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Past Stories

Committed to Volunteering: Tom and Mary Nelesen
Montana Senior News, April/May 2014
When you first meet Tom and Mary Nelesen, you can’t help but notice two seemingly contradictory traits about this Kalispell couple. Both are gentle, soft-spoken people. Yet when they discuss volunteering you soon realize those qualities are tempered with a steel core of commitment to organizations needing assistance.
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Look, Listen, & Learn in Glacier National Park
Montana Senior News, April/May 2014

While a gift shop certainly qualifies as an unusual educational setting, one small business in Glacier National Park’s Apgar Village has proven that unusual can be effective when it comes to selling environmental education alongside buckskin vests.


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A Lawyer With A Heart As Big As Montana: Mae Nan Ellingson
Montana Senior News, February/March 2014
The story behind how Mae Nan Ellingson came to be one of Montana’s most esteemed lawyers is inspiring enough to give any doubting Thomas faith in the American dream. Her road from almost-poverty to philanthropy, however, has been far from smooth.
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When Is A Violin A Fiddle? Ask Jim Brager
Montana Senior News, February/March 2014
We all possess things we treasure because of their beauty, links to our past, or for any number of logical reasons. Sometimes, though, we feel an inexplicable kinship with a stranger’s battered artifacts that appear ready for the trash heap but that we feel compelled to save.
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Back To School
Outdoors Unlimited, February/March 2014
Thanks to grant money from OWAA’s 2013 John Madson Fellowship, I participated in an online creative nonfiction* workshop through the University of California at Berkeley. Students had half a year to complete the assignments for each of the course’s modules, which covered memoirs, essays, reviews, and interviews. All the assignments required a more personal style of prose than I was accustomed to using and excavating my own life for thoughts and experiences I didn’t realize still loitered in memory. For me, the value of the course wasn’t only in the new tips I gleaned but in reacquainting myself with some old writing truths I had been neglecting. Here are just three of the many lessons I found helpful:
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Meeting People And Making Friends Set To Music
Montana Senior News, February/March 2014
Say the word “contras” to most people and they envision Nicaraguan guerrilla forces toting rifles. Say it to Missoula’s Alan Boren and he hears Irish fiddle tunes and pictures dancers gracefully twirling, bowing, and linking hands. The difference occurs because “contras” to Alan means contra dances, lively gatherings he enjoys both as a musician and dancer.
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Thriving On Challenge: Jan Feddersen
Montana Senior News, February/March 2014
According to Missoula’s Jan Feddersen, people can be classified into two categories: thrill seekers and those who prefer “a more predictable life.” Undoubtedly, Jan belongs to the former faction.  How else would you describe someone who stepped off a 300-foot-high railroad bridge tethered by the ankle to a bungee cord that bounced her skyward five times before landing her ten heart-stopping feet above a river?
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Strengthening Families Through Storytelling: Judy Helm Wright
Montana Senior News, February/March 2014
She is called Auntie Artichoke and for good reason. In native cultures, Aunties have long been known for their wisdom and ability to help others. Without doubt, Missoula’s Judy Helm Wright qualifies on both counts. The Auntie half of her moniker was bestowed by some native women whom she met and befriended 40 years ago when her husband, Dwain, was stationed on Oahu with the U.S. Air Force and she taught at her church and local PTA.
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The Best Way To See Boston? On Foot
Montana Senior News, Dec.2013/Jan.2014
If you enjoy walking vacations where you can trek to memorable sights, sounds, and tastes—city style—put Boston on your list of contenders. Thanks to its small size, Boston is one of America’s most accessible cities on foot. From its art museums and architecture to its music and ethnic enclaves, “Beantown” offers residents, students, and newcomers lots of tempting destinations. It may be one of the nation’s oldest cities but it is definitely current at making history come alive.
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A Postcard From The Heavens
Montana Senior News, Dec.2013/Jan. 2014
When you consider events that can affect one’s future, receiving a calendar seems an unlikely game changer. Yet for FedEx pilot Richard “Dick” Neumann, a calendar from the U.S. Marine Corps assuredly did alter the course of his life while he was still a forestry and engineering student.
