Handful of huckleberries

A backpack stuffed with huckleberries to the United Way of Missoula and the Salvation Army for organizing the third annual Back to School Bash, a massive undertaking aimed at ensuring every student in Missoula starts the new school year off right. More than 1,200 kids took home a backpack full of school supplies, and families were treated to free food and fluoride rinses while they waited in line for fresh haircuts. Thanks to St. Patrick Hospital, 30 children also received free bike helmets to protect their growing brains. Three cheers and gold stars to all the individuals and organizations that gave their time, talents or resources to supporting Missoula’s students.

Chokecherries to District Court Judge Karen Townsend for her mind-boggling decision to allow a young man who had pleaded guilty to two counts of felony rape and one felony count of sexual abuse of children – and who contacted or raped his victims each of the three times he was released previously – to go free until his sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 10. It’s bad enough that the plea agreement for Justin Robert Weider, 19, calls for 15 years suspended out of a 20-year sentence to the Department of Corrections. It’s downright alarming knowing that Wieder, who has repeatedly shown an unwillingness to stay away from his victims, will not be behind bars for nearly two months.

Huckleberries to the Helena City Commission for taking the long-overdue step of removing a Confederate memorial from a public park. The fountain, a source of contention for many years, was the focus of renewed calls for removal this week following the deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Tuesday, Helena’s city commission held a public meeting and afterward directed the city manager to begin removing the 100-year-old fountain in Hill Park that was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization whose members openly supported the Ku Klux Klan. Two years ago the city opted to keep the memorial, the only one of its kind in the entire Northwest, and add a plaque explaining its racist origins. Removing it is by far the better choice.

Chokecherries to the cancellation of the Hot Springs High School varsity football team. This is a team that took the Class C 6-man championship last year with a perfect 13-0 season, and has dominated for several years before that. It was preparing to play 8-man this season due to an enrollment increase, but then couldn’t get enough players to put together a team – an anti-climactic end for their fans in Hot Springs who regularly show up to demonstrate their support and community spirit.

Huckleberry honors to Missoula’s Marvin Strombo, the 93-year-old World War II veteran who took a flag from a dead Japanese soldier more than seven decades ago – and this past Tuesday, the anniversary of the end of WWII, returned the flag to the soldier’s family members in Japan. Strombo was able to locate the surviving siblings of Sadao Yasue and give them their fallen brother’s “good luck” flag with help from the Obon Society based in Oregon. The “returning ceremony” in Higashishirakawa, Japan, was live streamed and can be viewed on the Obon Society’s Facebook page.

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