Starting out as five young Montanan women from various backgrounds looking to earn a career in Education in 1954, ended with something just as spectacular: life-long friendships. Beverly, Judy, Dorothy, Nancy, and Gail (passed) graduated together in 1956 from the College of Great Falls in the old Columbus Hospital and have continued their close-knit relationship for 64 years. They have continued a round-robin letter for 62 years and have gathered together 11 times since graduation. The last time they were together was in 2008 when they visited Nancy in Lewistown. Gail unfortunately passed away in 2009 of cancer which each of the four remaining friends said was one of the hardest things for them to go through. They described Gail as “the life of the party and our bookkeeper.” Nancy said, “We have lived through hard times, but lived in the best of times.”
As the Interim Director of Advancement, I had the opportunity to meet with this lovely group of ladies during Alumni, Family, and Friends weekend. When asking the four what really drew them together in the first place, they all agreed it was from being in the education program at then College of Great Falls together. They reminisced about their time together and shared many stories which often started with “Do you remember…” and filled the room with laughter. After their first year of teaching, all five of them attended a teacher conference and that is where they decided to start writing letters to each other. Their letters first consisted of ideas, lesson plans, and experiences as teachers, and later in life turned into talking about their weddings, husbands, and children. They were in each others’ weddings. Beverly stated, “Every time we get together it is like we haven’t been missed. We pick up right where we left off and it’s always so easy.”
Beverly taught elementary education for 11 years. Since retirement from elementary education, she has taught at Flathead Valley Community College for 11 years. She teaches both forensics handwriting analysis and cake decorating and has taught close to 3,000 students in the Flathead Valley. Beverly is very artistic! In her spare time she makes jewelry that she sells in Kalispell and Whitefish markets.
Judy taught elementary education for 34.5 years to 1st, 2nd, and 5th grade students. She was also a grain truck driver for 25 years during the summer months, helping her husband who was a farmer. Judy is actively involved in her church here in Great Falls. Judy’s church makes homemade bags filled with school supplies and also makes quilt tops on ‘Love Day’ two times a month. She said they made 117 quilts and sent them to Africa, Asia, and South America last year. She is also active with Family Promise and serves breakfast on Saturdays. Judy’s daughter and granddaughter followed in her footsteps and are also teachers.
Dorothy taught for 28 years in elementary education. By the grace of God, Beverly’s daughter was Dorothy’s teacher aide. When Beverly’s daughter told her who she was a teacher aide for, Beverly could hardly believe it was “her Dorothy”. It also took a few months for Dorothy to realize that it was Beverly’s daughter that was her aide, but she was just as pleasantly surprised. After retirement as a teacher, Dorothy worked at Quilting in the Country for 16 years. Since 2010 she has been a volunteer at the RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteers Program) in Bozeman. She makes dish towels and mentioned they are the top sellers at the markets she goes to. They are hand-stitched towels and the volunteers gather every Tuesday throughout the year to make them. She spoke very highly of RSVP and said, “I love our customers and their comments.” All the money raised from the towels supports women and children organizations. One year, they made 950 bags and filled them with food for kindergarteners.
Nancy taught elementary education for 3 years before becoming a rancher’s wife. Her family has had the Whiskey Ridge homestead for 115 years and still have it today. For most of her life, her family spent their time in Winifred from November- May each year, and the remaining time at their home right outside of Lewistown. Nancy also did some substitute teaching in Winifred.
This group of women is a true inspiration for those of us who have the opportunity to know and interact with them. They have all gone separate ways, live in different cities, have busy life schedules, yet remain as close as they were 64 years ago. It was a privilege to sit down and talk with them during their time here in Great Falls for alumni weekend. As the Interim Director of Advancement, I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to meet and hear all these wonderful alumni stories.