.

Cheyane Gress - Executive Director

Coming from a background of modest means, Cheyane Gress has worked since the age of 12 and has held various impactful roles such as a lifeguard, advocate, youth drill instructor, and law enforcement deputy. With a passion for assisting with crisis intervention within social services, Cheyane focuses on intervening and preventing further trauma and cycles of hardship, poverty, and abuse.

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Q&A wItH Dr. Katrina Weaver Pediatric Surgeon, Logan Health

What brought you to the Flathead Valley?

My husband and I were born and raised in Utah before we traveled to Southern Alabama for training, and eventually returned to Alabama to work for the last 10 years. We wanted to eventually get to a place that reminded us of the small farm town where we grew up with great recreational options, less bugs and less humidity! We fell in love with the Flathead area because we could continue our new farm life and raise our family in a great environment.

What’s your specialty of practice?

I am board certified in pediatric surgery, surgery critical care and general surgery. I am currently one of two full time pediatric surgeons here at Logan Health Children’s. I have a special emphasis in burns and trauma as well as advanced training in adolescent bariatric/metabolic surgery. I created the University of South Alabama Health Adolescent Bariatric & Metabolic Surgery Center, which was the only one of its kind in the state of Alabama. I am also specialized in all aspects of pediatric surgery including minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy and thoracoscopy), robotic surgeries, pediatric surgical oncology, pediatric colorectal surgery including bowel management, and surgery on premature babies and newborns with congenital defects.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love pediatric surgery because of the huge scope of practice that we cover. It allows us to help so many children in different stages of their life with different problems. We see simple hernias to congenital defects and everything in between. My favorite thing is to see pictures, sent by parents, months to years down the road of how well their child is doing. It makes all the training and time away from my own family worth it.

What are some of your professional interests?

My husband (who is an operating room registered nurse) and I routinely participate in medical missions, usually to Africa, through the Medical Mission Foundation based out of Kansas City, Missouri. We hope to do more as our children get older and can participate. Our passion for medical missions helped spark the creation of a non-profit organization called “Operation Every Child.” We collect expired or unused hospital supplies and equipment from hospitals between Montana and Alabama. These are then shipped to underserved hospitals around the globe, and families in need receive these items so they can afford surgeries for their children.

How do you like to spend your free time?

My family and I are excited to be back in the snow and enjoy all the winter activities the Flathead Valley offers. We also can’t wait to get out on the water and do some fishing and camping! We have an animal farm with horses, miniature donkeys, and longhorn cattle. We are looking forward to trail riding and getting involved in the local 4H clubs and FFA. I enjoy gardening and beekeeping and I am hoping to actually get a garden to grow this year.

Brought to you by

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Pediatric Team Brings Surgical Care In-state There’s No Place Like Home

No parent wants to entertain the thought of their child needing surgery, but if they must, the knowledge that there is an experienced pediatric surgical team in their home state can provide a great deal of assurance. Logan Health Children’s is proud to provide such a team. This team consists of two pediatric surgeons, Dr. Rona Norelius and Dr. Katrina Weaver, advanced practice providers Rachel Desimone and Brianne Peltz, a dedicated outpatient nurse, Susan Eisenzimer, LPN, and a medical assistant. Their mission is to ensure that every child and family receives the personalized care they need in an environment that feels as close to home as possible.

Many are unaware that pediatric surgery is different from adult surgery and that a multidisciplinary pediatric department is often necessary to address all of the care needs of a child and their family. “There’s a saying in pediatric surgery, that ‘children are not little adults.’ Anybody who has spent any time near a child knows that they respond differently to things, and so you have to treat them differently, both socially and physiologically,” Dr. Norelius explained. “The care that we provide is specialized, not only because of my specialized training, but also because everybody that’s taking care of that child is specially trained, from our pediatricians to our Child Life specialists, to our speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and nurses. They are all focused on pediatric care.”

With support from the broader pediatric staff, the pediatric surgical team sees a wide vari-

ety of cases, making their jobs both challenging and rewarding. Among the most common procedures are appendectomies and hernia repairs, but a diverse set of skills is essential for other complicated cases, such as tumors, congenital abnormalities, weight loss surgeries, burns and more. “I tell people that we operate on everything except for bones, brains and transplants,” Dr. Weaver said. “We’re operating on kids weighing one pound to 18-year-olds needing weight loss surgery. It’s the whole spectrum, and I’d say it’s like being the last general surgeon.”

