Teatotaling clergyman and wife take over Dirty Shame Saloon

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Gloria Belcher stands outside the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak. She and her husband, Don, recently purchased the bar and restaurant.

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

An Episcopalian priest and his wife - neither of whom drinks alcohol - have bought the Dirty Shame in the Yaak along with the gambling license.

Don and Gloria Belcher promise a full bar, great food, bands and fun when the remodeled Dirty Shame tentatively reopens this week.

"It's still the Dirty Shame, but a tad bit more sedate," said bar manager Joleen Calvi.

The Belchers purchased the Dirty Shame from Rick Carsello in June and hired Jerry Mountain of Yaak to remodel the bar inside and out. The renovated kitchen includes new appliances, the bathrooms have new fixtures, and the dining room and bar area have a new ceiling and walls. Carpeting now covers the worn wooden floor.

"We're keeping the (wood) stove," Gloria Belcher said. "I can't think of a more original piece of art."

Cedar now covers the outside of the bar as painting continues. A nearby home and garage have been torn down.

A lifelong resident of Troy and Yaak, Calvi has heard mixed reactions about changes at the Dirty Shame.

"They're taking a 'wait and see' attitude," she said. "For those of us who grew up here, it became a tourist attraction because of the way Montana people are. Montanians are not ones for change. We fight back tooth and nail."

The Belchers are no strangers to the area. They owned the nearby Yaak River Lodge from 1992 to 2002 before moving to Maryland. Don Belcher also served as priest to Holy Trinity in Troy and St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Libby from 1996 to 2001.

The Belchers for now will remain in Maryland, where he is a priest at a 300-member church. Gloria Belcher for a few weeks has been in the Yaak overseeing the remodeling and bar's reopening. Her daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer and Bill Tuerke, will move from Maryland to run the Shame.

The Belchers initially purchased the six, one-room cabins behind the Shame from Carsello's former wife, Willie Gossett. Carsello then asked the Belchers if they wanted to buy the bar.

"With the cabins, you have to have food," Gloria Belcher said.

The Belchers also wanted to buy the Dirty Shame to preserve its history.

"Everybody knows about the Dirty Shame," Gloria Belcher said. "We want to keep the history, the reputation. We like people, we love the Yaak and want to make sure it's here for the next 100 years."

The bar was established in 1951 in a metal hut just outside the main gate of the former Yaak Air Force Base, according to Lincoln County Montana Genealogical Society. A log building constructed later along the Yaak River Road burned down. The current building was built from a rumored "five small structures jammed together" following the fire.

One rumor has it the bar got its name after world champion boxer Joe Louis ordered a scotch there. When Louis was told they didn't have scotch, he replied "that's a dirty shame."

The Belchers plan to display and sell old photographs taken in the Yaak. They will include background from Troy historian Jim Calvi. His wife, Joleen, will feature her paintings and sculptures.

The Shame will be open seven days a week, featuring buffet-style dinners and bands. The new owners also would like to host weddings and benefits.

Breakfasts will include homemade waffles, sausage, bacon, and chipped beef and sausage gravy. Lunches will feature soups and sandwiches. For dinner expect salads, and dishes like apricot chicken, beef roasts, pasta, prime rib and burgers.

"Good food will be our main focus, and fun and maintaining the history of the Shame," Belcher said. "We want to keep the character of the Shame. We're listening to the local people and are open to suggestions."

Don Belcher is a former executive for a pharmaceutical company, importer of wines and stock broker. He discovered the Yaak on a fly fishing trip in 1988.

Gloria Belcher was a stock broker for 20 years. She is working toward becoming an ordained Episcopalian chaplain.

The Belchers also acquired the Dirt T-Shame Yaak-O-Mat laundry facility next to the bar.

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