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True Partners In Art And Life: Echo And Ron Ukrainetz
Montana Senior News, October/November 2013
In the Pulitzer-Prize winning musical, Sunday in the Park with George, lyricist Stephen Sondheim ends his story of painter Georges Seurat with words that Echo and Ron Ukrainetz live by: “Order, design, composition, balance, light, tension, and harmony.” Like artists everywhere, who also happen to share the same mailbox, Echo and Ron strive to bring an aura of order, balance, and harmony into their marriage and artwork.
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Taking To The Woods With Bikes And Boots: The Montana Dirt Girls
Montana Senior News, June/July 2013
When Carol Fulton moved to Missoula three years ago, one of the first things she did was type the following keywords into her computer’s search engine: “Missoula + mountain biking.” As soon as she saw “www.montanadirtgirls.com” among the hits, Carol had a feeling it would be a good match, especially since she never expected to find a women’s biking group in her new hometown.
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Part Artist, Part Alchemist: Flathead Lake Potter Mimi Werner
Montana Senior News, June/July 2013
If you accept the idea that our childhood passions shape our lives, then you can well believe that a little girl who loved to make mud pies could grow up to become one of Montana’s most talented potters.
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Polson's Unofficial Ambassadors: The Montana Shamrockers
Montana Senior News, June/July 2013
“We consider ourselves the unofficial ambassadors for Western Montana. We go where we are called and serve as we are able,” says Neal “Nels” Lewing. If you think Neal is referring to political diplomacy or the Foreign Legion, think again. As the spokesman for the Celtic-themed Montana ShamRockers, Neil is talking about sharing the pleasures of Irish music not military support or statesmanship. For this fun-loving musical troupe, service comes as much in the form of performing gratis at nursing homes and schools as in driving hundreds of miles for a gig that barely pays enough to cover fuel costs.
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Lending A Helping Hand For Over Four Decades: Marion Fisher And The Klothes Kloset
Montana Senior News, June/July 2013
If you've ever wondered what makes a good yardstick for determining the state of the economy, wonder no more. According to Marion Fisher, rags hold the answer. As a long-time volunteer for the Klothes Kloset, a non-profit resale-recycle store, Marion ought to know. She has helped out at this Columbia Falls landmark for over four decades, dating back to when the store first opened and during those years she has observed that whenever white rags get scooped up quickly, it signals a positive financial trend.
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If You Dream It, It Happens: Val Parsons And The Gateway To Glacier Trail Project
Montana Senior News, June/July 2013
The “P” in Val Parsons’ last name may stand for Parsons, but it also represents two other traits that describe this West Glacier cycling aficionado—patience and persistence. Most everyone who has been involved with building bike trails in the Flathead can attest to that.
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A Linchpin for Missoula's Book-Loving Community: Fact & Fiction
Montana Senior News, February/March 2013
Anyone familiar with the Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks’ movie You’ve Got Mail, knows about the challenges independent bookstores face to stay in business. The plot of this 1998 film revolves around Kathleen Kelly, the owner of an independent bookstore in Manhattan that eventually has to close its doors after a mega-bookstore moves to the neighborhood. Romantically speaking, the ending is upbeat. But from the standpoint of independent bookstores, the outcome definitely disqualifies it for happily-ever-after status.
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Joining Forces And Faiths To Help The Homeless: Missoula’s Family Promise
Montana Senior News, February/March 2013
Imagine for a moment that you were laid off from work and have zero savings. The rent is due and your unemployment check won’t cover it. You have two young children, no family in the area, and no immediate job prospects. What do you do? Well, if you reside in Missoula, one thing you won’t do is find yourself out on the street or living in your car. Not if Family Promise can help it.
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Take A Spin Into History And Hot Springs With Adventure Cycling
Montana Senior News, February/March 2013
With a motto like, “to inspire and empower people to travel by bicycle” it’s no wonder Adventure Cycling (AC) offers bicycle tours to suit every level of ability. Based in Missoula, AC is the largest non-profit cycle touring organization in North America. Since its beginnings in 1976, when AC arranged a bicentennial ride from Oregon to Virginia for over 3,000 participants, it has drawn cyclists from around the globe to pedal across some of this nation’s most majestic vistas.
