During a visit at the Libby Care Center of Cascadia with her mom this past week, Wutsie Nelson brought Bertha Fanning a new sweatshirt. “I had brought her a pink one with kittens on it and she wore it out! So I figured I would bring her the
blue one since she loves them so much. (Courtesy Photo)
Bertha Fanning of Libby celebrates 102 years
of life and surviving COVID—all in one summer
by Stacy Bender
Bertha J. Fanning was born on
June 8, 1919. Bound and determined to outlive her mom (who passed away in her 80s) she has far exceeded that goal
in life. Raised with eleven siblings, she became the sole centenarian of her
family in 2019.
Bertha and her husband, Joe, moved to Libby from Havre in 1948. Just shy of a decade later, they then moved to Troy in 1957, It was Bertha, Joe, and their son, “Little” Joe, Jr. who would come local
celebrities and identified as the “entire
population of 3—in Little Joe, Montana.” Some may recall the family and their homestead being referenced on the
Comedy/Variety TV Show, “Hee Haw.”
It was in that area on Hwy 37 that Bertha would reside until just seven years ago. “Mom had fallen and the doctor had shared that it might be time to consider an assisted living facility,” recalled Wutsie Nelson, one of
Fanning’s five children. “Well, then you try and
convince her, I had told the doctor.”
Indeed, persuasion prevailed, and Bertha has now been residing at the Libby Care Center of Cascadia since. Wutsie soon followed—though not as a resident, but a volunteer. Able to connect with not only her mom, but the friend’s her mom has made and
the staff who have come to care for her mom and her mom’s “neighbors” on a daily basis.
“She’s spunky!” shared Donna Williams,
Admissions Coodinator at the care center of Fanning. “Our staff will tell you she loves to visit with people, especially when it’s to reminisce about her family. She has a wonderful sense of humor, is energetic, sweet, and nothing seems to slow her down. One member of our staff also pointed out how she has always made sure that everyone gets to bed on time!”
Perhaps it was that routine, sprinkled with spunk of course, which helped her to pull through when Bertha had contracted COVID-19 this past summer? Though she had gotten her vaccine the moment they were available—both doses.
Now recovered, she is back to cruising along at 102-years old in true Bertha fashion—albeit in her wheelchair now.
“She still knows me,” shared Wutsie. “I’ll lift my mask for a moment when we get to the conference room for a visit. She smiles. There are lots of ‘I love yous’ and hugs.”
“I know a big piece of my mom’s success story is the connection she has made with so many here at the Care Center,” Wutsie added. “It took me awhile to get comfortable as a volunteer, but with time I have discovered that there are so many with no comfort and no human contact. It can be challenging to walk away at times. I often wonder what I could say to
encourage others to consider volunteering—when that opportunity is again an option for us, of course. Once the pandemic has passed.”
Wutsie’s compassion seems clearly a trait she has inherited from her mother. Bertha has also become known throughout the halls of the care center as one who can always cheer another up—be it her “neighbor” or even the staff.
With 130 grandkids spanning five generations, it’s likely fair to say she has had plenty of practice?
Though times have changed, indeed. Visitation with her family not currently a ready option. Yet the care center has found ways to help Bertha and all those residing there to “adjust.”
“We do facilitate scheduled visitations indoors,” shared Williams. “And as the waning weather
permits, our courtyard is also available for visits with due notice so that we can have staff available to assist our residents both outside and back into the facility.”
Phone calls, video chats, letters, balloons and flowers for special occasions, an outgoing newsletter to keep families abreast of what has been happening here in the halls…. it has been a challenge and both residents and staff alike eagerly look forward to the day when this “new norm” has expired.
To look forward to… church services, painting nails, arts and crafts, special performances.
For now—Wutsie shared she will continue
reading to her mom—often from her mom’s Bible as they have done for so many years. It’s pages now worn and scotch-taped back together.
Or perhaps a new “pen pal” note will arrive?
All are welcomed to congratulate Wutsie on her
recovery and send her a belated birthday with through snail mail if they so wish.
And then further encouraged to send a note to those “neighbors” Bertha enjoys, too!
Those interested in making a connection may
contact Liz Carmignani, Activities Director at the
Libby Care Center of Cascadia, 406-293-6285, or by email email@example.com.
Yaak Wings Walkers
to set their stride
on Yaak River Road
Saturday, October 2
by Stacy Bender
To date, the Annual Yaak Wings Walk has raised over $95,000 for Wings Regional Cancer Support, a non-profit cancer organization which helps to defray out-of-pocket expenses such as housing, transportation, and meals associated with cancer treatment for those in NW Montana.
“Some aim for that 30-mile victory smack, yet
others choose a less strenuous goal in full support of the cause,” shared Roberta Deneau while discussing the last year’s Yaak Wings Walk.
“This year I expect nothing less,” she shared
this past weekend. “While navigating any distance,
all are invited to have some fun and give their
Halloween costumes a dry run for Wings Regional Cancer Support, too!”
Pushed back from September to October this year, organizers had considered the pandemic at play and how it might affect the 8th Annual Wings Walk..
Participants this year can expect the same “pandemic protocol.” All are asked to please plan for walking both from and back to the starting line at the Yaak Rod & Gun Club.
Emergency sag wagons will be cruising the route, but please note they are there to help only in the event of an actual emergency.
Some may wish to plan for their own pick-up along the route at a specific time of the day. Others may choose to gauge their distance and walk the course downhill, keeping in mind there will be an
Either way, all are informed to be bear aware—our wild neighbors are active this year! Dress in
layers and come prepared to walk as far as your little legs will take you.
Our sag wagons will have hydration on board for all participants—sports drinks donated by Rosauers of Libby and water donated by Steins of Troy.
Pledge forms for this year’s walk can be obtained by contact Roberta at 406-295-7328 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2021 Yaak Wings Walk will depart from the Yaak Rod & Gun Club, located at 29000 Yaak River Road on this Saturday, October 2 at 9:00 a.m.
“As always, we’re never really sure what to expect each year. But again this year, we understand some may be rightfully cautious and choose not to attend.”
“But one thing is certain—we are consistently blown away by the generosity of those who sponsor our walkers and in turn tick that grand total over the years up just a few more notches.”
Will you be helping to push the Walkers’ grand tally over the $100K mark this year?
The temperatures are cooling down, the colors are changing along the banks of the Yaak River, and this year might possibly be the best time to strike a stride and feel good about doing it!
To learn more about the Yaak Wings
Walkers, visit them online at:
To learn more about Wings Regional Cancer
Support, please visit facebook.com/LincolnCountyWings
Not interested in walking? That’s ok. Simply reach out and the team will match you up as a pledge donor for one of our walkers!