Props to former Missoula school food services director Barbara Oehl, recently honored by Gov. Marc Racicot for work that has helped “to eliminate hunger and improve public access to food and nutrition.> According to Crystelle Fogle, co-chairperson for the Montana State Advisory Council on Food and Nutrition, four school breakfast programs and seven summer food programs were initiated in local schools under Oehl’s directorship.

Last year, Fogle says, Oehl also received a $100 mini-grant through the country extension office to start up a 5-A-Day educational program in Missoula. The 5-A-Day program, directed at children, extols the nutritional benefits of eating five servings of fruits or vegetables per day.

Oehl received the Governor’s award—one of 12 presented to Montanans for their exemplary nutritional contributions—in an Oct. 13 ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion. Other area recipients of the nutrition award: Gerrie Boyle, for her work with the Polson Loaves and Fish Pantry; Bruce Jones, for his work with the Hamilton Farmers Market; Pastor Gordon Monroe for his community network’s establishment of a Blackfeet Reservation food bank; and Charles New Breast for his efforts with the Blackfeet Community Nutrition Coalition.

At press time, Oehl could not be reached for comment. But Lord knows, we could use some of her nutritional guidance around the Indy offices—the steady diet of fried salt sandwiches and Twizzlers for dessert probably isn’t doing us much good. •••

Sing me back home: An affectionate farewell to Hoyt Axton, the singer/songwriter best known for his inescapably anthemic “Joy to the World,” a rollicking capstone on the turbulent ’60s that became a Number One hit for Three Dog Night in 1971. Axton passed away in his Bitterroot home on Tuesday morning. He was 61.

An Oklahoma native, Axton began his singing career in San Francisco when he was barely out of his teens. Starting with “Greenback Dollar,” which became a chart-topper for echt folkies the Kingston Trio in 1962, Axton penned songs for Elvis Presley, Joan Baez, Steppenwolf, and many other popular performers. Including himself. Axton’s warm, molasses-thick baritone—which, especially in his later years, broke effortlessly into a crystalline, room-shaking, nearly bottomless basso—handily made hits out of “When the Morning Comes” and “Boney Fingers.”

Likewise, Axton’s rotund frame and avuncular demeanor translated well to an acting career in movies like Gremlins, Endangered Species, and, most recently, King Cobra. His role as Sheriff Herault in Disorganized Crime led him to the Bitterroot, where he set up house in the early 1990s.

In addition to complications from diabetes and the lingering effects of a 1995 stroke, Axton had suffered from two heart attacks in the two weeks prior to his death. But by all accounts he was prepared for his final bow—at peace, both with himself and with the idea of dying. In a November, 1998 Independent feature—his last in-depth interview—Axton shrugged at the idea.“Far as I can tell, I’m not dead,” he told reporter Zach Dundas. “Or if I am, it’s highly overrated. Death, that is.”

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