Thursday, June 13, 2024

Foundation says so-long to long-serving secretary

Editor | January 19, 2023 12:00 AM

Carlene Bockman retired again last Thursday.

The executive secretary of the Lower Flathead Valley Community Foundation stepped down after serving the organization for 17 years. Her first retirement arrived in 2004, when the ardent community and Grizzly athletics booster retired after 26 years as Ronan city clerk.

Bockman was recruited by former trustee Don Olsson in 2005, less than a year after her departure from City Hall. “At that time I was not going to jump into anything,” she recalled. “I was ready to be retired.”

But the job was much less demanding than her previous vocation. The board meets quarterly, so keeping minutes was easy enough, and she could manage her other duties from a computer at her kitchen table.

As to her job title of executive secretary, she said, “I don’t know why they call me that. I don’t execute anything besides trouble!”

“The best capacity in any organization is the one you never hear about,” said Bob Gauthier, one of the foundation’s early board members. “That’s the epitome of Carlene’s work. She does her job, she’s efficient.”

The foundation was established in 1998 from the $1 million estate of Vera Jenson, who had no heirs. Jenson’s executor, community activist Bill Edelman, envisioned an organization that would bring tribal and non-tribal people together to help preserve the Flathead Reservation’s rich cultural, natural and human resources, with an emphasis on benefitting children.

Over the years, the original endowment has grown to $2.8 million, and the foundation gives away more than $100,000 a year – totaling over $1.8 million in grants during the lifetime of the organization.

Major beneficiaries include the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Flathead Reservation, which now has centers in Ronan, Polson and St. Ignatius, and the Mission Valley Aquatic Center. The foundation has also donated to student achievement programs, playground projects, youth baseball, summer reading programs, local museums, food banks and, in concert with the Tribes, the reintroduction of trumpeter swans. Grants have helped improve libraries (see related story), parks, senior citizen centers and community facilities across the reservation.

Wise investments and minimal expenses have helped the foundation almost triple its principal. “The only overhead we have is someone to keep us organized, and that’s not a lot of overhead,” said former chair Mark MacDonald.

Bob’s wife, Myrna, has taken over as “the new Carlene.” Her husband, who recently stepped down from board, describes himself as “Myrna’s go-fer – together we can almost make one Carlene,” he said.

Now that the foundation is almost 25 years old, some of its long-serving board members are passing the baton to a new generation of leaders. Each director has the opportunity to choose their successor, pending board approval, and most have done so. Gauthier recruited Stephanie Gillin, Don Olsson invited Brennin Grainey, Rod Johnson chose Robbie Gauthier, and Germaine White nominated April Charlo. Mary Stranahan’s pick, Melissa Morigeau, will come on board in March, and founding board member Mark MacDonald has announced that he’ll retire then too. CSKT Executive Officer Rick Eneas was asked to join the board by consensus to fill a long-vacant seat.

Last week’s gathering to honor Bockman was friendly and informal, punctuated with lots of laughter and storytelling.

“It’s been a joy working with this board,” Bockman told them after receiving parting gifts, including a Pendleton blanket. “You’re good, nice people who do what you say you’re going to do.”

“I’m going to miss you guys.”

Learn more about the organization and find grant application guidelines at


Former and past board members of the Lower Flathead Valley Community Foundation were on hand last Thursday in Ronan to honor retiring executive secretary Carlene Bockman (center). Members (l-r) include Robbie Gauthier, Brennin Grainey, Myrna and Bob Gauthier, Stephanie Gillin, and Mark MacDonald. (Kristi Niemeyer/Leader)