The Lifetime Conservation Award

Helen Bolle - 2001

Helen and Arnold Bolle
Helen and Arnold Bolle

Helen Swan Bolle (June 14, 1916 — January 26, 2016) held a deep and abiding love of the natural world, and her connection with the wild open spaces, birds, plants, animals, mountains, and rivers was interwoven with the people in her life.

Helen was born in Missoula on June 14, 1916. She grew up admiring her father, K.D Swan, who spent his life photographing and mapping the wild areas Helen grew to love. She graduated from Missoula County High School and attended Montana State University in Missoula where she met Arnie Bolle, an undergraduate in the Forestry School.

When Arnie joined the Soil Conservation Service, their many moves took them to Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Massachusetts. Helen was adept at setting up a home and making friends wherever she was—she was known for her cooking and entertaining. In addition to feeding people, she fed birds and adopted orphan pets.

Helen returned to Missoula for good when Arnie joined the University of Montana Forestry School. The Bolle home became a hub of gatherings—conversations on forest policy and planning, Christmas Bird Counts— fueled by Helen’s brunches and dinners. With Arnie, Helen created community by hosting those gatherings and welcoming faculty, students, politicians, activists, and everyday people. The ease, skill and grace (and humor!) with which she gave her heart to such gatherings advanced conservation efforts, as well as friendships, and the ability to understand issues, empowering folks to take action and make a difference.

Helen and Arnie enjoyed the outdoors together, always with bird and flower books in hand. They enjoyed going “up to the cabin” on the North Fork of the Blackfoot River. Helen’s active life was calmed by spending time at her cabin that she loved so much. There she enjoyed the wildlife, explored deer trails and of course, picked huckleberries. Her huckleberry pies were legendary.

In later years, Helen could be seen taking walks around Greenough Park with friends. During her life, she authored several books of poetry that expressed her love of nature, family and friends.

The Bolles enlivened and enriched the lives of many Missoulians, and there is a deep sense of gratitude and accomplishment that hovers when their names are mentioned. Helen will always be remembered for her love of nature and all things wild, her lively wit, and her generosity of spirit (and food!!!).

Helen’s Huckleberry Flummery
2 cups fresh huckleberries
1/4 cup cornstarch, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp. Salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sour cream

Wash berries and place in saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Force through a sieve or food mill. Add enough water to make 2 1/2 cups of this mixture. Mix next three ingredients and add to berries. Cook until clear and thickened. Add lemon juice and cool, stirring occasionally. Chill. Serve with dollops of sour cream. Serves 4. Yum.

Summarized from her obituary and approved by her family and friends

The Missoula Conservation Roundtable gratefully acknowledges generous contributions to our website design. Our logo was created by Kate Davis, Raptors of the Rockies; Brian Christianson contributed the photographs for page headers Brian Christianson Photography

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