That Saturday in mid-August 1919 was warm. It was almost always that way in the high plains of north central Montana south of Malta and the almost non-existent soft wind from the Little Rockies to the west offered little relief. It was a settlement called Regina and is gone. Elisha Walter and Carrie Lenora Amburs were homesteading there. They came from Wichita where Elisha, who preferred to be called Jake instead of his given name after a self-conscious bald man, had a horse-trading business. They had tried homesteading in Canada, but it was too wet to farm and there were too many mountains for a man from Kansas. The dry land suited the Amburs’ sheep business but rivers and creeks were rare, and hand dug wells were relied on.
There was excitement in the family on the 16th. The children knew it was a birth day and if it was a girl, she would be named Bertha. Bertha Frances Amburs. She was the 8th of what would be 10 children. All helped with the farm, but economics and independence caused most of them to leave in their teens. The girls would marry, and the boys would go to the larger cities, the mines of Idaho, or the military. The 9th and 10th children, both boys, were cared for by Bertha and were her favorites. John would go to the Army and in October 1944, as a private, he joined his 45th Infantry band of brothers at the Epinal military cemetery near Dinoze, France. Herb would go to the Air Force and then pass in April 1949 as he ran into a burning building at Ladd Field near Fairbanks, AK trying to save those who were trapped.
Like her sisters, Bertha left the farm young; at 13 she went to live in Malta, MT. She was on her own and put herself through high school; her inner strength lasted her lifetime. Working at the local restaurant she roomed with her best friend Mugs. Mugs called Bertha “Bobby” because it was cool.
After graduation in 1938, Bertha met and married Charles Koon and they moved to Great Falls, Montana. They were to begin a family and to partner in a family business. Over the years the two worked together to own and operate 3 businesses; a neighborhood grocery store and two motels. Hard work and respect for each other defined their business and family success. The patrons were loyal and enjoyed the attention paid to them.
Charles passed in 1959 and Bertha carried on along seeing her children, Sherry, Bill, and Jim, through high school and college. She married another Koon boy, Russell, and they managed their motel together until retirement in 1975. Russ gardened and grew the best gladiolas while Bertha dove into county extension classes, cooking, quilting, needlepoint and art. She discovered peanut butter and jelly on a pancake and learned to swim at 65. It was a proud achievement considering her first lesson at 7 was being tossed into a pond by her brother.
In 1992 Bertha and Russ moved to Spokane, and Russ passed in December 1993.
She is survived by her children, Sherry Little and Jim Koon. Grandkids Leslie and her husband Steve, Scott Little and his wife Jamie, daughter in law Diana Koon and her children Dana, and Chad Koon and wife Angie. Russ’ daughter in law, Joan, and her family live in Polson, MT and Russ’ son and family, Jerry, live in Sun River, OR.
Bertha loved life and all it had to offer. In every situation she could be counted on to offer thanks and gratitude. We are grateful for every precious moment with her.
Bertha slipped away from us, Sunday December 1, 2019
She was beautiful.
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