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2023 Conference

Mountains of Courage is hosted annually by the non-profit, Gallatin Valley Circle of Compassion. We are a volunteer group of local community members who are touched by the human experience of death and dying. 

A group of interested people came together in 2011 to explore how they could help shift the current paradigm around this very human and challenging subject. The group and its mission have evolved to meet the interests of the community they serve.

Meet the Committee

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Arlene Hoag

Volunteer for Hospice and the Living/Dying Project


Tawnya Healy

Website and graphic design, Reiki Practioner and End of Life Doula

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Tami Flannery

Volunteer for CASA, KAIROS Prison Ministry and CREDO


Tracy Rassley

Programs Manager AFSP

MT & WY, interested in supporting those with mental health struggles

In Perpetuity Members

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Edy Harrington

Physical Therapist (retired), Interested in end of life matters

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Jan Young

Physical Therapist (retired), Interested in end of life matters

Our Story

In 2011, a news story about doctors spending $100,000 to prolong a man’s life for two weeks spurred Dr Susan Kreitzbergto and Donna Chimera, two of the founding members of the Gallatin Valley Circle of Compassion, into action. Dr Kreitzbergto felt that amount of money could buy so much health care for so many people, so she gathered a circle of friends and volunteers to help her begin a meaningful dialogue in Bozeman.  Within a year, she and Chimera put on their first public conference. Since then, most years bring about 100 attendees to the annual Mountains of Courage Conference.

Susan and Donna would laugh frequently when they talked about the beginning of their organization. They were determined not to have the words death or dying in the name or the title of the conference. They went to hysterical lengths not to use the words, said Kreitzberg, a retired naturopath. They thought no one would come if they used those words. Chimera, a caregiver, nonprofit marketer and former senior care administrator, said they worked really hard on the wording. Circle of Compassion and Mountains of Courage gave no hint as to what they did, so they added a tagline: ‘Dialogues with the living about Dying’ and followed that with 'When Someone Dies'. It felt good to say the words out loud.


Mountains of Courage is for anyone who wants to create a conversation about death and dying. Attendees include professionals and the general public, laypeople and caregivers.

The event allows people to explore the practical issues, emotions, myths and traditions of dying in America. It provides resources and information that can help individuals discuss it calmly and confidently and make informed, empowered decisions.

Eighty percent of us do not put our personal affairs in order before we die. The vast majority of us want to die at home, but seventy-five percent will die in a hospital or nursing home, and about twenty percent of us will spend our last days in ICU, in part because we don’t talk with each other in advance.

Kreitzberg felt that we teach people in our culture how to drive and how to cook, but we don’t have classes on how to die. And that the way we handle death is so sanitized, and we’re so protected, that it’s a hard topic for us. Most modern cultures avoid talking about aspects of dying. People don’t want to upset each other. Friends and family members fear they’ll say the wrong thing or worry about what others will think of their attempts. The dying don’t talk because they are afraid, don’t want to be a burden, or don’t want to trigger one more feud in an already fractured family. We traumatize each other with our peculiar practices when we could as easily be transformed by talking.

The workshops cover a wide range of circumstances, options, and points of view. All presentations are intentional, healthy dialogues from the heart, not academic lectures. It’s a safe environment. No one needs to be afraid. 


Mountains of Courage provides openings for important, enriching conversations about when someone dies. The annual conference is hosted by a group of dedicated volunteers who strive to keep the dialogue on death active and supportive.

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