Esther Olivia (Norberg) LaFrance
On March 30, 2013, the LaFrance family sadly lost Esther to complications developed from a hiatal hernia.
Esther was born April 24, 1926, in Minot. She was the third of four daughters born to Eric and Olga (Amenson) Norberg. The Norberg sisters were raised and attended school in Minot with Esther graduating valedictorian of her Minot Model High class.
Esther went on to study for her civil engineering degree, designing and taking great pride in being involved with many projects in the Minot area. A bridge designed by Esther was kept intact after the city removed the street and to this day is a featured landmark in the popular walking path of Minot’s city park.
Esther met her husband, Dick, when he returned to Minot after World War II. The couple married Dec. 28, 1947, in Minot, at 7 o’clock in the morning witnessed by a filled-to-capacity church. Esther and Dick spent the first four years of their marriage in Ames, Iowa, where Esther worked diligently to help Dick earn his veterinary medicine degree. Their first child, Nancy Lynn, was born in Ames.
After completion of Dick’s schooling, Esther and Dick moved to Dickinson. It was during their time in Dickinson that they were blessed with two of their three sons, James Richard and Jeffery Thomas.
In 1952 the couple moved to Bridger, Mont., spending the next 25 years building a successful veterinary practice together, along with turning an old barn into a beautiful home and adding two more children to their brood, Daniel Joseph and BethAnn.
While in Bridger, Esther was involved in designing many major projects for the town, which included the city swimming pool, the rodeo grounds (which was featured in The Western Horseman magazine), the development of the town library, not to mention her tireless work with the Bridger General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC). Esther served as Montana’s GFWC president in 1974-1976. Esther’s special project during her term was to raise funds to help bring the first Linear Accelerator to the up and coming cancer center that has now developed into The Billings Clinic Cancer Center. Her efforts raised over a quarter of a million dollars of funds, which 100 percent went directly toward the cancer center and earned Esther the honor of being part of the groundbreaking ceremony.
The LaFrance family moved to the Hardin, Mont., area in 1975, where once again the couple opened and built a successful veterinary practice. Esther was also employed by Dr. Whiting at the Hardin Clinic and by Jan and Earl Gross at The Insurance Shop during her early years in Hardin.
Esther was an avid music lover and collectively directed three church choirs for 46-plus years. She was an excellent seamstress, passing her knowledge down to both daughters. She was known throughout the valley for her wonderful bread and cookie baking. Many a Thursday Esther’s children would arrive to find their family home filled with the wonderful smells of Esther’s baking.
Esther was a generous soul, to a fault, and always worked diligently and tirelessly on every project she took on. She had a smile that lit up the room. Esther’s greatest joy in this world was being a grandma. Every minute she spent with any and of all of her grandkids was savored and cherished, right up to the very end.
Esther is survived by her husband of 66 years, Richard F.; her five children, Nancy Free, of Vermont, Jim (Val), of Huntley, Mont., Jeff (Tami), of Melbourne, Australia, Dan (Kay), of Bozeman, Mont., and BethAnn (Mike Stenerson), of Hardin; two sisters, Eleanor Rostad and Ellen (Jim) VanHook; her beloved grandchildren, Chad (Jessie) Free, Jill (Jon) Cobb, Nikki (Dustin) Ostrum, Kellie (Chris) Bertelsen, Ben and Emily LaFrance; her great-grandchildren, Raine, Remington, Mikayla, Tyler, Tristan, Aaliyah, and Preston
Cremation has taken place. The family plans to gather on June 8, 2013, at 11 a.m. at Smith Funeral Chapels Downtown Chapel, 925 S. 27th St., Billings, Mont., to celebrate Ether’s well-lived life. Smith’s has been entrusted with the arrangements.
Memorials: Memorials may be sent to: The Bridger Public Library, c/o Bridger Women’s Club, P.O. Box 184, Bridger, MT 59014-0184. Donated funds will be used to help support this favorite project of Esther’s.