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Charles Wilbur Hornbacher

| September 22, 2021 8:20 AM

On Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, Charles Wilbur Hornbacher, died at home after enjoying a last visit with his wife Norma and daughter Stephanie. Chuck, a builder, a dreamer, an armchair philosopher, and a curmudgeon with a big heart, was born in Rogers City, Michigan on Feb. 22, 1942 and was raised by his aunt and uncle and special cousins whom he loved like siblings. He also loved his sister, Jean Toth.

As a young man, he served in the Air Force and worked construction in Michigan. There he stole the heart of his lifelong love, Norma Bergstrom. They married on June 21, 1969. Daughter Stephanie Rae – the true light of his life – was born in June, 1970. Not long after Stephanie’s birth, Chuck saw a photo of Montana and decided to move his family sight unseen straight to Columbia Falls.

That was his last bout of wanderlust – for the rest of his life Chuck didn’t stray far from the Flathead Valley. Instead, as a talented craftsman and with his creative mind, he wandered through hobbies, ideas and schemes, ranging from algae farming to metalsmithing to making wooden toys, musical instruments and ornaments. He also loved to putter on his property, maintaining an abundant garden and compost pile (he was proud of his worms), working in his shop and sitting around the woodstove telling stories. Chuck spent his long career building many beautiful homes in the Flathead Valley, including his own.

Other routines that shaped Chuck’s days included slow drives on country back roads, reading, listening to the radio and old country or folk music, coffee stops at Western Building, and watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and playing Rummikub every night with Norma. His greatest joy was spending time with family and close friends, especially kids, starting with his daughter Stephanie and later, granddaughter Madison Rose Gordon. Chuck attended all of daughter Stephanie’s games and events when she was young, from barrel races to basketball. He showed the same love and dedication for his granddaughter Madison finding delight in everything she did. As his brother-in-law Lance said, Chuck was his own man, who didn’t want or need a lot of input, which is why he especially liked younger people, who did not offer any. 

Chuck would want you to know that he doesn’t want you to fuss over his death, but his family left behind will greatly miss his tough, independent spirit. They include wife Norma, daughter Stephanie Gordon, son-in-law Steven Gordon and granddaughter Madison Gordon of Whitefish; all the many members of the Bergstrom family including his first Montana relatives, Norma’s sister Lois Schelvan and her family; his Michigan relatives who he left at an early age but never forgot; and the family of Jolene and Tim Gibbs, who became like his own through their many Easter and Christmas gatherings. His family gives many thanks to the special neighbors on Elk Park Road and in the Deer Park area, Carmen Hemmer, and other wonderful family friends who looked out for Chuck in his last months. We wish him well as he “heads down the pike” one last time.

In keeping with Chuck’s wishes, no memorial service is planned. If you would like to honor Chuck’s memory, grow some juicy tomatoes in your garden or donate to your local food bank. You can share condolences with Stephanie Gordon at P.O. Box 1418, Whitefish MT 59937 or Norma Hornbacher c/o Beehive Assisted Living 1660 13th Street West, Columbia Falls, MT 59912.

Columbia Mortuary in Columbia Falls is caring for the family.