As they tackle these cases of all varieties, the surgeons appreciate having advanced tools that can help immensely. Using the da Vinci robotic system, surgeons can use their fine motor skills to conduct minimally invasive surgeries, a huge improvement from traditional surgeries that require larger incisions. Patients often ex-

perience a faster and less painful recovery. “If you have a smaller child, we do a lot of what is called intracorporeal sewing. That’s where we’re sewing laparoscopically inside of the belly. Using the robot has actually improved those outcomes by making the surgery easier on us as well as easier on the patient as far as pain.” Dr. Weaver said.

This technology also aids the surgeons as they are operating. “I think robotic surgery offers two main advantages to the surgeon,” Dr. Norelius explained. “One is visualization. Robotics magnifies things 10 to 20 times, which is obviously very helpful in kids when we’re dealing with small structures. The second thing is that the technology allows for better dexterity. We spend years and years training how to use our hands and then some of the technologies like laparoscopic surgery actually take away some of those skills. Using robotics gives them back

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From left to right: Rachel Desimone, NP, Brianne Peltz, PA-C, Dr. Katrina Weaver, Dr. Rona Norelius, Susan Eisenzimmer, LPN, Misty Taylor, CMA.
Currently in Montana, our practice is the only one staffed with full-time pediatric surgeons that live and work in Montana.

to us. We can use our wrists in very agile ways.” Because of these capabilities and recovery benefits, Logan Health Children’s pediatric surgeons are proud to offer this method for several surgeries, a service that would normally require patients to travel to larger cities like Seattle, Denver or Salt Lake City.

Traveling long distances can be an inconvenient reality for Montana residents, but it should never prevent families from receiving timely care. Unfortunately, pediatric subspecialists, including surgeons, can be few and far between in an expansive state like Montana, and many families are asked to leave their home and travel out of state. This often brings about physical, financial, and emotional stressors for the child, their parents and the whole family. But these geographical challenges can be alleviated when parents and providers know there is a fully-equipped hospital that can care for patients in-state. “Currently in Montana, our practice is the only one staffed with full-time pediatric surgeons that live and work in Montana,” Dr. Norelius pointed out. “We are proud of that fact, and we are dedicated to trying to make care here better for our local and regional families.”

Pediatric professionals also understand how invaluable teamwork is at all levels of care coordination. Rena Armstrong, a pediatric clinical nurse coordinator, is ready to help complex patients, crafting their schedules so that if they must travel to Kalispell for care, they can have appointments with their subspecialist providers in person before heading home. Once they are back in their hometown, every effort is taken by the team to find the best care options close to the family’s home. For appointments such as pre-surgical assessments and postoperative follow-ups, the provider can meet with the family through telemedicine. For necessary in-person visits, Logan Health Children’s providers take on the burden of traveling on behalf of the family, providing outreach at Logan Health clinics in Great Falls, Helena, Bozeman and Missoula. Providers may also partner with other hospitals or clinics in or near the child’s hometown, in order for them to receive the care that is closest and most convenient. In health care, as well as life, the saying is true: it takes a village to raise a child.

As Montana’s communities continue to grow, more and more children will need specialty services, including surgical care, and the teams at Logan Health Children’s are ready to provide for those needs. Already, their efforts have made quite an impression. “Time and time again we hear from families that they so appreciate the care that we offer here — that it’s personalized, thoughtful care.” Dr. Norelius said, “We want to provide that excellent, quality care that patients could get at a larger academic children’s hospital, but we want to do it in their home state.” Now when families are faced with the daunting reality of surgery, instead of preparing to cross state lines, they can focus on being cared for by their community.

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What is Office Hysteroscopy?

Hysteroscopy is the passage of a small telescope, attached to a camera, through the vagina and cervix into the uterus. The lining and shape of the uterine cavity can be assessed, and abnormal growths or scarring visualized and, in many cases, removed or treated. It is used to evaluate and/or treat heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding, bleeding occurring after menopause, pelvic pain and infertility by removing masses (thickened lining, polyps or fibroids) or scar tissue from inside the uterus. It may also be used for difficult IuD removals. The entire lining of the uterus, or endometrium, can also be treated to alleviate heavy bleeding in a procedure known as endometrial ablation. Many women with bleeding issues find these hysteroscopic procedures may offer the same relief as a hysterectomy but without the expense, prolonged recovery, or pain of a major procedure.

Hysteroscopy has traditionally been performed in a hospital operating room (OR) under general anesthesia but is increasingly being performed in the office setting. It is performed in a procedure room with many of the same instruments used in a hospital OR.


Benefits of having hysteroscopy in the office include comfort of the office setting, the convenience of easier scheduling, less time away from work and family, and avoidance of general anesthesia. You may even watch the procedure on a video screen if desired. It often is more costeffective as well, requiring only an office co-pay with many insurances.