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Into Africa: Loren Pinski’s Upcoming Peace Corps Adventure
Montana Senior News, February/March 2013
Among the the best known words ever uttered by a president of the United States are these two lines from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Less known but expressing a similar sentiment are the words Kennedy spoke directly afterwards: “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
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Following The Less-Traveled Path: World-Class Adventurer Jon Turk
Montana Senior News, February/March 2013
Nothing summarizes Jon Turk’s life better than three lines of poetry penned by Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Considering that Jon trained as a research organic chemist but chose instead to become a professional adventurer and storyteller, these famous lines seem especially apropos despite having been written in 1916.
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Keeping Alive A Vanishing Art: Buckskin Tailor Elaine Snyder
Montana Senior News, June/July 2012
In the 1970s when adventurers eager for the open road headed west in their VW vans, many toted along beloved guitars and backpacks. But not Elaine Snyder. When Elaine departed the East coast for her odys­sey to Montana, the one item she made sure to take was her trusty old Necchi sewing machine.
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A Man With A Calling To Poetry: Boise's John Wulf
Idaho Senior Independent June/July 2012
Poetry has been said—and rightly so—to be many things to many people. Carl Sandburg called it, “a packsack of invisible keepsakes” while William Wordsworth deemed it, “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”
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A Man of Note: Glacier Symphony & Chorale’s Alan Satterlee
406 Woman, April May 2012
Alan Satterlee considers himself fortunate, indeed. When he was hired six years ago as Executive Director of the Glacier Symphony & Chorale (GSC), Satterlee not only landed his dream job in the Flathead, he received a golden opportunity to support an organization that enhances his community.
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Karyn Moltzen and AniMeals Champion the Four-footed Hungry and Homeless
Montana Senior News, February/March 2012
Karyn Moltzen never intended to become a modern-day Noah. Initially, her only goal was to feed neglected and abandoned pets that were going hungry. But the more cats and dogs Karyn fed, the more she grasped the magnitude of the problem and broadened her focus to include sheltering animals that otherwise would have perished.
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Living Life Creatively: Missoula’s Ray and Susie Risho
Montana Senior News, February/March 2012
If ever a couple epitomized art in action, that couple would be Ray and Susie Risho. Ray’s artistry comes in a delicious edible form through the old-world foods he skillfully prepares. Susie’s expressions of beauty and awe take form through the sculptures and jewelry she handcrafts as well as through her poetry, paintings, and gardens. And that’s just the short list. 
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Capturing Light and Shadow on Canvas: Robert "Bob" Salo
Written for the Estes Park Cultural Arts Council's Legends & Lore V art show, July 15 - 31, 2011
It seems especially fitting that the Cultural Arts Council of Estes Park would choose to honor the work of Robert R. Salo in this year’s Legends & Lore show. Although Bob didn’t reside in Estes Park, he spent so many hours painting the wildlife and terrain of Rocky Mountain National Park and volunteering with the arts council and Rocky Mountain Nature Association that his fellow artists considered him a local. And a talented well-loved one at that.
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Preserving a World Heritage Food: Mary Hensley and the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project
Montana Senior News, February/March 2011
In Nevil Shute’s beloved fictional story, A Town Like Alice, a British woman returns to the Malaysian village, where she spent the last days of WWII, so she could build a well for the village women. She wanted to ease the women’s workload and thank the people for allowing her to live and work alongside them during a dangerous time. 
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Making It Big, the Sculptures of Amber Jean
Montana Living, May 2003
When the Nestlé Company needed to find an artist capable of carving a 14-foot-high totem pole out of chocolate, their public relations director typed “chocolate” and “sculptor” into a computer search engine.  Then prayed some matches existed.  One web site popped up on the screen—Amber Jean’s.
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Fingerprinting Griz
Wild Outdoor World, November/December 2000
Ever since visitors first began touring Glacier National Park, they’ve always asked: “how many bears live here?”  It took almost a century to find the answer.  But thanks to genetic fingerprinting, biologists now have a good idea how many grizzlies roam Glacier Park.
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