“I remember coming out of the side door of what is now the memorial center with the rest of the graduates, and there are all the parents, everyone taking pictures, the same deal as it is now in many ways. And I came out of the doors and I thought: oh my goodness, what now?”
Carol Cady’s memories of graduation echo the thoughts of many high school graduates, and yet Cady found her way, starting a successful small business in Libby now in it’s 36th year of operation, Mountain Meadows Gifts.
Cady and fellow graduate Dean Thomas ‘Tom’ Scow are this year’s honorees for the distinguished graduate hall of fame, instigated as a way to shed light on Libby graduates who are role models for current graduates.
Social studies teacher Jeff Gruber has been on the committee for about 10 years and says “we look for people who have distinguished themselves in their careers and in their communities. Enriching your community — that’s Carol, and Tom has been in the Army Reserves for about 39 years. That’s fairly incredible.”
A family physician currently living and working in Grand Junction, Colorado, Scow put himself through college working summers at the mill in Libby. “It was good to be able to grow up in a small town. I remember always being ‘Tommy’s kid’ and my dad, uncle, grandfather had all worked at the mill ... everyone was very supportive and wanted me to go to college and not spend the rest of my life at the mill” says Scow.
With a medical career direction obvious from the age of 14, Scow was able to achieve his goals by going to medical school while in the military “it’s different now,” he says “I had to pay for my kids to go to college. I was lucky to be able to work to pay for my general degree and then go into the military for medical school. I’ve done a lot with my career and been able to travel extensively. On reflection, I think I would have taken a year off between school and college to backpack around Europe or something but … no regrets really.”
Although Cady has spent her whole life in Libby, she considers being able to change and learn new things the reason for her success, adding writing for Woods and Water magazine and playing the mandoline to her list of achievements in the last few years. She has also run several classes on starting a small business which, she says, “is not for the faint of heart.”
Initially, Cady remembers opening her gift store and telling her mother “give me two years and I’ll have this figured out” but now she realizes “maybe you never really figure out what people want, but I’ve learned so much over the years. Having a business is about being attached at the hip ... you literally see your personal life laid out on a spreadsheet.”
Both Scow and Cady have fond memories of growing up in Libby. “We grew up hunting and fishing, it was all about being outdoors,” says Cady “I had fantastic parents who took me out camping and hiking all the time. It’s been a wonderful place to live, to raise children. I have no regrets.”
Scow remembers running free: “we never worried about safety ... it was a different time. My mother never knew where us kids were, we were somewhere in a five-mile radius.”
While some things have changed since the 50s and 60s, Cady says that things remain the same in many ways. “Perhaps the biggest change has been for girls. There were no competitive sports for girls then, we played sports on our own in the gym but you didn’t get to compete or travel. I would have liked to, though.”
As he ponders the future of the class of 2017, Scow says “not a huge percentage of my class went to college - I would guess 10 to 20 percent, but I would say to graduates now to push your education as far as you can, because the jobs that will be meaningful and rewarding in the future will be those that need a college education.”
Cady and Scow will both be in attendance for the presentation on Monday April 24, held at the same time as the National Honors Society honor roll students are recognized. It will be at the Memorial Center as the usual site, the high school gym is undergoing renovations.
Gruber is philosophical about the meaning of the graduate hall of fame “It’s a nice way to roll together the present, future and past. It’s a big achievement to be on the honor roll, so we want to let those kids enjoy their moment while highlighting the possibilities for the future.”