We look back at 2009

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor and Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter

Editor’s Note:  This is part one of a two part series, please watch next week’s issue of The Independent-Observer for part two.

JANUARY: Jack Lee, the publisher of The Independent-Observer for over 40 years passed away, at the age of 71 on Dec. 23, 2008. Funeral services were held at the Pondera Valley Lutheran Church Dec. 29.

He purchased the I-O in 1968 and married Pat Netland in 1987 at the Pondera Golf Club. She continues to run the award winning I-O as publisher.

The New Year began with news that the Anheuser Busch, a long-time American institution had been taken over by InBev a Belgian beer magnate.  Nation-wide there were a number of company changes, but the local Anheuser elevator saw little if any operational changes.

The Employee of the Year at Crossroads Correctional Center was Duane Drogitis. A meeting was to be held on Jan. 14 to discuss the effects of the missiles being taken out of their silos by Malmstrom AFB.

County Commissioner Joe Christiaens and Clerk of Court, District 9 Kara Thompson were given the oath of office.

Sen. Jon Tester has nominated Trent Knox for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Knox was also nominated by Congressman Dennis Rehberg for the Naval Academy.

Lucas Schultz was presented a special certificate from Gov. Brian Schweitzer for his actions in a rollover auto accident with Amber Stenson. CHS Principal Ken Larson  said, “He’s a hero in my eyes.”

The City of Conrad was just in the beginning stages of planning for its 100th birthday.

After 17 years of practice, Arnold Rohrer of Gustafson and Rohrer Attorneys at Law announced his retirement.

Winners of the VFW VoD and Patriot Pen awards were Katelyn VanderVeen in first, Elizabeth Arends second and Nadine Lyons third. They were sponsored by CHS instructor Kendal Griggs.

The Patriot Pen winners were Kate Killion first, Taylor Marsicano second and Alyssa Hauer in third.

Coach Rick Moss and his Speech and Drama team were ready to hit center stage at the divisional meet.

The team was made up of Brach Newmiller, Cassie Robertson Megan Arndt, Dan Hadcock, Roberta Kronebusch, Katey VanderVeen, Alyssa Dillon, Kelsey Ostrom and Jaclynn Hanson, Rachel Lamb and Katie Robertson and Nikki Linn.

The Pondera County New Year’s Baby, Kyler John Vander Weerdt, was born Jan. 20. The parents are Jesse and Cheri Vander Weerdt of Valier. He joined a brother, Corby and was delivered by Dr. Jay Taylor.

The new high school gym was beginning to take shape, Sheriff Tom Kuka presented Joan Farnstrom with a special plaque for outstanding and dedicated service. And another building, the 70x120  Sports Shooting Complex was coming along with most of the work being done by volunteers.

FEBRUARY: CHS students Sidney Philipps, Stefan Somer, Clair Nelson, Katey VanderVeen, Instructor Phil Springer, Cassie Robertson, Jacob Gouchenour, Sam Carroll, Brach Newmiller and Doug Peters attended the Science Bowl in Billings.

Ruby Ream has retired after 20 year with the Sheriff’s office.

Terry York, age 59, passed away at his residence while in custody of the Pondera County Sheriff’s office.

Paul Lindberg and his wife Detta have been named as Conservationist of the Year by the NRCS.

The Cowboy wrestlers topped the field and won the divisional title. It was the 14th straight year as division champions as they headed to the state meet in Billings.

Team members, coached by Kevin Moritz, Ralph Diedrich and David Ahmed, included Bryce Watterud, Will Shirley, Lucas Schultz, Ryan Orcutt, Luke Schlosser, Johnny Schlosser, CJ Stordahl, Norman Vanderbush, Jared Giard, Trent Knox, JD Hough, Jaren VanDyke, Jordan Lindberg, Brett Bishop, Tyler Nelson, Austin Fowler, Jake Stuart, Colter Knox, Aaron Lehnerz, Colby Johns, Kyle Judisch, Colt Harris, Blayne Underdahl and Tanner Fuson. The Cowboys would place second at the state meet.

