By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre Area Chamber of Commerce past president Chuck Wimmer paused Wednesday while listing the accomplishments of the new North Star award winner - including promoting local history, curating the H. Earl Clack Museum, serving as a Hill County commissioner and state representative - to ask, "You guys getting an idea who this is?"
The crowd answered, "Yes."
The chamber presented its top honor to Antoinette "Toni" Hagener during its 96th annual meeting.
Hagener downplayed her contributions.
"I hope you regard me as a symbol of all those people who have worked so hard through the years to bring tourists here to see all the wonderful things we have," she said.
Hagener also has received the Montana Historical Society Award, the Governor's Humanities Award and the Montana Tourism Advisory Council's Award.
Hagener became involved in promoting the area almost as soon as she moved here in 1949 with her husband, Louis "Lou" Hagener, when he started teaching science at Northern Montana College, now Montana State University-Northern.
Moving from the tourism-savvy area of Colorado Springs, Colo., to Havre, Hagener recognized a need and started working to promote tourism here.
She became the first curator of the Clack Museum in 1964 and held that job until she was elected to the Hill County Commission in 1980, and continued to promote the museum and other local tourist attractions in that position.
Later, when she was a legislator, she sponsored legislation to create the Old Forts Trail that linked Fort Benton, Fort Assinniboine and Fort Walsh in Canada.
She has held many positions in tourism organizations, including president of the Montana Museum Association, and membership with the Montana Institute of the Arts, the Eastern Montana Historical Society, the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee, the Fort Assinniboine Preservation Association and the Havre Historical Preservation Society.
The North Star award, first given in 1994 by the Havre chamber, is intended to recognize people who have "demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to the community through personal and professional achievements and contributions."
Winners have included Frank DeRosa, Norm Gorder, Fran Buell, Tom Farnham, Dave and Judy Greenwood, Bob Rice, Phyllis Leonard and Tom Patrick.