Harriet M. Hunthausen passed away on Mother’s Day and Ascension Sunday, May 8, 2016, just 3 weeks shy of her 90th birthday, surrounded by her 9 children and loving husband. She was born in Anaconda, MT on June 1, 1926, the youngest of seven children of William Herbert and Mary Margaret (Wegreen) Wetherill. She was born at home, delivered by her sister Annie, who was 15 years old at the time. She was left an orphan at 8 years old when her mother died, and she went to live in an orphanage in Butte. For most of high school she lived with her sister Annie and family, in Anaconda.
Harriet met Tony Hunthausen while skating at the Anaconda Commons, on the day that she won the girls’ speed skating competition. She was in the 6th grade and he was in the 7th. They dated some in high school, and it mostly consisted of him walking her home after her shift as an usher at the Washoe movie theater. Besides thinking she was very cute, he knew she was afraid of the dark, and she was appreciative that he did not tease her about this. After high school, Tony joined the Army, and Harriet decided to enter the convent. She had always wanted to be a nurse, and when she was told she had to be a teacher, she decided to respectfully leave the convent, and entered nursing school in Helena at St. John’s Hospital and Carroll College. When Tony came back from WWII, he started college at MSU in Bozeman. When he learned that Harriet was in nursing school in Helena, instead of taking his usual bus route from Bozeman directly to Anaconda, he took a detour to go through Helena, and the rest is history. Harriet graduated from nursing school in the spring of 1949, and she and Tony were married. This September 10th would have been their 67th wedding anniversary.
Although Harriet loved the profession of nursing, and recited the 'Nurses’ Prayer' from memory, her life’s work was to raise her 9 children in a loving environment. She was ever-present and always available to her children. She was the first one up in the morning and last one to bed at night. She was a whole person, as she could be as silly and zany as anyone with her songs, dancing, jokes, and laughter, as well as serious and solemn (as with her prayer) and everything in between. Mostly, she just loved to serve others and she wanted you to feel welcome, understood, and loved. In 2009 she was awarded Carroll College’s Distinguished Alumni Award for her support of Carroll, and specifically the Carroll nursing program.
Harriet was a person of exceptional faith. Most of us don't particularly welcome others approaching us about what we consider to be private matters of faith. But Harriet had a disarming way of inviting you into conversations that left you seeking the spiritual realms of your life more deeply. She had a close, personal relationship with God.
She was a person of exceptional hope. In spite of the very difficult hand she was dealt in her early life, she exuded hope in her consistent, upbeat demeanor and ever-positive consideration of others’ motives and behavior, always mindful of the circumstances and context, always giving others the benefit of the doubt.
Harriet was a person of exceptional compassion and love. She was always reaching to the margins by befriending and embracing the lonely, shut-ins, the socially awkward, and mentally ill. She figured out how to connect with people that the rest of us are too afraid to approach or incapable of developing a real human relationship with. Her faith, hope and love were all born of a deep prayer life that had its roots in a childhood of adversity that left her an orphan for a good part of her early years. To find her way through such challenging circumstances that often break others down, she committed to her faith and found it to be an immense source of inspiration, strength and joy. From these humble beginnings she became as powerful a life force as we’ve ever known and most of us ever will.
Her children were the light of her life and she let us know it to the end. Always full of praise for each of us, always building us up and letting us know we were special. Even when she wasn't able to remember who we were toward the end, she would cradle our face in her hands and tell us how handsome or beautiful we were and what wonderful gifts we have to offer. When you have a mom like that you're whole life, you come to appreciate how special it is and how beautifully it equips you for this life.
Harriet was a faithful member of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic parish for 56 years, and served in many capacities. She lived the gospel, and had a special ability to minister to those most vulnerable. She visited people who were somehow in need, or just someone who had been on her mind, and took them her homemade caramels. She also was a prolific note and card writer up until the last 2-3 years, as her vision failed. Not only did she write to her children, loved ones, and people of the parish, she often wrote to people she didn’t know, but whom she read about in the paper, or heard a story that touched her, and she wanted to offer encouragement. Her delicious caramels were known far and wide, as she offered them to those who visited her home, were going through a difficult time, or served her in any way. Every day she would strive to love others unconditionally, regardless of who they were, or their station in life, and offering her caramels often opened the door for others to let her love them. We called it her Caramel Ministry. Many, many people can say that they know they were one of Harriet’s 'loved ones'.
She was preceded in death by her parents, brothers Alfred, Harold, and Ernie; sisters Irene, Annie, Elsie; nephews Harold and Robert, niece Evelyn, and several other nieces and nephews. She was also preceded in death by her parents-in-law Tony and Edna, brothers-in law Art, Pat, John, sister-in-law Donna, son-in-law Ken, as well as several nieces and nephews. Harriet had many wonderful friends who have gone before her and many still here on earth.
Harriet is survived by her husband Tony, and nine children, Tony (Jan), Kathleen, Bill (Maureen), Mary (Dean), Denny (Michelle), Paula, Andy (Pam), John (Amy), and Dan (Keeley). She is also survived by 25 grandchildren: Scott (Clara), Drew, Chelsea, Ryan, Katie, LeTisha (Simon), Deanne, Will, Sarah (Luke), Julie, John, Hannah, Andy, Seth, Noah, Kris (Janet), Derek (Laura), Amanda, Max, Ben, Allie, Dutchie, Cassidy, Luther, and Klara; and 10 great-grandchildren: Jackson, Oliver, Gracie, Sylas, Lucy, Henry, Matthew, Paul, Tristan, and Emily. She is also survived by her sister Narlene, niece Harriet, nephews John and Kaare Lee, and many extended members of the Wetherill family. She is also survived by brothers-in-law Dutch/Raymond, Jack/John, and sisters-in-law Marie, Edna, and Jeanne, and many beloved members of the Hunthausen, Walsh, and Stergar families.
Anderson Stevenson Wilke funeral home is in charge of arrangements. Harriet’s funeral Mass will be held at the Cathedral of St. Helena on July 8, 2016. This is to allow for her large family to make travel arrangements. Following the funeral Mass, there will be a reception at Brondel Hall in the Cathedral, followed by burial in St. Ann’s Cemetery in East Helena. Donations can be made to the Carroll College Nursing Program in Harriet’s name.
Harriet’s family would like to thank St. Peter’s Hospice, and all of the wonderful health care providers she had over the years. We would also like to thank all of the priests, staff, and faithful members of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic parish over the years. Mom, although we miss you terribly, we know where you are, and we’ll always remember where we’re coming from. Thank you for living your life as an exceptional Christ-like example. “Love each other, forgive each other, and take care of each other. Bless, bless, bless.”
Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer the family a condolence or to share a memory of Harriet.