The Cowgirl and Cowboy basketball teams were set to go off to district tournaments.

Congressman Denny Rehberg spent a whole day in Conrad before attending a Reagan-Lincoln Day dinner at the Pondera Golf Club.

Melissa Barringer was a Page in Helena for Rep. Llew Jones.

The local Boy Scouts presented the city with a Montana Centennial flag and Kiersta Sullivan was named executive director of the CASA program for neglected children.

MARCH: The top spellers in the Pondera County Spelling Bee were Hailey Yeager in first, Nicole Sasek 2nd, Anna Hopper 3rd, Ariel Sauer 4th, and Kyle Murack 5th.

Dave Doran was hired as CFO at the Pondera Medical Center. The flu season was making a strong showing in the local schools. Not a good thing.

Katie Missik was named Manager of the Year as manager of the Conrad Super 8 Motel. She and her staff also won a Safety award for least amount of accidents.

Pearl Kauk celebrated her 100th birthday and Wilma Sanders celebrated her 102nd birthday, both at the Horizon Lodge. UMS students had a good showing at the local Science Fair. The Cowboy basketball team placed third at the divisional tournament, but only two teams from our division advanced to state this year.

Janie McFarland was named the Unsung Hero at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet. Rob Cook, manager of ITB was named Business Person of the Year, Debbie Hicks was Outstanding Board member of the Year and Cheryl Sawyer and Everett Breding were named Top Outgoing Board Members.

The keynote speaker was Bob Green, head coach for the Montana Tech football program in Butte.

The Conrad Lions Club received the coveted Most Improved Rodeo award for all the work in making the rodeo grounds a better place for the annual Whoop-Up Rodeo.

Alexis Samsal and Katie Dulmage were two ladies who slugged it out at the Conrad smoker. Samsal won a split decision.

UMS wrestlers blew out the competition, taking first at district. Brach Newmiller and Whitney Bliss were named King and Queen at the CHS junior prom. Their court consisted of Brandon Philipps and Beth Grubb, Paul O’Brien and Jenny Silvernale and Rhett Orcutt and Jayleen Harris.

APRIL: George and Wyatt Wood were winners of the coveted Conservation of the Year award presented by the Pondera County Conservation District.

UMS wrestlers placed third at their divisional meet. Kelsey Bjelland won the Judy Martz Woman of the Year award at a state convention in Bozeman. Paul Kronebusch was presented with a special plaque for 30 years of service on the board of the Pondera County Conservation District.

Conrad had 11 CHS students qualify for Academic All State honors. They included Kylee Schlepp, Crystal Johnson, Kurtis Janzen, Graham Grubb, Will Shirley, Rob Brenteson, Taylor Johnson, Nate Gage, Jayleen Harris, Gregg Kalbas and Alyssa Keil.

A hot topic around town was small resident windmills. Don and Wanda Bollinger were the first in Conrad to have a wind turbine go up in their backyard.

PVS fifth grader Emily Harwood won an award for being a “walking” student, logging in more than 40 miles.

The 10th annual PMC Fish Fry drew record numbers for the fish and chips fund-raiser.

Not all the news was great as someone went down the 500 block of S. Wisconsin and punctured tires on seven vehicles on both sides of the street.

A recycling committee met to discuss the possibility of starting a recycling program in Conrad.

There were 57 UMS students who participated in the State Science Fair in Missoula. Big winners were Tamara Roos and Mariah Bitney and Kyle Dyrud and Justin Ratzburg.

Conrad businesses were about to get slammed with a big 14 percent increase in garbage fees.

Carole Mielke a first grade instructor at Meadowlark School was named Teacher of the Year. Ed Corder was selected as the Outstanding

Classified Employee of the Year. Sixth grade educator Marge Johnson received a plaque for 30 years of teaching.

Tom Fetters retired from the Conrad Volunteer Fire Department after 22 years of service.

