Service, volunteerism and longevity honored

Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Stillwater County Chamber of Commerce photo

(Left) Carol Cushen, owner of Uncle Sam's Eatery

Facebook photo

Ken and Steve Hegg

Photo courtesy of the Kem family

Tyler Kem

Stillwater County Chamber of Commerce photo

Joel Harris of Yellowstone Bank

Business and community members gathered last Thursday night to honor local citizens who are making a difference in others’ lives.

Carol Cushen, Pete and Ken Hegg, Tyler Kem and the Joel Harris Family were recognized at the annual Stillwater County Chamber of Commerce dinner held at the Anipro Arena Events Center, just outside of Absarokee.



Carol Cushen has made sure her popular café in Columbus, Uncle Sam’s Eatery, is more than just a place to get a tasty meal.

“Carol’s business exemplifies the spirit of America,” said Shirlee Keffer, of the Stillwater Republican Women, the group that nominated Cushen for the award.

Keffer noted that what makes the café special is it’s décor.

“It’s a library. It’s a museum,” said Keffer.

The menu consists of sandwiches named after presidents, flag-tablecloths cover every table, and military and patriotic paraphernalia cover the walls. Even the restrooms keep with the theme, providing trivia such as which president was a horse trader and which presidents were assassinated.

In operation for 21 years, Cushen has also branched out into catering, handling everything from birthday parties to large events. In fact, she catered the awards dinner, spending the first half of the evening serving dinner to the crowd.

Keffer noted that businesses like Uncle Sam’s are vital.

“Small businesses are the backbone of America,” said Keffer.

Cushen thanked everyone who had helped support the business over the years, along with her husband, Les, and café greeter, grandson Killian.

“It’s been a great time,” said Cushen. “21 years. And they said I couldn’t do it!”



The cheerfulness, reliability and dedication displayed by volunteers Pete and Ken Hegg have always made them stand apart.

As Project Hope’s Executive Director Lara Strickland explains, every Wednesday morning, the couple arrives at the store to sort donations, help those who are dropping off donations, help customers at the front counter or break down boxes. The duo then departs for the Columbus Senior Center to deliver Meals on Wheels.

And then there are holiday food box distributions, which can be hectic, tiring and involve heavy lifting, said Strickland. But the Heggs are always there on assembly day, early in the morning and ready to help.

The couple is also active at their church, St. James Lutheran Church, and has given much of their time to Lutheran World Relief, said Strickland.



Tyler Kem is a quiet 15-year-old who already knows the value and importance of serving his community. The Columbus High School sophomore has already spent years volunteering his time to the likes of the Museum of the Beartooths (MOB), St. James Lutheran Church and the Early Day Gas and Tractor Association.

MOB Executive Director Penny Redli, who nominated Kem for award, describes the teenager as “a mature, hard-working young man who is a role model for his peers and a valuable volunteer for several organizations.”

Along with his grandfather, Bob Kem, the young man has served as the grounds keeper for MOB for the last four years.

“No weed is safe from Tyler and his equipment,” Redli said in her nomination letter, which she read aloud at last Thursday’s award dinner.

Always willing to do whatever it is that needs done and doing so with a positive attitude are two of Kem’s best traits, said Redli. She can also depend on him doing the job and doing it well, she said.

Kem also helps the Honor Guard retire flags, hauls garbage and sweeps during the March basketball tournaments at the school and assists with Boy Scout camps.



In a new award given for the first time by the Chamber, Joel Harris and the Harris Family were presented with the Legacy Award.

Chamber board member Mark Hamilton said the main guideline for the award is for someone or an  entity to have been a part of Stillwater County and be “performing commerce in the county for the longest period of time.”

Yellowstone Bank was established 111 years ago in Stillwater County and now has branches in Columbus, Absarokee, Laurel, Billings, Bozeman and Sidney. It began when W.F. Meyer and his nephew B.M. (Bert) Harris opened the Park City State Bank in 1907, where B.M. Harris worked every position from janitor to loan officer.

Hamilton describes the bank’s roots as follows:

“From a humble beginning in 1907, when the single asset was the original $25,000 investment, the Yellowstone Bank has grown to a bank rated at the top by regulators and bank rating services alike enjoying a financial structure totaling over $130,000,000 in capital and over $723,000,000 in assets as of June 30, 2018.

Yellowstone Bank is proud of its heritage and especially the direct involvement of five generations of the Harris family. They are also proud of their dedication to the financial growth of the area served and the over 100 years of continuous independent banking service they have afforded the area. They attribute their success to a great staff and the best customers around.”

Joel Harris accepted the award, saying the timing of it was appropriate as 11 has long been the family’s lucky number.

He thanked five generations of his family, noting that everyone from the grandchildren to the grandparents have “pitched in and held it all together.”