Linda Marie Hammar was born on October 8th of 1958 in the small town of Scobey, MT. She grew up on a small farm several miles outside of Scobey with her father Lloyd, her mother Louise, & her 3 older brothers Jimmy, Donny & Kenny (Scooter). A hard, farming life became even harder when Linda’s dad passed away on Oct 21, 1968, forcing the kids to grow up early & learn life’s hardships & responsibilities in managing a farm when most kids their age were playing with dolls or in school sports. Like in many small towns, Linda knew everyone. In Linda’s senior yearbook, the most common comment, was “You are the nicest or kindest person that I have ever met.” This statement could be the commentary of her life, because it was repeated by a spectrum of close friends & family to acquaintances that she’d just met. Linda graduated from high school in Wolf Point in 1976. She moved to Billings shortly thereafter to begin her BA degree. She then spent a short time in West Virginia but returned to Billings shortly thereafter, working at the Billings Gazette, the Billings Police Dept. Investigations Div., & other odd jobs.
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Linda met the love of her life, Wayne Zundel, in 1992 & shortly after that became a “non-traditional” college student with him at what is now MSU-B. After graduating, Linda left Billings with Wayne when he entered graduate school, cementing what was to be a deep, true love & nurturing relationship that grew ever greater until the day she died. Linda & Wayne lived in Portland OR (twice), Denver & Erie CO, Sunnyvale CA, & Crestwood KY as Wayne’s academic appointments dragged them to & fro. Professionally, Linda changed people’s lives for the better wherever she went. In the west, we have an old saying that when life knocks you down, you pull yourself back up by your bootstraps. One of Linda’s greatest gifts was being able to identify those without any bootstraps to pull, but who could & would stand to be a benefit to their community if someone would just reach out to lend a hand. She received numerous awards & was a pioneer, particularly in reforming the penal system in Louisville & was interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air” by Terry Gross.
Linda lost her mother, Louise, suddenly on Feb 21st, 2011 without having the opportunity to see her a last time or even speak to her. This haunted her & she grieved for years. Linda herself suffered from numerous metabolic & physical illnesses that left her in significant pain the last 10 years of her life. She had innumerable Dr. appointments & ER visits, was admitted to a hospital 7 times, & came within an hour of dying twice (antibiotic-induced hemolytic anemia/hepatitis & a gallstone-generated gallbladder gangrene & septicemia). Her feet required several surgeries, she had several mid- & lower back issues, & she was overdue for 2 knee replacements when her cancer was found. Her suffering was almost never seen as that radiant spirit our hers shone through, often them to her underlying pain.
Ultimately, Linda improved & even saved the lives of thousands of men & women across the US. Linda was a bright light of optimism & happiness in a world that often seems dark & hateful. She brought light & warmth to others when they needed it most. She made others want to be better human beings by example. This belief in the strength of the human spirit was a core belief in Linda. Linda was not perfect (none of us are), but she was always working to improve herself. However, she was perfect for a lot of us, a living Angel. We know what a precious gift has been lost & this world is a dimmer place without her.
Farewell our Sunshine Girl, we will miss you terribly but are glad that you no longer suffer & are with loved ones that await you in Heaven.