MISSOULA — Russell L. Hartse, of Missoula, died late on August 23 at home. Born Dec. 23, 1922, in Glendive to Marie (Lawrence) Hartse and Roy H. Hartse, Russell lived his first six years in eastern Montana. His maternal grandparents farmed near Wibaux, and his paternal grandparents farmed and ran a store at Carlyle. Russell, his parents, and younger brother Ralph moved to Missoula in 1929, where his father was a machinist at the Northern Pacific (NP) Railroad roundhouse. The family lived on Missoula’s Northside where Russell attended Whittier Grade School. He graduated from Missoula County High School in 1941.
As a boy Russell delivered the Missoulian, and bicycled around town calling train crews for the NP before home telephones were common. During his high school years he played alto saxophone for local dance orchestras. Following high school graduation Russell moved to Butte and worked for the NP as a clerk until joining the Army Air Corps in 1942. Intending to become an airplane mechanic, the Army discovered Russell could type well, and he therefore spent the last half of World War II working as a typist for officers at air bases in England. He left the service at rank of Staff Sargent.
Following the war Russell attended the University of Montana on the G.I. Bill, obtaining a Juris Doctor in 1950. While at the university he met Lois Ann Woods, a journalism major. The two married at her family home in Silver Star in 1948, embarking on a love affair and marriage which endured nearly 71 years. Following law school Russell worked for the NP as a claims representative, initially posted in Seattle, briefly stationed at Glendive, and then spending most of his career in Missoula, retiring from the Burlington Northern in 1981. The biggest claims case he handled was the June 1962 passenger train wreck on Evaro Hill.
Russell and Lois raised their family at their Van Buren Street home where they resided for 64 years, moving to The Village in 2018. He served as Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 9 at Prescott Grade School from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. He enjoyed backpacking, organizing and leading week-long hikes through the Bob Marshall Wilderness during his time in scouting. He continued backpacking with friends, children, and grandchildren into his 70s. In retirement he volunteered as an income tax preparer for the Missoula Senior Citizens, he enjoyed attending meetings of The Retired Railroaders, and he was the secretary and treasurer for Missoula County High School Class of 1941. He was a proud member of the Sons of Norway Lodge 4-424 in Missoula, serving various positions for the Lodge, including president. For many years Russell worked for the Lodge during Fair Week cooking and selling the ever popular “Vikings.”
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Russell is survived by Lois, and their children and spouses: Eric of Helena; Karl (Lois) of Sheridan, Wyoming; Kevin (Jane Thurlow) of Vancouver, British Columbia; Merri (James Flott) of Spokane; Hans (Peggy Barroll) of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Roy of Missoula; and Caroline (Edward Sponholz) of Tacoma. Grandchildren are Joel Heng Hartse, Kendal Hartse, Caitlin Parke, Erik Hartse, Kyle Hartse, Grace Flott, Emma Flott, Sara Hartse and Jeremy Hartse. Great-grandchildren are Oliver, Benedict, Brianna and Conor. Russell’s brother, Ralph, and sister-in-law, Norma, predeceased him.
The family extends thanks to the health care providers who helped Russell through his elderly years, and to his friends at The Village for their kind support. We especially thank Partners Hospice nurses Elilia and Evelyn for their skillful care during Russell’s final days. Donations in Russell’s name may be sent to the Montana Talking Book Library, PO Box 201800, Helena, MT 59620-1800 or see http://tbl.msl.mt.gov/volunteer_or_donate.
Cremation has occurred. A party to celebrate Russell’s life will be held for friends and family at the Sons of Norway Lodge on Sept. 21 beginning at 11 a.m. Russell emphasized this party should not be a solemn event, rather an opportunity for his many relatives and friends to gather, have a good meal, and enjoy each other’s company. Hann hafhverfar til valhalltilr mœta þórr, Óðinn. ok hans for-eldra.