It should not be performed while actively bleeding or during pregnancy. The best time to have office hysteroscopy is right after a period ends. If bleeding is irregular, birth control pills or oral progesterone may be needed to organize bleeding to allow for a timed hysteroscopy.


Appropriate patient selection is very important as not everyone is a good candi-

date for office surgery. Patients for whom hysteroscopy is better performed in the OR include those with known cervical scarring or an unusually twisted cervical canal, severe anxiety or a tendency to faint during procedures, a failed office procedure in the past, known or suspected endometrial cancer, severe heart disease, or sleep apnea. In addition, unusually large or deep masses of the uterus may be more successfully addressed in the OR.


Discomfort during hysteroscopy is generally minimal and managed with oral anti-inflammatory medication plus or minus a relaxing medication taken before a patient arrives. Local anesthetic may be injected around the cervix particularly for ablation. Occasionally, IV sedating medications may be used.

Discomfort afterwards ranges most often from none to moderate cramping. In these instances, oral anti-inflammatory or pain medication may be used. Mild bleeding is common for several days and watery discharge may occur for several weeks. Patients undergoing office hysteroscopy will be asked to avoid intercourse, use of tampons or menstrual cups and

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Dr Jonas in surgery (photo provided by Kalispell OB/GYN)

Hysteroscopy has traditionally been performed in a hospital operating room (OR) under general anesthesia but is increasingly being performed in the office setting.

douching for several days. They should also have a responsible adult drive them to the clinic and then home following the procedure. Patients may return to work in 24-48 hrs.


Hysteroscopy is a very safe procedure and complications are rare. However, complications are always possible even when things go as planned. The most common risks include bleeding, pain, infection or puncture of the uterus, scarring of vagina, cervix or uterus, or inability to diagnose and treat the problem.

Is office hysteroscopy right for me?

If you have been told you need a hysteroscopy but desire to avoid a hospital OR procedure and/or general anesthesia, then an office hysteroscopy may be a great option for you. If you have not yet been evaluated but have heavy or long periods that have left you anemic, fatigued or kept you from participating in activities you enjoy, evaluation and treatment may drastically improve your quality of life. If you have bleeding after menopause or have been told you have intrauterine masses or scarring, you should be evaluated. If during evaluation, you are told you need surgery then ask your provider if an office hysteroscopy is an option.


At Kalispell Obstetrics and Gynecology, we believe that patient comfort and convenience should always be a priority. As office hysteroscopy has not been an option in the Flathead Valley for many years, we are again offering this procedure including endometrial ablation. If you would like to discuss your symptoms or determine if this procedure is right for you, please call us at 406-752-5252, to schedule an appointment.

This story originally appeared in our September 2022 issue.

Gwenda C. Jonas, MD, FACOG is a board-certified OB/GYN who has practiced with Kalispell OB/GYN since 2001.

Dr. Jonas received her undergraduate degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and her medical degree from the University of Alabama. She completed her residency at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. She is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Board-certified yearly through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists.

She has served as Chief of Staff of Kalispell Regional Medical Center, as a Kalispell Regional healthcare board member, and as board chair. She has served on numerous committees at Logan Health, including Medical Ethics, Mass Casualty and most recently as Logan Health Section Chair of Gynecology.

Dr. Jonas specializes in early obstetrics and gynecology, including in-office hysteroscopy and endometrial ablation procedures . She has a special interest in minimally invasive and robotic surgery, as well as treatment of pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence and infertility. Her passion is providing a caring, supportive, and pain-free environment for women to obtain the care they need and deserve.

Dr. Jonas and her husband, Dr. Ken Jonas, are delighted to call Kalispell their home. They enjoy rafting, fishing, skiing, and kayaking.

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My wife and I can’t help but chuckle when one of our kids simply summons Alexa and asks her to play whatever song they might fancy at that exact moment. When they ask why we are laughing we simply explain that in our day and age (both being from rural areas) we only heard new music through the one country station or the one rock and roll station and in order to be able to listen to it whenever we wanted, we had to load up our cassette tape and patiently wait next to our boombox until the song came on. At which point we would smash down the play button and the record button at the same time. We did not have a magical DJ in the sky named Alexa who was there to spin whatever we wanted whenever we wanted.

Lately my teenager has been on a little bit of a throwback streak and we find ourselves listening to Twenty One Pilots a lot. You might remember they had a few “bangers” nearly a decade ago. The first single that really blew them up was titled Stressed Out. The chorus of the song is as follows, “Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days, when our mama sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.” The song goes on to reveal that the reasons for the stress are the normal responsibilities that come with adulthood.

Not only do I dig this tune, but I can totally relate to it. Especially the line about the artist’s preference for treehouse homes over student loans. One day while listening in the backyard I asked my son, “what do you think he means by “the good old days?” My son replied, “I’m not sure Dad.” So I followed up with another question, “Do you know what it means to be ‘stressed out’?” To which he replied, “not really.”

