Tag Archives: Butte

I grieve my father. I grieve his beloved country more.

My eighty-nine-year-old father died on January 5, five days after breaking his hip. He was scheduled for surgery January 3–delayed until his body cleared blood thinners—but worsening congestive heart failure declared itself early that morning. “I’ve had a good life,” Dad said, voice breaking after hearing that his body couldn’t tolerate surgery, that we’d keep him comfortable until his reunion with an army of family and friends in heaven.

My mom and I ordered his breakfast, our thoughts shifted from hoping he would make it through surgery without complications to anticipating the logistics of in-home hospice care. When the first of my siblings arrived, Dad told her, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Inducted into the Butte Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 for his teenaged boxing prowess, we didn’t know whether those were fighting words or a reference to heaven. Fighting words, it turned out, when he mentioned his caregiver soon after: “Maria’s going to have a job.”

Dan Antonietti. A fighter until the end.
My dad, Dan Antonietti, wearing his favorite WW II Veteran cap.

The hospitalist switched him to oral morphine, which relieved Dad’s pain without the sedation of IV Dialudid. He had a glorious day: visiting with Mom and six of their eight children, talking and singing on the phone to grandchildren, and visiting with Maria.

A champion of veterans’ rights, he had planned to testify on their behalf twenty-three times at the Montana legislature this session. Now, instead of Mom being chauffeur and copilot as he navigated the Capitol halls with his walker, Dad dictated testimony from his hospital bed for her pinch-hitter appearance. He talked so fast, it took two of us to take notes.

“Madam Chair and all members of the State Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee:

For the record, my name is Catherine Antonietti, wife of Dan Antonietti, who is in the hospital and unable to attend this legislative session. He is a member of Post 1448 in Butte, Montana, which is a mile high and a mile deep and all the people are on the level.”

He grinned, then continued in his own words.

“I was the Legislative Chairman of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the state and national levels.  I voted yes for all legislative bills for the last sixteen years and I continue to cast my vote for every veteran’s bill held in this legislature. I’m glad to see you all back. Thank you, Madam Chair. You’ve all been a big help and I am proud of all of you.”

I fought back tears at his tender words, thinking how proud I was of him. Laughter followed when he said he wanted a beer, then asked for ice cream instead. We told him he could have both. “Just ice cream,” he said. “The kind I like.”

Two sisters went on a grocery run, returning with a half-gallon of ‘Mocha Me Hoppy’ and beer—just in case. Dad had three servings of ice cream that afternoon and evening. He had a couple of bites the next morning, which turned out to be his final meal. He began a steady decline, transitioning from oral morphine to a continuous IV infusion by the time the hospice nurse and social worker arrived for a family consult the following morning.

They asked if we wanted to go to a conference room. Dad hadn’t talked or opened his eyes since the previous evening, but they reminded us hearing was the last to go. We said we wanted to stay.

The nurse listened to his heart and lungs, then said it might only be hours before he passed. She talked about end-of-life care and offered condolences. The social worker did too, lingering to take contact information for bereavement follow-up—offering thirteen months for any or all.

She suggested one-on-one goodbyes with Dad and, after she left, we exited the room so Mom could go first. All eight of us and one brother-in-law followed. Dad’s brow wrinkled in concentration. He didn’t open his eyes, but he moaned and moved his lips. I felt his words in my heart. He died peacefully eleven hours later.

As we reconvened the following morning to discuss funeral plans, Vice President Biden and Congress met to formally count electoral votes. That morning I read factual news, not fake, about fifty-plus ineligible Republican electors—ineligible because they didn’t live in their Congressional Districts, or because as elected officials, they were barred from being “dual office-holders.”

Days earlier, I had contacted numerous senators and representatives, urging them to object to electoral votes because of voter suppression, Russian interference, and because electors’ requests for a briefing on foreign interference had been denied. That morning, I called Montana’s three Members of Congress again, pressing for objections based on this new information.

I felt joyful driving to the mortuary. I imagined Dad and his fellow warriors working the Democratic Caucuses from above, particularly Senator Tester who had known and respected him for his veterans’ advocacy. I sang en route:

Papa Dan, you are the man, you’re up in heaven to take a stand to help change the history of our country. The country you loved and fought hard for, Donald Trump will be no more president-elect of this, our great country. Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

I knew my chorus of angels might be hypothetical, but I believed the Democrats would fight for justice. Constituents had urged objections for weeks. President Obama had imposed Russian sanctions. Fifty ineligible electors tipped the scale.

I checked my phone when we broke to look at caskets, certain that Colin Powell’s three electoral votes would multiply and he would be elected President. Premature I knew, because objections, debates, and subsequent votes would take time, but I checked again before we segued to our meeting at the cathedral.

