GREAT FALLS — Norma Ashby Smith was presented with the "We Stand Tall" award in Great Falls on Wednesday.
The award was presented by the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
Norma said she is grateful and honored: “I thought, wow, I’m lucky to get to follow in the footsteps of other women that have really made a lot of contributions. I believe the first award was given to Emma Roberts who is behind the formation of the Great Falls Symphony, and each one has done something special and to be in their footsteps has been a huge, huge honor for me."
Norma is well-known to generations of Montanans. She graduated from Helena High School in 1953, and four years later, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Montana in Missoula. She landed a job at KRTV in 1962. She held that job for 26 years, broadcasting under several formats and timeframes where she interviewed celebrities and people, both for their interests and for their jobs as community and state servants. The show went live from Great Falls across the state, winning awards as Montana Program of the Year.
In 1968 Norma and other planners suggested that the Great Falls Advertising Federation honor Charlie Russell as a money-raising event by hosting an auction for western artists. The auction, which has gone a long way in helping to support the C. M. Russell Museum for 51 years, has grown from a one-day event into a week of activities and is enjoyed by western art enthusiasts across the country.
Norma has been active with planning Centennial celebrations for Montana as well as Great Falls. Among those celebrations, she coordinated the Montana Statehood Centennial Bell event when people across the state rang bells in 1989 at the exact same time of day a hundred years after Montana became a state. Out of that event developed the Montana History Teacher of the Year Award at both the elementary and secondary levels. Norma continues to coordinate this event every year.
She has chaired the Great Falls “Waking the Dead” tours of the Highland Cemetery for the past nine years and the events of Paris Gibson month in July.
In 2017, she was elected to the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. Norma is an honorary member of the Blackfeet Tribe, was honored with the Paris Gibson award, and is in the Montana Broadcasters Hall of Fame.