Betty D. Johnson (“B. J.”) Norem, of Creston, peacefully passed away on March 22, 2017, in Kalispell.
Born to Ole A. and Mae Johnson in Scobey, Montana, the family moved to the Flathead Valley where she was raised on farms near Kalispell. Betty graduated from Flathead High School and attended the University of Arizona. Upon returning to Montana, she worked as a teller at Conrad Bank in Kalispell, where she met her husband, A.J. They married in 1953 and lived in Kalispell, Bigfork and Creston.
Betty lived with enthusiasm and was involved in many local organizations. She was one of the first women in Montana to own her own real estate brokerage, Montana Properties. In the course of over 50 years as real estate broker and Realtor, she left her imprint on the development of the Valley. Included in her many transactions was placement of the Circle K stores and the first Wendy’s restaurant. Her peers of the Flathead Board of Realtors honored her by electing her to terms as Secretary, V.P. and President in 1960’s. She was elected to the Board of Directors for the Montana Board of Realtors, where she served two terms from 1969 to 1972. In addition to real estate, Betty co-owned a clothing boutique, The New Vintage, in downtown Kalispell and, since 1965, farmed in Creston with her husband.
Never shy about politics, Betty ran for the House of Representatives in 1976. Although she lost the final election, it was the one of the closest races in Montana history. She went on to lend support to the Montana Federation of Republican Women.
Philanthropy was a priority in her life. She was an active member of P.E.O., Eastern Star, Soroptomist Club, and attended Bigfork Chapel. She and her family actively worked to raise substantial initial funds to restore the Conrad Mansion. For many years, she sat on the Conrad Mansion Board, and donated hundreds of hands-on hours toward the mansion’s restoration and opening to the public. She loved the arts and spent many hours coordinating charity art auctions with local artists and she was a strong supporter of the Hockaday Center for the Arts.
Betty served on the Board for Flathead County Youth Guidance and was, for many years, an active member of Toastmistress Club and the Eastside Grange. She was instrumental in bringing the first senior care facility to Bigfork.
Betty is preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Arden J. (“A.J.”) Norem on March 1, 1997, and her brother, Arthur Johnson. She is survived by her brothers and sisters Alice Cramer, Connie and husband Lee Conrad of Kalispell, Sharon Johnson of Louisiana, Kenneth and wife Angelina Johnson of Arizona, Duane and wife Eileen Johnson, Muriel and husband Rob Ridnour and Gary Johnson of Washington. She adored her many nieces and nephews.
Aside from family, she had great love for the picturesque Flathead Valley and, in particular, Creston, where she and Arden raised their two girls on a small farm. She accomplished so much in life, but she would say the proudest moments of her life were with her daughters, Linda and Kathi. Betty is survived by daughter Kathleen Norem and Jeff VerHoef of Seattle, Washington and daughter and son-in-law Linda and Irv Burnham of Bigfork, grandson Aric J. Burnham and wife, Brittany, and granddaughter Aryn M. Burnham.