An hour later, I read the devastating truth in a grocery store parking lot: not a single senator objected to the votes.

Dad emboldened me with the motto: “You can’t win if you don’t try.” Numbed by the Senate’s inertia, I didn’t cry until driving one hundred twenty miles the next day to pack for his funeral. Angry tears spilled down my cheeks. I cursed Democratic senators and told them about my dad.

He was a fighter. Not a quitter. His dad died when he was ten. Butte-tough, he was a fourteen-year-old featherweight champion. He would have excelled at other sports, too, but he had to work to help support his family.

He was a WW II Veteran. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1945, but was honorably discharged after breaking his back in a car accident. Determined to serve his country, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 and served in the post-war occupation in Japan.

He was a Blackfeet Nation Indian Chief. Honored for his role in securing programs and funding for the Blackfeet people, he was adopted into the tribe in 1972 and given the name A-pi-na-ko Si–pis-to: “Morning Owl.”

He liked Bernie Sanders. Days before he died, he said to me, “I wanted to vote for Bernie but you said that would be a vote for Trump so I voted for Hillary.” He was heartsick that Hillary won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College.

He loved his country, and was proud of his legacy. Seventeen grandchildren. Five great-grandchildren. He wanted to make their world a better place.

But not one of you Senators put up a fight.

That morning, I talked with a lifelong friend. She said one good thing about Dad’s death was that he would not have to see Trump get inaugurated. We shared our hope that her eighty-six-year-old dad wouldn’t either. After nine months of hospice care, he died peacefully four days later.

On January 21, she, her daughter, and I marched in the Women’s March on Montana, carrying our special angels in our hearts. We toasted them afterward with my mom and sister—reveling in memories of two proud Americans and their lives well lived.

Weeks since we said goodbye to my dad, I miss him. I am grateful, too. Grateful that during his graveside military honors when Mom was presented a medal and the words, “On behalf of the President of the United States . . . ,” Barack Obama was President. I am grateful Dad is not here to watch Trump unravel the country he loved, the country he fought for. Most of all, I am grateful he is pain free and resting in peace. Continue reading “I grieve my father. I grieve his beloved country more.” »

Missoula : Much to Celebrate.

I was born in Missoula but grew up saying I was from Butte. Birthplace of my parents and older brother, we moved to Butte when I was eight. Roots ran deep. We moved into Mom’s cousin Eleanor’s home, newly vacant following Eleanor’s marriage and relocation to Oregon. We lived blocks from Nana, an aunt, uncle, and cousins. Extended family peppered the city and, on the cusp of third grade, it didn’t take long to embrace Butte as my own.

I’ve been back in Missoula nearly thirty-eight years. The hospital where I took my first breath became the hospital where, as a new nurse, I had to call a wife to tell her that her husband had taken his last. My memory bank overflows with this and other Missoula memories—those forged in my early years and newer ones from 1978 and beyond.

Jon Krakauer’s Missoula and a subsequent Montana Supreme Court hearing thrust the Garden City into the national spotlight. It’s time to give shout-outs to recent Missoula news.

  • Noting our “rugged outdoorsy spirit,” Thrillist named Missoula one of “The Most Hippie Towns In America (That Aren’t Berkeley Or Boulder).” Though I neither drive a Subaru Outback nor own a Labrador retriever, this designation makes me proud.
  • Big Dipper Ice Cream is a “Best Ice Cream Parlor” nominee for USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. Started in the back of a brewery more than twenty years ago, what’s not to love? Currently number 2 on the leaderboard, you can vote daily here. (Voting ends May 23rd at 10:00 a.m. MST.)
  • In utero blood transfusions—possibly the only successful case in the United States to date—resulted in an early Mother’s Day gift for a Helena mom May 4th. According to Dr. Bardett Fausett, “In little old Missoula, Montana, we’re doing world-class fetal therapy.”
  • Missoula is preparing for another world-class event, too. Our tenth International Choral Festival will welcome thirteen choirs spanning four continents, July 13th-16th. Last festival, Rich and I had the privilege of hosting three lovely Taiwanese singers who still call me “Mom.”


Taiwanese singers Rainbow, Amy, & Tiffany at Missoula People's Market 2013.
Rainbow, Amy, & Tiffany at Missoula’s People Market

1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti. Then...

Forty Years Later

It is the time of year when many high school seniors are immersed in college applications. Some have ideas about what they want to pursue after graduation. Others do not.

As I worked my way through my final year of high school forty years ago, I knew I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. A Butte Central classmate, Janet Finn, was planning to study pre-med. Another classmate, Leah Joki, had plans to undertake a fifth year of high school in Belgium, then come back and become a film critic. None of us envisioned that, years later, we would be authors.

