Thelma “Tim” Carter
Tim passed away quietly and at peace on March 18, 2020. She and her twin sister Alma were born January 3, 1924, seventh and eighth of 18 children born to Pearl and Bradford Leighty. They were born at home on Middle Road, Columbia Falls, where they had no electricity and they used an outdoor privy with catalogs and magazines for toilet paper. They raised their own food, including a garden and pigs, chickens, and cattle for milk and beef. They butchered beef and hogs and smoked hams, bacon and fish. They canned meat because there was no refrigeration. They ate more elk and deer than beef. Tim and her siblings ran a horse-powered cultivator and worked in the fields of the farm’s cash crop, strawberries, which were transported by rail to eastern Montana and sold to local grocery stores. They washed clothes in a gas-powered washing machine. Her mother made soap from ashes in a large caldron.
Tim went to grade school at Deer Park. There were two teachers. One for grades 1-4; another for grades 5-8. She played Tiny Tim in a Christmas play at school and the name stuck. Because there was no school bus, Tim worked for room and board in Kalispell, doing housekeeping and babysitting, in order to attend high school. She graduated in 1942, not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She and her twin sister, Alma, and younger sister, Esther, went to Seattle to work for Boeing, building B17 and B19 bombers. Tim was a real life “Rosie Riveter.” (See Daily Interlake front page dated July 4, 2019.) Because Tim was very small, less than 5 feet, she worked inside the wings.
After WWII ended, she returned to the Flathead Valley and met and fell in love with Dauglas (Todd) Carter. Todd, from North Dakota, had come to the Flathead Valley to visit a North Dakota friend who was married to Tim’s twin sister Alma. They married on February 8, 1947. They had seven children, two boys and five girls. For the first 15 years of their marriage they moved frequently. They lived in Kalispell, Washington, North Dakota, Whitefish, Oregon and then back to Montana. In 1961 they bought the Leighty farm on Middle Road from Tim’s mom, Pearl Leighty, who was then a widow. Tim and Todd stayed there for the remainder of their lives.
Tim continued in the family tradition of growing and preserving food for the family. They had a huge vegetable garden. They raised beef and milked cows. They had chicken and hogs. As busy as she was tending to her seven children, she was active in the community. She was a 4-H leader. She worked at the Flathead County Fair. She worked at the Polls during elections. Her homemade bread earned many a blue ribbon at the Flathead County Fair. She loved to play pinochle and was a frequent player at the LaSalle Grange and then later at the Columbia Falls Senior Center.
The Carter home always had visitors. Some stayed overnight, others just came for the meals. In the summer, the children frequently slept in the barn or in a canvas tent so that the adult visitors could use their beds. Tim was such a good cook that every Sunday there were dinner guests who came for the delicious fried chicken, homemade bread, cinnamon rolls, strawberry shortcake and German chocolate cake.
When she had only one child left at home, Tim decided to get a job outside the home. In 1976 she went to work as a Nurse’s Aide at the Montana Veteran’s Home. She had applied to work as a housekeeper. However, because of her known competence as a parent, she was hired as a Nurse’s Aide. In 1986, she was Nurse’s Aide of the Year. She was selected because of her friendliness to the veterans and her dedication.
Tim enjoyed traveling and took advantage of the opportunity to visit her children who lived all over the world. She has visited her children in Alaska, Washington DC, United Kingdom, and Germany.
In her declining years she loved to watch John Wayne movies and Gunsmoke. In her 90’s, when her eyesight diminished so she could not read books, (she loved to read), she learned how to use a Kindle. With its backlighting and font control she was able to continue reading. After she broke her arm in 2019, she was no longer able to shuffle cards. So, at the age of 95, she learned how to use an iPad so she could continue to play solitaire.
Tim had a big personality packed in a little body. She was never afraid to speak her mind. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her, most especially by her sparring partners. You know who you are.
Tim was preceded in death by her husband, Dauglas “Todd” Carter, her parents, Pearl and Bradford Leighty, her siblings, Mary Ellen Ford, Ethel Vandervander, Sam Leighty, Nellie Mitsch, Bertha Peterson, Earl Leighty, Alma LaBar, Charles Leighty, Esther Ingram, Irene Broad, Ted Leighty, June Kinney and Laura Fuller and her granddaughter, Nicole Waller.
She is survived by her seven children, Georgia (Bill) Haines, Steven (Teri) Carter, Mickale (Gene Kirschbaum) Carter, Randall (Bonnie) Carter, Leslie Traynor, Kelly (David) Armer, and Tracy (Rob) Witt and siblings Jim (Ann) Leighty, Violet Lundy, Ardith Wolfe, and Andy (Una) Leighty and numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.
The burial service will be at the Fairview Cemetery. A Celebration of Life will be announced later, after the Coronavirus pandemic is over.
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