Myrt Armstrong passed away on Oct. 24, 2016, at her home in Bismarck. She was surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as she peacefully went into the Lord’s arms. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 106 Osage Ave., Bismarck, with the Rev. Craig Schweitzer officiating.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Parkway Funeral Service, 2330 Tyler Parkway, Bismarck, with a prayer service beginning at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue one hour prior to service at the church on Friday.
Myrtle Irene Olson Armstrong was born in Moorhead, Minn., on Aug. 10, 1931. She attended school in Fargo and graduated from Fargo Central High School in 1949. She went on to attend Interstate Business College in Fargo. She married Arnold Douglas Armstrong at First Lutheran Church, and in 1957, they moved to Bismarck.
When asked about Myrt, one friend said that, “She led from the heart.” This has never been more true of anyone than it was for Myrt. She was passionate about many things, but for her, absolutely nothing was more important than her family. She lived a life dedicated to the service of others, and she always put her family first. Myrt was extremely proud of her children’s and grandchildren’s accomplishments; she celebrated each person’s milestones, achievements and life events with genuine pride and loving enthusiasm.
When asked in an interview what she considered her major accomplishments, Myrt replied, “Number one my children, number two my grandchildren…” Only then did she start to list her legislative and political accomplishments.
In 1970, Myrt joined the Mental Health Association of North Dakota as a fund raiser, and she went on to become the executive director for 25 years. One of her co-workers referred to her as “a force to be reckoned with,” as she proceeded to lead the association in passing new state commitment laws and insurance rights for the mentally ill. During the difficult farming years of the 1980s, she helped develop Farm Stress Workshops that drew national attention.
In 1989, Gov. George Sinner nominated Myrt for the prestigious National Caring Institute Award, and she received that award in Washington, D.C. She returned to Washington, D.C. in 1990 to receive the Jefferson Award for exemplary public service. During her lifetime, Myrt was also recognized with the United Way’s Lifetime of Caring Award, the Ruth Meiers’ Child Advocacy Award, the Abused Adult Resource Center’s Love Without Fear Award and the North Dakota Children’s Caucus Award. Additionally, she was acknowledged for her lifetime commitment to the service of others when the Myrt Armstrong Recovery Center in Fargo was named after her.
For over three decades, Myrt presided over what became known as her “Kitchen Cabinet,” a group of spirited women who sat at her famous oval kitchen table in the evening exchanging ideas and developing strategies to obtain services for abused women, the mentally ill and the underserved. This group moved mountains to help the most vulnerable in our society as they wrote legislation, lobbied to get that legislation passed and raised money to help those in need. All of this took place while Myrt also answered the Crisis Hot Line for emergency calls that she staffed from her home for years. Hers was a world in which the most powerful and the most vulnerable were not only equal, but one in the same.
Most recently, Myrt volunteered her time working at Seeds of Hope, where she developed and ran the Christmas Store. Additionally, Myrt helped her daughter, Shelly, with her in-home daycare. She was loved and considered a grandmother by all of the families at Shelly’s daycare, where she was everyone’s “Grandma Myrt.”
According to one friend, “(Myrt) was a champion whenever you needed one, (and she) could cajole or embrace with equal fervor. Her life’s work was speaking truth to power, and she pursued everything with untempered love, fearless passion, and confident humility.” Myrt was strong, vibrant, opinionated and never at a loss for words or ideas. Her energy, wit, wisdom, laughter and love will be missed by all.