The year 2021 will long be remembered for an assortment of reasons, but the incidence of COVID-19 and resulting deaths is certainly one of the more important ones. In Blackfeet Country, as of Thursday, Dec. 23, the toll stood at 56. The pandemic has added to the normally expected number of people passing from year to year and has meant that some families have experienced loss more than once during that time.
One of the most memorable and remarked-upon losses was that of Chief Earl Old Person, whose passing was marked by large processions of vehicles and a public funeral that drew dignitaries from around the United States and the world.
During this time, the Glacier Reporter received many obituaries that ran from January through December. Unfortunately, the number of those who passed is greater than the number of obituaries received by the newspaper.
One that was not received was that of the aforementioned Chief Earl Old Person, whose memory was recalled in stories that surrounded his passing. News coverage of his death on Oct. 13, 2021, appeared in the newspaper although his obituary was not submitted.
Other local and area deaths were known to their families and relations even if the loss wasn’t recorded in the Glacier Reporter.
Here, then, are excerpts of the obituaries that appeared in 2021 from Blackfeet Country. None of these people can be replaced, and every one of them made a difference in the world, their families, those they knew and their communities.
Clarence Joseph “Joe” Bremner died on Jan. 9. He was born Nov. 18, 1956, in Browning to Clarence Henry Bremner and Yvonne Marie Kuka-Bremner. Joe was a man who worked many occupations throughout his life, but his love was business. Joe became involved in Siyeh Development Corporation and dedicated his time and energy working with all entities to help make these business projects a reality on the Black-feet Reservation–Glacier Family Foods, Glacier Family Gas Kiosk, Heart Butte Fuel Station and Siyeh Communications.
Clement Dale Blackweasel passed away on Jan. 18. Clement lived an adventurous life in many places and was employed in various jobs – oilfield construction, x-ray technician, truck driver, assisting DAV/VFW, and his last job was at LoveInk, Rapid City, S.D.
Memori Dawn Salois Walter passed away on Jan. 19. The firstborn of nine siblings, she was raised in Browning where she met the love of her life, Ronnie Walter. She worked as a Home School Coordinator for the Cut Bank School District and obtained a teaching degree in Special Education from the University of Montana in Missoula and later earned a Master’s in Special Education. She taught in Browning Schools for several years.
Wanda Marie Racine, 64, a lifelong resident of Badger Creek/Old Agency passed peacefully in her sleep on Jan. 21. Wanda was the only one of her six siblings to receive the polio vaccine after her first birthday. She contracted polio after receiving a live vaccination in 1957. Even though Wanda did not have the use of her left leg, she still loved to ride her horse, Whiskey, nor did it prevent her from actively supporting her brothers at numerous rodeos throughout Montana. Wanda worked for the Blackfeet Community Hospital (Indian Health Service) for many years.
George Melvin West Wolf died Jan. 21 in Kalispell. He was laid to rest at the West Wolf cemetery on Jan. 28. He was born on Nov. 15, 1957, in Browning. The community suffered the loss of a great guy. There are just too many to mention, but he loved us all. George was a kind, loving and compassionate man; he took everyone in as his own blood.
Saul Joel Black Weasel - Omahk Okohtok, “Big Rock” - died Jan. 23, the victim of a car crash. Saul was born June 20, 2002, in Great Falls, the first child of Ashley Gervais and Joshua Black Weasel. Saul was OSHA certified, CPR certified and was scheduled to begin driving trucks with SKC’s highway construction program.
Marvin Thomas Blackweasel passed away on Jan. 24. He grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation. The last few years of Marvin’s life he did enormous volunteer work.
