Bestrom’s professional life stemmed from military service


Leonard Bestrom

By GARRETT HARR
Outlook staff writer

Leonard Bestrom of Laurel, joined the reserves after being discharged from the Navy in 1949. He was called back to serve during the Korean Conflict. During that time, he was stationed on an air craft carrier that proved to be his last duty station in the military. But, as a radio operator (see story p. 1), Bestrom gained skills that carried him through a long and satisfying civilian career and supported his large family.
In 1953, after leaving Navy life behind, he returned to the family farm in Minnesota and got married. He and his wife eventually had seven kids. All of them have first names starting with the letter L, just like Bestrom and his wife, Lois.
Bestrom’s future wife lived two miles from the farm. The couple shared many happy moments there. Although Bestrom later worked in other occupations, he was drawn to the farm life. To this day, he enjoys driving a tractor in the field in front of The Crossings where he and Lois now reside in the independent living wing.
After leaving Minnesota in search of better opportunities, Bestom used his Navy training in communications to get a job working for Western Union performing maintenance on teletype equipment in Montana. That was the beginning of a long career and the family’s move to to Laurel. Bestrom worked out of Billings while he traveled around Montana and the surrounding states installing the framework of what was the latest technology at the time, SNOTEL, short for snow telemetry.
SNOTEL was one of the most innovative concepts of the time, according to Bestrom. It provided him with a career and a job he loved. He eventually helped install the equipment all over the west.
SNOTEL measured the depth of the snow; collected information and data on yearly water supplies; predicted floods; and assisted with other types of climate research.
SNOTEL used a meteor-burst communication system to transfer data. Ionization trails from meteors were used to capture and shoot back radio waves. Essentially someone could bounce frequencies off of the remnants behind meteor trails and when timed right the message would get to its destination.
“Hello Len,” was bounced to and from SNOTEL locations to Bestrom from other stations and then he would respond. Despite the advanced technology, some “Hello Len,” messages would never make it.
During his tenure Bestrom helped install over 100 of these stations.
As a hard worker and patriot, Bestrom said he always stood by President Kennedy’s vision for America. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” he recited from the President’s inaugural address. By serving two stints in the Navy, and raising a family he has lived that directive as much as anyone.
Bestrom was born almost 90 years ago and he still looks towards the sky with as much wonderment and excitement as when he was a young boy.
“Exploration of outer space is still something,” he said. ‘Lewis and Clark had no idea what they would find. The Vikings explored the world. I have no idea what we will find in space, but I still can’t help but wonder.”

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