Fond memories and misspoken words at Missoula City Council

Ethel MacDonald, a general activist and gal about town, speaks at the grand opening of the Missoula Art Park last week in downtown Missoula. According to Ward 1 Missoula City Council member Bryan von Lossberg, MacDonald is heading off to France to do more bicycling. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

In less than a whirlwind that harkened back to a lighter time, the Missoula City Council on Monday night approved a number of items agreed to during last week’s committee meetings before embarking on thoughts and fond commemorations.

With nothing of weight on the agenda for the regular session, which lasted less than a dozen minutes – setting a possible record for brevity in this otherwise bustling city – council members honored the passing of two well-known Missoula residents, acknowledged the achievements of a local activist, and condemned President Donald Trump for his poor choice of words.

But first things first.

Missoula Mayor John Engen started the session, “General Comments of the City Council,” by noting the passing of Harvey Clouse. Born in 1933, Mr. Clouse passed away at the age of 83 just a few short weeks ago.

“The city of Missoula has done quite a bit of remarkable business with the Clouse family off Mullan Road over the last number of years,” Engen said. “Mr. Clouse – Harvey – passed away now a couple weeks ago.”

Mr. Clouse became a regular face in Missoula by 1938 when, according to the obituary posted by Sunset Funeral Home, he began riding the Intermountain bus from Kalispell to Missoula to spend time with his aunt and uncle.

Mr. Clouse went on to serve in the U.S. Army and U.S. Postal Service before digging graves at Sunset Memorial Gardens. He also ran a feed lot and started the Clouse Trucking Company, transporting animals, include bison.

“We wanted to acknowledge his passing and the great partner he and his wife have been in our efforts to grow poplars and expand open space,” Engen said. “If you have a chance to read his obit, that was a life well lived – a pretty remarkable man.”

In a similar vein, Ward 2 council member Jordan Hess acknowledged the passing of former state Sen. Alexandrine “Sandra” Perrin. Mrs. Perrin passed away at the age of 87 at her home last week.

Hess remembered Mrs. Perrin fondly in his brief commemoration.

“She was known to many in Missoula as an avid gardener, and to me as a very compassionate individual who taught me the love of gardening at the Associated Students of the University of Montana community garden plots when I had a plot there as a student,” Hess said.

“Sandra was a prolific author and wrote a book, ‘Organic Gardening in Colder Climates,’ which was an inspiration.”

According to Amazon, Mrs. Perrin had gardened year-round in Montana, learning to adapt to cold weather. According to the website, “Organic gardening is not only healthy for the body, but also, in Perrin’s words, ‘good for the soul.’”

Taking a different thread, Ward 4 council member Jon Wilkins, a Vietnam combat veteran, took his opportunity to address what he considered a great offense committed by President Donald Trump during a recent Medal of Honor ceremony.

Wilkins was watching the national news when, he said, “one of our good soldiers got the Medal of Honor.” What happened next hurt Wilkins deeply.

“I was watching the president put the ribbon around him and congratulating him,” Wilkins said. “Congratulating him? What did he do? Win a race to see who got the bullet first?”

Wilkins suggested that “Thank you for your service” would have been Trump’s wiser choice of words. There are no congratulations when one wins the Medal of Honor, he added.

“The Medal of Honor – most recipients say it wasn’t just for them, it was for all the people who was with them,” Wilkins said. “This young man, a paraplegic in a wheelchair, all I could see was he looked up at the president and didn’t say anything, but he had this blank expression on his face.”

Ward 1 council member Bryan von Lossberg took his moment in general comments to acknowledge the work of Ethel MacDonald, a vibrant woman who has gained a reputation for the miles she has logged on a bicycle.

But that’s not all MacDonald is known for, von Lossberg said.

“Ethel served on the Open Space Advisory Committee for 15 years, I believe,” von Lossberg said. “She’s an inspiration to many people in the community who did such great work in that committee on behalf of open space.

“She’s headed off to France, I believe on Monday, to go bike – I’m sure – several thousand more miles. I wanted to wish her well and thank her for her service.”

The meeting adjourned at roughly 13 minutes after 7 p.m.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com