Leslie “Les” H. Costel Sr. passed on Monday, Jan. 25. Les was born in Browning on Sept. 10, 1964, to Estella “Stella” Whitegrass and raised at Starr School. Les did many jobs during his time in this world. Les was a lineman with Glacier Electric Co-operative. Les was physically fit and preferred physical work and labor as well as a mental strength to handle any and all situations presented to him in the course of his life and his
Wally “Gator” Boggs died Feb. 7, surrounded by his loving family. He was born April 15, 1959, in Browning to Johnny and Janice Boggs. He competed in many rodeos throughout his life. In 1991 Wally Boggs Construction was established, and in 1999, he expanded. One of three Native American licensed owner/operators in the state of Montana, Wally did many jobs in his career and gained experience from all his jobs.
Billy Whitford passed away on Monday, Feb. 8. Born June 24, 1962, in Browning to Peter and Lillian Peterson Whitford, Bill was a hardworking man who loved his family and friends, horseback riding and the outdoors. A loving man who would help anyone, he will be missed by all.
Royce A. LaFromboise passed away unexpectedly in Pablo on Feb. 13. Royce was born Nov. 18, 1979, to parents Roy and Lori in Poplar. Royce attended and graduated from Poplar High School. Royce was proud to be both Blackfeet and Dakota.
Kenneth Jerome Weatherwax, also known as “Sii pis to’ mah Kaan” meaning Running Owl, passed away Feb. 19 at Benefis Hospital, Great Falls. Kenny was born April 21, 1952, to William Weatherwax and Katherine Grant Weatherwax in Yakima, Wash. 1978 Kenny went to work at K.W. Bergan where he met Theodora and were united in marriage. They attended BCC and graduated. Kenny returned to work for the Browning School District off and on until six years ago when he retired. He worked for the Blackfeet Tribe, Tribal Courts, Town Pump and other jobs. Kenny was honored to be able to see the success of the colleges and funds that increased the education of all who attended BCC.
Shawn Timothy Garrow, 65, of St. Mary died of natural causes Feb. 24, at his home in St. Mary. Shawn was born Jan. 30, 1956, in Browning and attended schools there until he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1973 until his discharge in 1981. He was hired in June 1982 at the St. Mary Ranger Station in Glacier National Park in the Maintenance Department until he left in 2012.
Merle Phillip Yellow Kidney went to Creator’s house on March 4. His parents were John “Buster” Yellow Kidney and Thelma Spotted Bear Yellow Kidney. In later years he spent time in other places such as Deer Lodge, Lewiston, Charlo and Pablo due to his employment. Merle’s lifeway was through the Sundance lodge which he practiced for most of his life and was a sweat lodge keeper helping many people. Although he struggled with his illness for the last five-plus years, he always got up out of bed and fought back his illness, praying daily for others he felt needed help more than he did.
Steven Paul Sherburne died on March 6, surrounded by family and friends. Steven was born July 30, 1954, in Great Falls and spent summers in East Glacier Park where his family built and ran the Mountain Pine Motel. Steven drove a fuel truck in Browning for a few years in the late 70s-mid 80s. Then he opened Northern Native Insurance and proudly ran it for more than 30 years. A proud member of the Montana State Golf Association (MSGA) for 21 years, he worked as the chief executive rater, state executive rater, and was president of the MSGA for two terms. In December of 2020, he was inducted into the MSGA Hall of Fame.
Murlyn G. McCluskey, 82, died on March 7 in Great Falls. He was born May 15, 1938, in Browning, the son of Murray and Alfreda (Paul) McCluskey. Murlyn attended the Cut Bank Boarding School in Browning. He attended the Fort Totten (North Dakota) Boarding School with his brother Murt. Murlyn graduated from Flandreau High School, Class of 1956. He also graduated from Haskell Jr. College. Murlyn eventually returned back home to Browning, where he worked as the Park Painter at Glacier National Park for 25 years. Murlyn was well known for his great sense of humor.
Sheldon Lee Cadotte Sr. passed away at his home in Browning on March 13. Sheldon was born in Browning on March 3, 1985, to Diane Cadotte. He lived on the Little Badger Creek area with his mom, Diane, and grandmother, Jeanette. He went to Browning Headstart, graduating from there in April 1990, and went on to Browning Public Schools until the 11th grade. He was a Blackfeet firefighter, worked with camp crews, Blackfeet Nursing Home and Glacier Peaks Casino.
