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Artist's flag display honors victims of Missoula avalanche

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Now, colorful flags with loving wishes fly at the former home of Fred Allendorf and the late Michel Colville.

Artist Claire Emery hung them there this week with the help of some little people, and she’s pleased to see the flags, a collection of prayers, at the site of an avalanche that broke down Mount Jumbo this winter. Colville died of injuries from the crushing snow.

Originally, Emery had wanted the prayer flags to fly on Jumbo, but the Parks and Recreation board denied the request, as staff recommended, albeit with condolences. The outcome tired Emery, and she had to rest before finding another place for the memorial.

“I still think the Parks Board missed an opportunity to fly them on the mountain across the avalanche chute, but I could not be happier that they will hang over Fred and Michel’s home site where so many hearts were broken,” Emery said in an email about the flags. “May the healing continue for them and for all of us who were touched by this disaster.

“It is time for all of us to move forward, and be present with the bounty of summer, the bounty that life presents us with every moment when we remember to be present and grateful for what we have.”

In a report, Parks staff noted past policies prohibited art installations on conservation lands. However, the report suggested other display ideas for the flags, and a memorial policy appears to be in the works.

For her part, Emery said when she heard the family had granted permission for the flags to fly at the house site, she’d heard the best news of all. That location was the first she had in mind.

“We are blessed to live in a beautiful place with a beautiful, responsive, generous community that has uplifted all of our hearts,” Emery said. “All pain is medicine when it is met with love, as one of the flags says.”

Reach Keila Szpaller at @keilaszpaller, at or at (406) 523-5262.

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