MAY: A spring storm dumped over 10 inches of snow causing havoc in the community and even cancelling schools.

Music students did well at the State Music Festival. Big dreams came true for Conrad’s small-town sweetheart, Callie Yeager. She was recently selected to the NFL Arizona Cardinals Cheerleading team.

The Cowboy-Cowgirl Golf, Tennis, Softball and Track teams were off to state and division meets.

The 1st Liberty Federal Credit Union was starting expansion phases of their building and parking lot on Main St.

Debbie Procella was the biggest loser in a Ponder Medical Center contest to see who lost the most weight.

At the end of the month, the Class of 2009 had 43 seniors walk across the stage one last time to receive their diploma.

This is the last ceremony in the old gym, the 100th graduation will be the first in the new gym in 2010.

Ground breaking ceremonies took place for the $5.5 million City of Conrad wastewater treatment plant upgrades project.

Pondera County was cleared of any wrong-doing by a coroner’s inquest in the death of Terry York.

The Cowboy tennis team placed second at the state meet and the Cowgirl softball team placed third at a divisional meet.

JUNE: Rodeo is coming to the city in the form of the 69th annual Lions Club Whoop-Trail Days Celebration.  Kenny Kronebusch was named the Grand Marshall for the big parade.

Whoop-Up Queen candidates include Roberta Kronebusch, Kelly Johns, Jamie Ries and Stephanie Murphy.

At PVS, Clark Judisch and Abby Moerkerke tied for the Shawn Mellinger award and Emily Harwood received the Sportsmanship award.

The Conrad Centennial Committee of Cheryl Tornga, Chairperson Marla Bruner, Bob Moritz, Bev Widhalm, Catherine Kellogg, Alice Garman, Betty Olson, Jeannette VanLuchene, Terry Utterback, George Tornga, Byron Grubb, Everett Snortland, Joel Farkell, Jodie Weisgram and Barbie Killion put on a fun Quiz Bowl at the Orpheum Theatre/Wiegand Auditorium that proved to be a smash hit.

An aluminum can drive for recycling in Conrad was ready to kick off at Whoop-Up.

Near perfect weather helped produce one more incredible Whoop-Up for the Lions Club.

Paul Carroll, a 2004 CHS graduate was doing intern work in the county attorney office of MaryAnn Ries.

The city moved to adopt sewer rate increases and Roland Thompson celebrated his 100th birthday at the ECU unit of the Pondera Medical Center.

Dianna Zempel, a 2004 CHS graduate, is now a graduate with the Class of 2008 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. She received a BS degree in Quantitative Economics. She took a commission as a Marine Corps officer.

The Town of Valier was kicking off celebrations for their town centennial.

Over 40 young golfers headed up by golf coaches Kim Hofstad and Julie Orcutt were making their rounds at the Pondera Golf Club. Helping out were Rhett Orcutt, Nathan Gage, and Kyle Ellis. Jim Vollrath, Tom Billings, Howard Bouma and Buck Traxler won the annual PMC golf tournament at the Pondera Golf Club.

The City of Conrad is going to get “stimulus” money for the wastewater treatment plant.


37_6069COLLISION  — On Dec. 30, at 1 p.m., a BNSF local that provides service between Great Falls and Valier derailed smashing into the Columbia Grain elevator.  The train was picking up loaded grain cars when, due to ice, the wheels of the lead car derailed and ran into the elevator.  There were no injuries or track damage.  I-O Photo by Adam Jerome



JULY: The Conrad Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for Cravings llc.  Cravings is owned by Mitch Hauer and Shari Gianarelli.

The Tri-County Cardinals were in the midst of a seven-game winning streak.

Conrad was unable to defend their Rider Cup trophy as the golfers from Shelby took the title back.

Melissa Barringer won high point honors at the Conrad Swim Meet where she took home three first places and a new pool record in the 100m Breast with a time of 1:22.58.

PMC and the Union continued to negotiate without much success.

