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Obituary - Norma Jean King - He Mani Wi, "Mountain Walks"


September 11, 2019

Norma Jean King - He Mani Wi, "Mountain Walks"

HAYS — Norma Jean King — He Mani Wi, “Mountain Walks,” 77, peacefully departed to the Creators home after a lengthy illness with her family by her side in her loving home at the foothills of the Little Rocky Mountains in the community village of Mission in Hays, Montana, Saturday, September 7, 2019.

A Rosary be recited at the St. Pauls Mission Church at 7 p.m., and a wake will follow at the St. Pauls Mission Rec. Center today, Wednesday, September 11, 2019. Funeral services will be held Thursday, September 12, 2019, at 11 a.m. at the “Thunderdome” gymnasium at the Hays-Lodge Pole School in Hays.

Norma was born on March 18, 1942, in Fort Belknap Agency to James W. Gardipee and Clemence M. Doney. She grew up in the “Rock House” near the St. Pauls Mission along the Little Peoples Creek just out of the Mission Canyon in the Little Rocky Mountains. She later moved within the Hays community behind Kerns Store where she worked as a store clerk. Norma attended grade school and high school at St. Pauls Mission in Hays. She was actively involved in most school events and functions and received many rewards for her participation on those various extracurricular activities. She was never afraid to take the lead in many tasks and events and education and her faith was always her passion. Along with her clerk job, she worked with her brother Chris “Tuffy” Gardipee at the St. Pauls Mission Ranch as a ranch and farm hand. Her jobs included caring for livestock, farming the land, driving hay truck and tractor and mechanical work.

In May of 1960, Norma graduated high school and Jan 12, 1963, married the love of her life, Leon King, where they became known as “Duke” and “Gootch,” living and raising their family in Hays. She worked as a clerk for Kerns store until 1969, where she began working as an aide at the old Hays School. It was there where she decided to extend her passion in education, so Norma worked and went to college all at the same time. She enrolled in the first-of-its-kind in the area “distant learning” program called Urban Rural out of the College of Great Falls. The satellite classes were based at the old Hays School Campus in a trailer. In 1975, Norma graduated from College of Great Falls with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She applied at the Hays School and immediately started working as a teacher as she began her long career in education.

Norma was involved in the formulation of the Hays-Lodge Pole School district where began the legacy of the Mighty Thunderbirds. She was avid in assisting or coordinating any extracurricular activities in not only teaching but as a cheerleading adviser, event organizer, class sponsor and many other school related duties in Hays and Lodge Pole. She taught all but two of her children, many grandchildren and great grandchildren. In 1988, Norma earned her master’s degree in education administration from MSU in Bozeman. Norma received many certificates in education and moved from teaching at the elementary level to the junior high and high school levels, eventually working her way up to principal, also in those three levels. She attained working at the highest level as superintendent.

In 2012, Norma semi-retired, dedicating all 43 of her working years to the Hays-Lodge Pole School District. Up to 201,7 she worked as a substitute teacher, a presenter and a religious teacher for the Mission Grade School and the Hays and Lodge Pole schools and as an adjunct professor for the Aaniiih Nakoda College.

In failing health, Norma stayed between her home in Hays and Billings. She stayed active by crafts, sewing and beading.

Norma was a proud cultural member of the Little Shell Metis Tribe and embraced her husband’s Assiniboine culture also. She loved to travel to powwows and would sew and bead regalia for her grandkids. She also crafted many star quilts for giveaways and ceremonial events. She looked forward to the Hays Pow Wow every year and made sure her camp was just right for family to stay. It turned out to be a traditional family event.

Norma was devout to the Creator in many faiths. Although she was raised Catholic, she participated in many congregations and tribal traditional ceremonies. She was led into the church by her mother, Clemence, and followed her lead but making it unique in her own way. Her favorite ceremony was the weekend walk with God called the Cursillo. In 1986, she made her first Cursillo in Fort Belknap Sacred Heart Church. From there, she participated, organized and led many Cursillos in many communities throughout the region. Within years, that fellowship spawned a spiritual moment. A huge family of Sisters in Christ developed and bonded a great loving relationship together. She grew as an icon to the Cursillo and was always there to help guide in spiritual advice or just simple prayers for assurance.

Norma participated or organized many spiritual events. She held many Ultraya’s, prayer meetings, and was always there to fellowship with someone. Many people treasured her advice or example as she dedicated a lot of time to her faith. She loved the Mission Church! She spent many hours keeping the church tidy and on track for each holy season and Mass. Norma helped organize a church delegation of volunteers to modernize and remodel the church. Most done by out-of-pocket expenses, new pews were brought in, the floor was refinished and a hall was built in the basement, later dedicated in her honor. Norma loved not only to give to the church but also to her community. She was a very generous person. She made sure all her kids and grandkids knew of the Creator God and the meaning of prayer, love, and giving. She was a person who thrived on loving and living for God, staying steadfast, never cutting corners but finishing out devoutly.

Surviving are her children Mary and James Kirby (Bridgette) of Billings, Toni and Leona Jo of Harlem, Chantel Blackwolf and Karen (Hawkan) Haakanson of Hays; adopted son Jeremy King, and adopted grandson Clayborn Grant of Hays, Todd (Bailey) Messerly of Lamedeer and Barry Beach of Laurel; adopted daughters Angie (Floyd) McConnell, Ione (Raymond) Snell, Anaya Grant, LaQuenae Gardipee and adopted granddaughter Aleena Walker, her best friend, Carmelita (Mark) Blackcrow, all of Hays; 33 grandchildren; 43 great-grandchildren; and one great-great granddaughter; brother Rodney Gardipee of Eugene, Oregon, and sister Marjorie Seaman of St. Ignatius, Montana; and many nieces and nephews.

Preceding her in death are husband, Leon “Duke” King; son Kelly Gardipee; stepson Scott Plummer; parents, James Gardipee and Clemence Doney; brothers Christopher “Tuffy,” Philip and James Gardipee; sisters Velma Flansburg and Hazel Carter, and grandson A.J. Longsoldier.

Arrangements are made by Wilderness Funeral Home, Chinook.


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