Marion Gilbert Salway, 83, of Browning, passed away April 3. Marion enlisted in the United States Navy at the age of 17 and was Honorably Discharged in September 1966 from Charleston, S.C. In 1979-1980 Marion was an assistant coach to Donny Wetzel and Robert “Smokey” Doore and won one of Browning’s first boys basketball state championships Missoula. Marion started the local television station out of Browning High School which was known locally as Channel 57. Marion had continued to work for the Browning School District #9 until he had retired in 1997. Marion retired for the last time in 2014 at the age of 77, but his camera days did not end there, Marion would still film when asked.
The Creator called Kenneth Potts home April 16. He died peacefully at the Kiwanis Lodge in Nanaimo B.C. He was 85 years old. Ken was a Champion Bull Rider in the Indian National Rodeo Association and legendary on the rodeo circuit in Canada and throughout the United States. Ken was born March 22, 1936 in Brocket, Alberta to Pete and Nelly Potts. During his life he worked as a farm and ranch hand, fruit picker, sewing machine mechanic and a prison guard. He served in the Canadian Army Reserves and trained in Petawawa. He could build most anything and fix anything too.
Maria Lena (Kennedy) Cassidy, passed away peacefully with her family by her side on April 16. She will be lovingly remembered by so many. Lena was born in Browning to the late Lawrence “Bud” Kennedy and parents Medora Isabell Harwood Guardipee and Edward “Porky” on Sept. 4, 1942. Raised on the ranch at Fisher Flats and Two Medicine, she attended Cut Bank boarding school from grade one through grade eight, and Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon during her high school years.
Merlin M. Rutherford, 87, of Browning passed away on April 21. Merlin, “My-T-Fine,” was born Aug. 9, 1933, in Browning, to Dewey and Annie (Eagleribs) Rutherford. He grew up in the area and graduated from Browning High School. Merlin was a roofer and a rancher. He was a partner of a roofing company in Los Angeles until 1969 and continued roofing in the Browning area for several years before becoming a full-time rancher.
Stetson Dale Bird, “Morning Rider,” was born on April 23 to proud parents Richard and Sicily Bird. He passed shortly after entering this world. Stetson will be remembered by his parents always. They will hold onto all the milestones that make being a parent so special until they meet Stetson again.
Sarah Wells was called home on April 29 at the tender age of 90. Sarah was born on Feb. 19, 1931, in Durham on the Blackfeet Reservation. She was born to Samuel and Mabel Still Smoking and was the second eldest of 10 siblings. In 1951 she married the love of her life, Luke Wells, and together they raised 10 children in the community of Farm Four on the Blood Reserve. She was the foundation and matriarch of her family. She was employed by St. Mary School for 25 years and four years with Kainai Board of Education. She spent the last five years in the Kainai Continuing Care Centre.
Delphine Lorraine Bird, 61, passed away May 6 at Benefis Hospital in Great Falls. A wake began on May 11 at Glacier Homes Community Center with Saturday, May 15, being at the Church on the Rock returning to Glacier Homes later in the evening.
Terry Eugene Onstad, 68, of Birch Creek passed away May 11 at Benefis Peace Hospice of Great Falls. Terry was born in Spokane, Wash. on Aug. 22, 1952, the son of John M. and Betty (Prewitt) Onstad. The family moved to the 3C-Onstad Ranch located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, near the Canadian border. Terry was a bull rider, riding through the Montana Pro Circuit and Canadian Pro Rodeo Circuit. He worked with his father-in-law, Webb Pepion, to rebuild the Birch Creek Rodeo Arena and started the Valier High School Rodeo Club. He was also a 4-H leader, working with youth throughout the Birch Creek area. He purchased several head of cows and had prize horses he broke for the rodeo circuit.
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