By Robert Lucke
The annual community Thanksgiving dinner is a great example of Havre and Hi-Line neighbors getting together to prepare and share a dinner. It has all the trimmings along with entertainment on Thanksgiving Day.
It all started some 18 years ago when an anonymous benefactor and a group of Havreites contacted St. Jude's Altar Society to see if they could use the kitchen for a community Thanksgiving dinner. Then Kelly Stewart entered the picture. She was the president of the Altar Society at the time. She has cooked the longest, some 14 years, along with Linda Rennick, Cindi Murphy and Lita Thisselle.
Stewart talked about the first dinners when Darla Kiedreski and her mother, Ann Frisen, decorated the hall and found entertainment.
Hill County Electric Cooperative employees most years have carved the turkeys, according to Stewart.
And about that anonymous benefactor. Through the years there have been two and they have spent about $2,000 to $3,000 each year for the event.
This year Lita Thisselle was the head cook. It was her first year, but she was as calm as could be.
"I have so much help, that it is really easy to get things done," she said. "Even though my job is basically organizing the whole dinner, I have a wonderful group of co-head cooks and bottle washers to help me."
Thisselle explained who her mainstays were to produce a dinner for more than 500 people, including about 250 plates that were home-delivered.
"Alison Hecker is taking care of the dining room and serving line, and Brian Morse along with the Jaycees are in charge of the home deliveries," she said. "Alan Sorensen was in charge of cleanup. He and his crew are the ones that stay late and get everything back to normal. Kelly Stewart came down Wednesday night to show us how to make dressing for 600 and how to prepare the relish trays, and other volunteers just came from everywhere to help out."
Gary and Leo's IGA has always cooked the turkeys, pies and buns. The Anchor Academy boys helped out as did groups from Havre High School and Montana State University-Northern.
So what would prompt Lita Thisselle to take over this huge undertaking? With a husband, two children, grandson, dog and cat, and full-time job, you'd think she was busy enough.
She describes herself as an Air Force brat, born in Okinawa, who has lived in Havre since she was 2.
"I like Havre. We all go through the stage when we hate this place but I got over that," Thisselle said. "It is a place where there are lots of nice people and it is just a good place to live."
Thisselle has worked at many jobs in Havre.
"When I was really young I worked at restaurants like the A &W, the 4B's, and the Iron Horse. And then I worked as the activity director at the Lutheran Home. These days I take care of a lady in her home," she said.
But it is the volunteer work that keeps Thisselle going.
"I am addicted to community service," she said. "I am not a gambler or a drinker. This is my way of entertaining myself. The Jaycees got me hooked. I was a member for nine years. You age out of that group but community service has been my passion. I help out at the Clack Museum, do child care for the PEO, and the Jaycees still call me to help out with their bigger projects."
Quite a good neighbor Lita Thisselle is. But then so are the scores and scores of other Havre folks who just simply want to provide dinner and entertainment for more than 500 of their neighbors.