The Good Old Days

As someone who has been a musician for 30 years it should not come as a surprise that music plays a big role in the Miller household. We have a curated Spotify playlist for almost every activity. playlists with names like Pancakes, PuzzleTime, SuperChill, Big Mountain, Blackies Bay, etc. And in this day and age of continual advanced technology, we have SOnOS throughout our entire house including our back porch.

Let’s go back to the time when we were less stressed out. To the good old days. When our laughs and smiles were pure. Think of the amazing and phenomenal things we have witnessed. Things we would never believe had we not seen them with our own eyes. How many times in my life have I uttered or thought, “they’ve done it, it can’t get any better than this.” How often have you thought those same things? How many of us are thinking that right now with our iPhone, our virtual reality headsets, our self-driving electric cars, our ChatGPT? It’s all pretty unbelievable, am I right?

During dental school we had a guest lecturer come in one evening who was like a celebrity makeover dentist from southern California. Me and some fellow students showed up a little early and found ourselves talking with this dentist prior to his presentation. He also attended the same dental school that we were at and had graduated some 15 years earlier. He made a comment that sticks with me to this day. He said, “there are very few techniques that were taught to me in this building that I still use today in my practice of dentistry.” At the time I was surprised by what he told us, but now 13 years post-graduation what he said has rang totally true for me.

The trajectory of my dental career pivoted significantly almost a decade ago when I was visited by a dental rep in my Columbia Falls office. This rep wanted to discuss a certain piece of dental tech called a CEREC machine. At the time this machine was a digital optical scanner that allowed the dentist to offer porcelain restorations in one appointment. Highly aesthetic porcelain crowns in one visit bypassing the need for a

temporary, a second visit, and the possibility of having to be numbed a second time.

This rep had me do a live demo of the technology and I fell in love with it. I could immediately recognize its advantages not only to me but especially to my dental patient. I wanted it. However, fancy tech comes with fancy price tags and I couldn’t quite get the boss (my wife) on board. She’s not a dentist, she wasn’t at the demo, she wasn’t blown away by the tech, just blown away by the cost.

So I told my rep that I loved it, I would have it one day, but couldn’t quite pull the trigger just yet. A month passed and I received a call from my rep saying a spot had opened up at their training center in Scottsdale and they were going to fly me there and put me up so I can be trained on the CEREC machine. This was their high-pressure sales pitch. What they didn’t realize was that they had already sold it. It was just a matter of timing at that point. So yes, I would love an all-expense paid trip to Scottsdale from Montana in the winter.

Fast forward 10 years and i couldn’t imagine practicing dentist without this tool. With every software and hardware update the CereC realizes new applications in the dentistry, and their existing functions become smoother, more precise, and more efficient. remember, I knew the technology was good but i wasn’t convinced it was worth the cost. did it represent a value add in my day-to-day dental practice?

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Fast forward 10 years and I couldn’t imagine practicing dentist without this tool. With every software and hardware update the CEREC realizes new applications in the dentistry, and their existing functions become smoother, more precise, and more efficient.

To answer that question, I’ll just say that I have purchased six of these units with a seventh coming soon and I don’t even flinch at the cost because I know how much better it makes providing high quality dentistry for our patients in a more comfortable manner. There really isn’t any aspect of dentistry that can’t be improved by high quality digital scans/impressions.

So, what’s on the horizon for dentistry? I’ll tell you. 3D printing. There is an arms race right now in the 3D printing world for dominance in Dentistry and it is fostering amazing innovations. We have the best 3D printer in house and I’m just patiently waiting for the resins to be up to a standard that I’m comfortable with before I dive all in. 3D printing’s real advantage is speed and efficiency, but it’s not there yet from a strength and aesthetics standpoint.

I treat every patient like I would treat myself and I would not put a 3D printed filling or crown in my own mouth quite yet. However, I used to think the same about ceRec crowns and i have done a complete 180 on that so i would be naïve to think that in the near future 3d will be ubiquitous in the dental office.

It’s that time of year where we are coming out of hibernation and our eyes are getting adjusted to the sun again. Take advantage of these summer months and the amazing place we live to live like you mean it. In a few short weeks my oldest child Nayvee will graduate from Whitefish High and it’s kind of rocking my world. It’s one of those defining moments in your life facing the prospect of your oldest child moving away. Have I used my time with her wisely? Have I prepared her to navigate the world out there? Have I been an example of what I would wish for her?

It's these moments that shock us back to life and make us realize how precious every moment is with the ones we love. So, love them. Help them Smile.

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