Iris Mae Hasselstrom Basta, age 75, died on April 5th, 2018 in Boise, ID of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Iris was born in a blizzard on February 12, 1943, at Beach, North Dakota, to William "Bill" Hasselstrom (d. 2-8-71) and Eleanor Mathilda Ueckert Schwartz (d. 2009).
Three early major factors shaped the entire course of Iris' life. The first factor was her parents' divorce in 1952 when Iris was eight years old, and her mother, Eleanor, moved to Glendive, MT and Iris and her sister, Karin, lived alone with their Dad for three years. Her mother eventually married Robert L. Schwartz (d. 1968) when Iris was 11, and her father. Bill, married Hazel Heisley Van Horn (d. 9-5-2008) when Iris was 12.
The second factor was the farm, located three miles south of Sentinel Butte, ND. The place was the prototype for all the things that Iris ever loved and honored, including her beloved cats, her affair with nature, flowers, water, light and all beauty, her empathy and compassion for animals, her love of the land, her love of open space and old houses, her love of watching and studying clouds, ants, people.
The third factor, fortunately or not, was that Iris was born with a good mind, a natural curiosity about how things worked and a busy imagination. Early on, she developed a deep love of reading and writing. Iris attended both grade and high school at Sentinel Butte, and in 1961 she graduated as valedictorian of her high school class of 12. After graduation, she attended a secretarial school in Bismarck, North Dakota. Even so, all her life Iris yearned for a "real" education. She took classes at Dawson Community College in Glendive. While living in Glasgow, she took a correspondence course from the University of Nebraska. Later on, she and two other women drove 100 miles each week, all winter, to attend classes given by Dawson Community College on the Indian reservation at Wolf Point. While living in Miles City, she attended Miles Community College. Finally, in 1983 at the age of 40, she graduated maxima cum laude from Carroll College with a BA in English Literature. In 1984, Iris went to the University of Montana to work on a master's degree, and ran out of money, but in 1992, at the age of 49, Iris graduated from the University of Montana School of Law with a Juris Doctor degree.
Iris landed her first job in 1962 as a legal secretary for an attorney in Glendive, Charles D. Wahl, who had a private practice and later became the Dawson County Attorney. She continued to work after she married Daniel D. Basta (d. 2000) in Glendive in 1963, and even worked after their daughter, Connie, was born. Pregnancy complications forced her to resign before their son, Ronald was born. In 1968, Iris went to work as a secretary with the Eastern Montana Regional Mental Health Center in Glendive. In 1969, she was promoted to Business Services Officer and the family moved to Glasgow. Iris and Dan divorced in 1970. In 1973, Iris was promoted to Business Manager of the Mental Health Center and she and the children moved to Miles City. In 1975, Iris moved to Helena where she worked as Business Manager for the Southwest Montana Regional Mental Health Center. In 1978 Iris took a job as Office Manager for a Popsicle manufacturer, Dairyland Wholesale, Inc., and left after starting Carroll College in 1980. While in Carroll College, Iris worked full and part time for the Montana Public Service Commission and after graduation, she became employed by Procter & Gamble selling incontinent diapers to Montana and Wyoming nursing homes. After coming back to Helena from the University of Montana in 1985, she resumed secretarial work for Tom Schneider of Helena and Wilson & Associates of Washington, D.C. until 1989 when she entered the University of Montana School of Law. After graduating from law school in 1992, Iris joined the Helena law firm of Jackson, Murdo, Grant & McFarland, P.C., as an associate. She became a shareholder in the firm in 1997.
Iris is survived by her daughter, Connie Basta Griffin (Paul) of Boise, ID and her son, Ron (Danielle) Basta of Milford, NH; three grandchildren, Calvin, Meredith and Lauren ; her grandnephew, Austin, of Butte, MT; a nephew, Steven King and his wife, Nancy, and children of Las Vegas, Nevada. A half-brother, Alan Schwartz, resides in Phoenix, AZ. Iris was preceded in death by her father in 1971; her step-father in 1968; her mother in 2009; and her step-mother in 2008.
