There was more to First Night than looking forward to a new year. The celebration was also host to the start Missoula 150, a yearlong project commemorating a century and a half of history in the Garden City.
As part of the kickoff event, the committee organizing Missoula 150 searched for a man and woman who exemplified the best of the city.
Kristina Swanson, coordinator of Missoula 150 and development director of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, said the decision ended up being an easy one.
Tomme Lu Worden and Ty Robinson were named Ms. and Mr. Missoula at a ceremony at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday afternoon.
Born in Deer Lodge, Worden made her business name in Missoula in marketing and real estate, but forged an even larger reputation for her community service, particularly in history and historic preservation, helping to save buildings like the Prescott House on the University of Montana campus.
Worden also bought and repaired the original Pine Street house of Missoula founder Francis Worden, her late husband’s grandfather. Each fall, during the “Stories and Stones” reenactment event at the city cemetery, Worden talks to the public about the history of the influential Missoula founder.
Robinson was born in Columbia Falls and nicknamed Ty after his father’s favorite baseball player, Ty Cobb.
After graduating high school, he played basketball for the University of Montana, and in 1943 joined the Navy. Robinson was assigned to intelligence at Pearl Harbor, working alongside the teams that broke the Japanese code during World War II.
When he returned from the war, Robinson graduated from UM’s School of Law before working as legal counsel for the Missoula Mercantile Company and eventually becoming a partner at the law firm Garlington, Lohn and Robinson.
Tate Jones from the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History introduced Robinson to the crowd, saying that, among his many other accomplishments, he was instrumental in the early years of Community Medical Center’s building near Fort Missoula and served on the board of the hospital’s foundation.
“He has worked to enrich Missoula’s life far into the future,” Jones said.
Robinson said in accepting the award, he shared it with all of the volunteers he has worked alongside on projects around Missoula, saying their motivation was the same as his.
“I want to thank you for bringing attention to what volunteers can and must do,” he said.
For every person who is recognized for their work, many go unnamed and unappreciated, Worden said.
“I think the honor today should go to so many men and women who are faceless to us,” she said.
Worden said helping out the community is something she has felt a drive to continue to do.
“I was raised with a family that volunteers,” she said. “And this community, they’ve taken me in as though I was one of their own.”
The start of the Missoula 150 commemoration also featured historical displays from historical organizations like Travelers’ Rest State Park and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula.
Kristjana Eyjolfsson, the museum’s director of education, had a series of implements spread out on the table, and invited visitors to step up and guess what each of them had been used for.
Most could identify the flour sifter, antique camera and strap-on ice skates, but were stumped by a half circle of metal on a short handle. Eyjolfsson said when she found it she had also been unable to identify what it was for, and posted a photo on social media asking for help.
An equestrian friend helped her find the answer. She had a similar modern tool made of plastic, which is used to scrape the sweat off of horses.
“Most people over the age of 30 get about 75 percent of these names right,” she said.
Swanson said future events in the Missoula 150 commemoration include winter storytelling sessions at Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, roundtable discussions about the lumber industry history in Bonner, and a culminating celebration during the annual Fourth of July event at Fort Missoula.
Although 1864 was the start of what would grow into Missoula, Swanson said Missoula 150 is about a celebration of the history of the city, while remembering that people lived in the area long before the mill site went up along Clark Fork near present-day Caras Park.
“We do recognize what we're commemorating is the growth of Missoula as a community,” she said.