Sad news on the North Fork this week as we were informed of the unexpected death of Tom Sliuter.
The Sluiters, Tom and Jenny, have been long-time North Fork landowners. While Tom was teaching school, of course, they were part timers and concentrated on building a home for retirement. Sadly, the first home they built was one of those lost in the Red Bench Fire.
Undeterred, they rebuilt and became year-round residents until age and declining health caused them to move to Columbia Falls. Tom is survived by his wife, Jenny, and a daughter, Kirsten, who now plans to live with her mother in Columbia Falls. A memorial will be held on June 21st at Sondresson Hall at 1 p.m.
Their story is a pretty normal scenario. Among the early homesteaders, if the husband died, the wife often sold out and moved. Surviving husbands sometimes stayed and often remarried. Billy Adair comes to mind. After his wife died, he married his deceased partner’s wife and they remained on the North Fork.
In more recent times, when folks felt the rigors of the North Fork were more than they could handle, they moved to town in the winter and became summer residents. The lucky ones were those who had children who lived in the area to enjoy the North Fork and picked up the heavy chores of living here and still keep the property in the family.
I now spend winters in town with occasional winter visits to the North Fork. The same is true of Don and Sue Sullivan and Duke and Naomi Hoiland as well as Lee Downes. This way, we can still visit almost as if we were on the North Fork and we all enjoy visits from North Forkers who are still residents year-round. In fact, we all advertise free coffee to encourage those visits.
My most frequent visitors are Chris and Irv Heitz and Bill and Lois Walker, but the free coffee offer is open to all North Forkers. I hate to admit it, but I also welcome the emails of and the increasing number of phone calls from the North Fork now that satellite connections make that possible.
Most of all, I am discouraged by the federal government, and its disregard for all citizens. I think both parties stink and will no doubt devote next week’s column to their stupidity if this so-called shutdown continues. So be prepared. Next week I will deliver my biased view of our current political system on the federal level and maybe even some on the state level.
In the meantime, enjoy the snow and cold, stay warm and enjoy our magnificent scenery.
Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.