There was some vandalism with fireworks done to the men’s restroom at the concession stand at the ball park.

Alicia Wood traveled to Billings to participate in the Mrs. Montana pageant.

Stockman Bank donated $10,000 to the Conrad Community Education Fund.  The monies were used to purchase new scoreboards for the football field and the new gym.

Llew Jones, House of Representatives District 27, was named one of the “Champion of Business” award recipients.

The Marias Fair opened on July 16 where many local 4-H kids tested their talents.

Five generations of family gathered for Betty Hofland’s 90th birthday.

Montana Change That Works was back in Conrad on an 11 town, 23 day tour in an ambulance to promote health care reform.

Long awaited Joe’s Family Steak House finally opened after a two year wait.

3 Rivers Communication was named as the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce 2009 Business of the Year.

The Tri-County Cardinals, as a four seed, cruised undefeated to their first Northern A District Championship in team history.  The team is coached by Tyler Bucklin and Tyson Anderson.

Jayleen Harris took four animals to the fair and placed at the top of her class in all four.

AUGUST: Mike Lytle of Mike’s Muffler won first place in the demolition derby with a 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis.

The town of Dupuyer held their annual Grizzly Day with a parade and other activities.

Erin Gernaat was chosen as one of seven MSU students to intern in local Extension offices.

The Conrad Swim Team swam to a second place finish at the State tournament in Roundup.  Melissa Barringer ended her run as a three time State champ in the Breast Stroke.

The Tri-County Cardinals magical season came to an end at the State tournament in Three Forks.  The Cards won their first game against Gallatin Valley before being bounced with two losses.

The team of Lane Judisch, Ryan Eisenzimer, Brandon Coryell and Jon Coryell won the annual Conrad Farm and Ranch Tournament at the Pondera Golf Course.

Larry Martin won the Horseshoe Tournament also held at the Pondera Golf Course.

The City of Conrad held their first National Night Out event.  The theme was “America’s Night out against Crime.”

Karlyn Zimbleman traveled to New Delhi for a hip replacement.

Chief Master Sgt. Jayne K. Hewett was named Command Chief at the Montana Air National Guard.

The Rocky Mountain Riders Club hosted their first HCMA moto-cross race at their new track.

Conrad Alderman Gary Brown resigned from the City Council after he moved outside of the city limits.

Craig Dyer had the EPA look into some of his cattle deaths which he thought was due to radiation poisoning in the cattle’s water source.  It was later determined that the contaminated water did not play a part in the cattle deaths.

Tillie Matthys was named Conrad Senior of the Year.

Harvest was in full swing ending with one of the most prosperous seasons in recent memory.

Karla Breeding was appointed to fill the vacant Alderman seat on the City Council.

The Pondera County Recycling Coalition hosted a Recycling Roundtable.  Dusti Johnson from the DEQ gave a presentation to over 25 community members interested in recycling as a business or as a hobby.

SEPTEMBER: A public hearing was held to discuss the county funding of the Conrad and Valier public libraries.

Judy Larson took over the reigns as manager of the Conrad Chamber of Commerce.

Ray Mayers was awarded the Pilgrim of Merit Moose award.  The award is the highest award in the Moose fraternity.

The Super Dollar Store closed up shop after eight years of being in business.

The Conrad Museum opened a Brother Van exhibit thanks to a generous loan of items from the Brother Van Experience Committee.

PMC began accepting new patients for their sleep study program.

The Conrad Community Education Fund received a $1,841 donation from Gary and Leo’s IGA.  The money was received during the Roundup for Education fundraiser.

The Lutheran Church welcomed a new pastor to their congregation, Pastor Michael Sculley.

Carey Monahan started a hugely successful paper recycling initiative in the Conrad Public Schools.  The paper recycling was later opened up to the public and has saved over 6,000 pounds of paper products from the landfill.

The Pondera County Extension Office in conjunction with the Pondera County Recycling Coalition held a pesticide disposal program that collected over 2,900 pounds of unwanted chemicals.

