Good afternoon. Thank you Carolyn and Cheryl for hosting this lovely evening and thank all of you for taking time to join us in this beautiful place.
I was going to talk to you about my background and why I would be a good legislator for Jefferson County — but you can find that information in the campaign materials that are here tonight. Instead, I want to take this opportunity to talk with you about something deeply personal. I may get emotional but I want to to acknowledge a deep debt that I owe to many to you — a debt has bound me to this community and to the Boulder valley.
As many of you know, my parents were farmers in the Mission Valley north of Missoula. I was raised there along with my 8 siblings. My connection with Boulder started when I was 9 years old — that is the year that my twin brother Georgie moved to MDC and where he lived, on and off, for the next 47 years.
In 1957, my family started making the trip to Boulder many times a year to visit Georgie. It was not always easy. It was an expensive trip, and it was hard to leave the farm, but my folks did the best they could to keep us connected to George.
Boulder — it was hard to come here because I always wanted to take Georgie home — but the town itself and MDC, was always welcoming — and gentle, and gracious to my family. I loved the drug store on Main Street where we would stop in for a coke or milkshake. I loved the drive down the Boulder valley and across pipestone and if we were lucky we would get to stop at the old rock shop on pipestone pass. These visits were my first introduction to the Boulder valley. My folks would take us out for a drive and then let Georgie and I got for a walk and in this way I was introduced to McCarty Creek, Brown’s Gulch, to the hot springs, and Depot Hill.
I became George’s guardian in 1973, when my folks became too frail to continue their work as his guardian, and from then on my connections with MDC and Boulder increased. I would come for annual meetings and the staff at those meetings, some of who are here today, were so welcoming and loving to my family — Bobbi Janacarro, Janie Lewis, Barb Eliot, Jennifer Pryor, Julia Streib, Gladys Jessup, Terri McFadden, Nancy Smallwood, so many of you, in Boulder and in Basin, worked at MDC and you should be so very proud of that work. Families like mine were in constant turmoil — guilt, emotional stress, confusion, and expense. MDC offered a solution — I wish Georgie could have stayed at home with my family — that was the one thing I wished for my entire childhood — it was devastating to lose him, but the alternative was you — a community that welcomed families of kids with disabilities and offered services to us all.
When I got a call in 1999, from Dr. Caldwell at MDC, telling me that George was in a slump and that he did not think Georgie would live longer than 6 months, I was galvanized. I came here, was taken in by friends in Basin, found a place to live and started working closely with MDC. For the next six months, I spent almost every day at MDC, with George, with staff, looking through his records and taking him for long drives. He did get better and started being involved again in activities. Georgie and I took long drives almost every day and I got to know the upper valley road, the lower valley road, Elkhorn, Cataract Creek and Basin Creek. When MDC made the decision to move Georgie to Butte to an AWARE group home, I fought that decision. I was worried about the change and how it would affect him. But as always, he surprised me and showed such amazing flexibility and he thrived in his group home.
Let me give you a few examples why I love Boulder:
I remember about 15 years ago taking Georgie to the Jefferson County Fair. It was a beautiful summer morning and I took his hand and walked him over to the carousel. What was I thinking?! Within minutes, he had pulled away from me, grabbed a little boy’s cotton candy and made for one of the vendors where he grabbed a pop off the counter and took off. I yelled “sorry, sorry” and ran after him. I caught up with him and got him to the car and was trying to figure out how to keep him in the car and get over the vender and the kid who lost his cotton candy. I was worried someone had called the police. Instead, the young boy came over to me — in the confusion, I had lost my cap and he brought it to me in the car and said — “that’s ok about the cotton candy. He can have it.” And he smiled at Georgie and me. Someone else, who I didn’t know, walked over and said she had paid for the pop. I will never forget their generosity and kindness..
And then there is Lori Laquerquist who is another one of my heroes. She was always available, both night and day to talk with me about George’s health. She would visit him at his group home. Amanda was one of his nurses when he was on hospice. Such love and care & commitment. Boulder is so lucky to have a place like Bear Grass.
And Brud Smith, who helped my folks long before I ever met him — helped them figure out the legal stuff that became so important in the last years of George’s life — in fact, I think the legal work Brud did in 1972 saved Georgie’s life in 2010.
And the amazing staff who would bring George and his housemates over to my café in Basin — such chaos would ensue — I remember one time, I turned around, George was in the kitchen and the next thing I knew, the refrigerator door had fallen off. I will never know how he did that! Always there was kindness and care and of course a lot of laughter.
I could go on and on — but let me tell you that my heroes are the folks who committed so many years of their lives caring for the clients at MDC, my heroes are teachers and health care providers and folks who take care of babies and the elderly. I celebrate you all — and if I get elected to the state legislature — you will be the folks I will look to for guidance.
So — as I said at the beginning — this is a different kind of presentation. I am grateful for this opportunity to share with you my deep connection with the Boulder valley and why I am so proud to have made it my home.