Edna was born November 9, 1935, in Roundup, Mont. to Adler (Ed) and Velma (McCallister) Lambert. She was the seventh of eight children born to Ed and Velma. The Lamberts left eastern Montana and eventually settled up Thompson River near the Bend Ranger Station. Prior to Edna beginning first grade, the family moved into Thompson Falls.
Edna attended all twelve years of schooling at Thompson Falls, graduating in 1954. She met and married Earl Dwayne Fortner, December 19, 1953. To them two sons were born: Kevin Dwayne, Feb. 15, 1957, and Glenn Elliott, Feb. 2, 1959. Dwayne and Edna divorced. On October 25, 1959, Edna married Richard Johnson. Their daughter, Donna Rochelle, was born July 30, 1960. After Richard passed away in 1972, Edna kept busy raising her three teenaged children and running the Falls Motel. In 1974, she met and eventually married Virgil Relf. They shared many years and many adventures together until his death Nov. 28, 2010.
Edna loved Thompson Falls and was an active community member. In her earlier years, she thoroughly enjoyed acting in community theater performances. For the 1977 All School Reunion, Edna took on the daunting task of catering the event, cooking chicken and preparing a mountain of potato salad. A plaque was presented to her with the inscription “To the best darn cotton-pickin’ Chicken Cooker in town!!” That plaque was forever displayed in a prominent location in her kitchen and truly represented her sense of pride and accomplishment in safely feeding all those reunion attendees. Later, playing cards in the local pinochle circle, attending church, and serving in the Woman’s Club kept her busy and out of trouble!
Anyone who knew Edna knew she was an extremely hard-working, industrious woman. She was an accomplished quilter, baker, upholsterer, as well as a dedicated gardening enthusiast. Edna loved spring because that meant planting season had arrived. She loved getting her hands dirty planting and transplanting the little seedlings started in her windowsill. As a young woman, she poured gallons of coffee while working as a waitress at the Beanery in Paradise while taking a bookkeeping course to sharpen her skills. In Thompson Falls, Edna found work at the First State Bank as a teller. She would leave that job to take the position of Thompson Falls City Clerk for two years, before deciding to become her own boss. In the early 1970s, she and husband Richard purchased the Falls Motel. With husband Virgil Relf, they opened and operated the Falls Café in conjunction with the motel. They would eventually sell both and move to the log house they built together in the Cherry Creek area. Not one to sit still, Edna taught herself how to re-upholster furniture, which led to a new business endeavor for her and Virgil. Not done yet, Edna purchased the Inn Stitches Fabric Shop and continued to re-upholster furniture and peddle cloth until her retirement.
Edna is survived by her sister Judy Minemyer of Thompson Falls; her three children Kevin Fortner (Katrina; Kitty) of Frenchtown; Glenn Fortner (Sharon) of Missoula; daughter Rochelle Dickson (Jerry) of Thompson Falls; stepdaughter Judy Roth (Jake) of Rapid City, S. D.; grandchildren Buck and Brandy Fortner, Kyle and Chelsea Fortner, Lucas and Curtis Dickson, and many extended family members and friends.
Funeral services will be held Thursday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Thompson Falls, Montana. A luncheon will follow in the church fellowship hall.
Edna will be especially remembered for her witty-sense of humor and her fierce independence.
The family suggests memorials be made to the charity of your choice.