1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti.
1974 Butte Central Classmates Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Antonietti.

Last month, the three of us took a road trip back to our roots to read from our most recent works. We read at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives at noon and at the Finlen Hotel Copper Bowl Ballroom that evening.

Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Buley.
Janet Finn, Leah Joki, and Karen Buley.
Janet, Karen and Leah signing books at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.
Janet, Karen and Leah signing books at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.

Our audiences were a mix of people we knew and people we didn’t; of folks with longtime Butte ties and relative newcomers. At our evening reading, a three-generation family whom we did not know sat in the front row. We learned that the grandmother had penned a memoir about growing up in China and the Philippines during WW II. The dad, a Golden Gloves boxer, had coached prison inmates in the sport. The mom had worked as a nurse at Saint Patrick Hospital in Missoula, and their daughters—one in college and one in high school—aspired to become an actor and a writer.

Years have passed since Janet, Leah and I were the ages of those girls, and our lives are different than what we had imagined they would be. Janet teaches in social work, women’s studies, and international development studies at the University of Montana. Leah received an MFA in acting from the University of Montana last spring. She recently wrote and performed her one-woman show, PRISON BOXING, at Missoula’s Downtown Dance Collective. I, after a long and fulfilling nursing career, am working as a library media assistant in a Missoula high school. We all have works in progress.

To the girls who were seated in the front row at the Copper Bowl Ballroom, best of luck as you pursue your dreams. To Leah and Janet, our high school English teachers would be proud.

Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives

Butte America: Back to My Roots

Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives

Often, one of the getting-to-know-you questions is, “Where are you from?”

I’m from Butte.”

I grew up saying this, even though I was born in Missoula, Montana. We moved to Butte when I was eight, as summer vacation was nearing an end. My parents, Dan and Kay Antonietti, were born and raised there, so we weren’t lacking relatives. But being on the cusp of entering third grade, I wondered if it would be hard to make friends.

It wasn’t.

I made a friend before school started, which felt huge. I wasn’t welcomed as in the words of Teddy Roosevelt below, but to my eight-year-old self, the welcome I did receive on the playground of my Nana’s apartment complex was just as memorable.

Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives

For the next ten years, I lived, studied, played and worked in Butte. I went away for college, came back for the summer, and then after two more quarters on Montana State University’s campus in Bozeman, I was back in Butte to do my nursing clinicals.

Butte was the home I loved. After fifteen months back, though, I was a twenty-year-old ready to get out of Dodge for the summer. In June of 1977, I left to be a mother’s helper in New York City. I had no idea my summer would unfold as it did, nor did I have any awareness that years later I’d be compelled to write a novel based on that summer.

A novel, Nanny on the Run, which I recently read excerpts from in Uptown Butte.

My first reading was at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, partially housed in the old fire station. As a young girl, I had the privilege of sliding down the fireman’s pole, courtesy of my Uncle Joe. It was a thrill to read my work near Uncle Joe’s old digs.

Intro by Ellen Crain at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Intro by Ellen Crain at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives
Q & A following the reading
Q & A following the reading

Between my two readings, I visited Butte’s indie bookstore, Books & Books. As I relayed the story of my novel’s trajectory to two booksellers, I mentioned that my early working title was Nanny on the Run: a Far Cry from Butte.

“You should’ve called it that,” said one of the women. “We get people asking all the time if we have Butte books.”

Hopefully the book’s description will capture readers who are interested in Butte stories. Though my character Bridget goes to New York City, she’s from Butte, and threads of those deep roots are woven throughout her story.

My second reading was at Headframe Spirits, across the street from the Elks Club. I grew up four blocks away. Bridget didn’t live far from there, either.

Home of Headframe Spirits
Home of Headframe Spirits
Headframe Spirits under the watchful eye—and windowed reflection—of  Our Lady of the Rockies
Headframe Spirits under the watchful eye and windowed reflection of Our Lady of the Rockies

Headframe Spirits is a place for tasty drinks and lively conversations. Owner John McKee was gracious when I asked about doing a book signing, and perhaps an accompanying reading, there. It was the most animated reading I’ve done to date, and I’m grateful I had the chance to read some of Bridget’s story in my old neighborhood.

With my parents at Headframe Spirits
With my parents at Headframe Spirits

I’m grateful, too, that my parents were able to travel to Butte for my readings. They’re still from Butte, even though they moved away nearly thirty-six years ago. I’m from Butte, too, though after having lived in Missoula for the past thirty-five years, I’ve begun to modify my answer.

I was born here, but I’m from Butte.