Nick Hofstad and Scott Newmiller won the Member-Guest tournament at the Pondera Golf Club.

Jennifer Orcutt participated in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour national Championship.

Construction on the Montana-Alberta Tie Line began with over $1 million in tax benefits coming to Pondera County during the projects construction.

OCTOBER: Conrad celebrated its 100th birthday with a celebration over the Harvest Festival weekend.  Highlights included the restoration of the town clock, a Celebration of Ages parade, and a special concert with Wylie and the Wild West Show also featuring Erik “Fingers’ Ray to open the new high school gym.

Mark Jones, CEO of PMC won the right to “Kiss the Pig” during the Harvest Festival contest

The Independent-Observer put out a Centennial Edition with stories including the last 100 years of Conrad history.

The Pondera County Recycling Coalition held the Centennial Aluminum Drive and collected close to 800 pounds of aluminum and tin.

The Orpheum Theatre got a new marquee complete with a story board.

Brandon Philipps and Jayleen Harris were named Homecoming King and Queen.

The Cowgirl Volleyball team opened the new gym with a win over second ranked Cut Bank during Homecoming.

The I-O’s own Barb Endler placed first in the Best Single Ad category at the Montana Better Newspaper Contest.

The Rocky Mountain Riders received an award from the HCMA for Track of the Year.  The award allows the group to select which race they host next year.

Kokoro Ito made a stop in Conrad as he bikes around the world.

H1N1 finally arrived in Conrad with several cases being confirmed by the Pondera County Health Department.

Janie McFarland, business teacher at Conrad High School was selected as the Montana Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year.

NOVEMBER: The Conrad Chamber of Commerce changed the format of the Christmas Stroll from Friday evening to all day on Saturday.

The Pondera Players and Pondera Arts Council put on Hot Flash, a musical comedy by Phyllis Ann Philipps.

The Cowgirl Volleyball squad entered the District Tournament as the two seed but fell to Cut Bank, eliminating their chance at State.

Mayor John Shevlin won a write-in vote to be elected to his second term.

World War II veteran Harry Arvidson was part of a nation-wide PBS TV WWII documentary, which will air in May of 2010.

Cindy Habets Peterson began writing a travel column for the I-O after Habets and her husband have spent the year traveling abroad.

Peggy Munson retired from the Pondera Medical Center after 32 years of service.

Dr. Shawn Nesbo harvested one of less than 100 wolves killed in Montana’s first wolf season.

John McFarland was presented the Outstanding Friend of 4-H award.

Shannalee Finlayson, Cooper Dailey and Trevor VandenBos were the winners of the Kids Karaoke for Cancer Foundation contest.

George and Betty Ellingson celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary.

DECEMBER: While the Conrad Cowboy football team missed the playoffs there were still plenty of accolades to go around.  Josiah Moerkerke was named to the All-State team and set school records for most touchdown passes in a game (7) and most completions in a season (111).  Nate Gage was named second-team All Conference and set records for most receptions in a season with 52 and the season touchdown reception mark with 11.  Paul O’Brien was named first-team All Conference and Joe Ries was named to the second-team All Conference list.

The Christmas Stroll was held on a Saturday during one of the worst winter storms of the season.  Even with the poor weather people braved the elements and had an overall good time.

Area Lutheran Churches began to consider leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America with a final vote scheduled for January of next year.

The Brady/Dutton Land Transfer issue began to heat up with a public hearing scheduled for Jan. 5 of next year.  If the transfer goes through, taxable land in the old Brady School District will become part of the Conrad District.

Paul Lindberg was interviewed in an article on Beer Brewing by the MSU News Service.

Meadowlark and Prairie View students donated over 1,200 pounds of food items to the Food Pantry.

The Cowboy and Cowgirl basketball teams opened up play in the Corral with wins over Cascade.

Editor’s Note: The I-O staff hopes your new year will be prosperous and joyous as we continue to bring you the news from around the community