Monday, April 12, 2021

A. Irene Knutson Barnhart, 94

| April 4, 2021 12:00 AM

Our beloved mother and grandmother, Irene, passed into the loving hands of the Lord on March 30, 2021, at the age of 94. She passed peacefully in her sleep at the Montana Veterans Home.

Irene was born in Hannaford, North Dakota on May 6, 1926, into the family of Stark and Serina Knutson, immigrants from Norway. She was one of seven children, brought up on a North Dakota farm during the Great Depression.

The family moved to Montana in 1940 in order for Stark to find work at the smelter in Anaconda. Irene moved to Columbia Falls in 1946 to live with her sister Edith Schulte. She met Raymond, the best dancer around, and they married in 1949. Irene and Ray had two sons, Donald and Duane. Ray and Irene started B & F Excavating in 1955 with Fred Fowler.

Always one to enjoy life to its fullest, Irene and Ray spent 37 years working hard but always finding time for a dance. She spent much of her time volunteering for the VFW Auxiliary, handing out poppies every Veteran’s Day. Irene enjoyed traveling, visiting relatives from Oregon to Norway. When home, she was often found in the kitchen, whipping up a batch of her famous potato salad, “Grandma buns,” Norwegian potato dumplings (kumle), or a six-layer red velvet cake. She enjoyed chatting with friends and family over a hot cup of coffee any time of day. In 1986, Ray passed unexpectedly. Irene lived on her own until she suffered a broken hip which left her wheelchair bound for the rest of her days.

Irene was the last of her family to pass and will be greatly missed. She was one tough Norwegian through all her trials, and passed her tenacity and work ethic to members of her family.

Irene was preceded in death by her parents; husband Ray; sisters Edith Schulte Mason, Olga Knutson; and brothers Knute Knutson, Arthur Knutson, Leonard Knutson and Stewart Knutson.

She is survived by her sons, Don (Barb) of Columbia Falls and Duane (Robin) of Spokane, Washington; grandchildren Carrie (Trevor) Gnauck, Dawn Barnhart, Michael Barnhart, and Molly Barnhart; great-grandchildren Lily and Simon Gnauck; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Thank you to the wonderful staff at the Montana Veterans Home for their loving care at the twilight of her life.

Services will be held on April 7 at 11 a.m. at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Columbia Falls.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Columbia Falls Fire Department or Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

Columbia Mortuary in Columbia Falls is caring for Irene’s family.