Also surviving her are those friends who gave Iris their unfailing humor, life-affirming love, their laughter, philosophy and many badly-needed hugs. Included among them are, since 1950, Donna Lardy Latka of Glendive, Montana with whom she began her "Moon River" adventure, later joined by Donna's husband, Paul; since 1957, Patsy Roberts Renz of Moffit, ND, a "farm sister under the skin;" since 1968, Billie Haag of Glendive, Montana, a role model whose kindness and calm gave her courage to go on; since 1969, Rod L. Newman of Missoula, Montana, a mentor and beloved Friend who guided her out of the Black Pit and then kept helping her learn to fly, later joined by Rod's wife, Joan; since 1972, Lois South of Moreno Valley, California, with whom she laughed, sang and cried; since 1975, Betty and Mel Humphrey of Helena, Montana, the world's best neighbors and friends; since 1982, Sandra Bauer of Puyallup, Washington, who shared agonies and laughter; since 1986, David L. Jackson of Helena, Montana, her philosophical and spiritual Brother; since 1989, Coleen Magera, her kind and wise Friend and Gracious Earth Mother Supreme, as well as Coleen's husband Dick, who brought along his own honesty and caring, of Polson, Montana; and since 1992, Bonnie Lorang, a life affirming friend and fellow traveler, of Helena, Montana.
Although depression and despair accompanied Iris for the first 30 years of her life, she was truly redeemed by the love of her children and her friends. She often said she learned more from her children than they ever learned from her, specifically, laughter and the sheer delight and joy in being truly alive. Iris spent most of her young adult life facing down staggering poverty and an insidious discrimination against women while raising two little kids alone. She was a loyal, caring and fiercely protective mother who focused on three goals (1) listening, since she knew the pain of not being heard; (2) getting an education, since she knew the pain of both poverty and stifling boredom that comes without one; and (3) freedom and discipline, since she believed the gift of brains and talent will develop but, without discipline, both are useless. Although her children gave her a reason to live, her friends helped her to her feet. Because of them, Iris went from a shy, self-conscious, untrusting, silent person to an outgoing, friendly, talkative, empathetic individual.
Iris spent as many days as she could outdoors. She loved sunrises and sunsets, a howling wind, lightning and thunder, camping, rain, going to the dump in an old pickup truck, blizzards, California poppies, mud puddles, singing old cowboy songs raucously, spring and mourning doves. She always had a new flower bed in the planning, and even persuaded Rod to dig up her tulips when she had to move. Iris also always had some remodeling project going and must have remodeled her house at least 3 times, top to bottom. She loved parties, working in her yard, "farming" on her lawn mower, arguing politics, riding bicycle, walking and cross country skiing. She loved cats and babies feet, dancing, and a good shot of whiskey. Although she loved others' jokes, Iris had a dry wit and was delighted when someone would catch on and laugh at hers.
Iris was a writer by nature and planned to spend her retirement writing stories and articles, and maybe even a book. She belonged to various organizations over time, including the Montana State Bar Association, First Judicial District Bar Association, American Association of University Women, Phi Delta Phi Delta Epsilon Sigma, Montana Association for Mental Health, American Business Women's Association, League of Women Voters, Rainbow Girls, and 4-H. She was a Board member for the Florence Crittenton Home, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies and licensed to practice law in the State of Montana and in the U. S. District Court of Montana.
Iris was baptized in the German Lutheran church in Beach, ND; confirmed in the Norwegian Lutheran church in Sentinel Butte, ND; joined the Congregational Church in Miles City, MT, and was a member of Plymouth Congregational Church in Helena for over 25 years.
Iris' best qualities were her patience and perseverance, her ability to get right to the heart of the matter, and her understanding of and insight into the essence of others. As for her own, however, as Iris' high school yearbook caption reads, "Still waters run deep." The description didn't change much as her own essence remained private, deep, quiet, sheltered and unknown. She would, however, have measured herself in the balance as:
That Woman is a Success
Who has lived well, laughed often and loved much.
Who has gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of children;
Who has filled her niche and accomplished her tasks;
Who has left the world better than she found it, whether by planting flowers, writing a story, listening to a child or rescuing a kitty cat;
Who has deeply loved Earth's beauty and never failed to express it;
Who has looked for the best in others and gave the best she had.
A memorial service for Iris will be held at Plymouth Congregational Church on Saturday April 14th, 2018. Please do not send any cut flowers. Flowers or trees that can be planted outdoors or memorials to the Lewis and Clark County Animal Shelter are preferred. Burial will be in Forestvale Cemetery.