Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

Longtime ‘Friend’ bids adieu to Stevensville

At 91, Beverly Helrich, President of the Friends of the North Valley Public Library for the past 12 years, still has the energy to organize the 5th (and final) Art of the Chair-Desk fundraiser to benefit the library. She’s pictured here with two of the painted chairs which are displayed in the foyer of the Kohl Building, behind Valley Drug. The silent auction ends Friday, September 23 at 6 p.m. A retirement party for Beverly will be held Wednesday, September 28 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the community room of the library which will close at 5 p.m. so that library staff can attend. Michael Howell photo.

At 91, Beverly Helrich, President of the Friends of the North Valley Public Library for the past 12 years, still has the energy to organize the 5th (and final) Art of the Chair-Desk fundraiser to benefit the library. She’s pictured here with two of the painted chairs which are displayed in the foyer of the Kohl Building, behind Valley Drug. The silent auction ends Friday, September 23 at 6 p.m. A retirement party for Beverly will be held Wednesday, September 28 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the community room of the library which will close at 5 p.m. so that library staff can attend. Michael Howell photo.

By Michael Howell

Beverley Helrich’s career as a travel agent began in Reno, Nevada. She started the first travel agent school in northern Nevada and worked at it for 10 years. As part of that she had to do what travel agents do, she will tell you with a laugh, she had to travel a lot. As a result she managed to set foot on every continent except Antarctica, before “retiring” to Florence, Oregon, where she managed an art gallery and a jewelry store called the Blue Heron.
When her daughter married and moved to Stevensville, Montana, however, she soon followed.
It didn’t take this world traveler long to appreciate what she had stumbled upon in the little town of Stevensville. It was the kind of community that you could build some strong friendships in and that’s exactly what she began to do.
She first fell in with a Bible study group called The Eclectic.
“Because that’s what they were,” said Helrich. It was through that group that she made friends with Jean Clary and got to know her and the other Discovery Writers, who were at work chronicling the history of Stevensville.
It was Clary who, one day, took her to a public meeting about the Stevensville Library which included the possibility of shutting it down.
“Over my dead body,” was Helrich’s response. She found out there was an organization on the books called the Friends of the Library. But when she looked into it, she found that it had been pretty much inactive for a while. She’s not one to turn away, though, when she sees such a glaring need. She recognized the old public library in Stevensville for what it was, that is, one of the most important institutions in the ongoing experiment of democracy in America. A place where anyone can educate themselves for free.
So she joined the Friends of the Library, put on her travelling shoes (a good pair of sneakers, perhaps?) and began beating the streets of Stevensville on behalf of the local library. She was a major player in the successful effort to create the North Valley Public Library District. As an independent taxing district, the library could have a budget independent from the Town of Stevensville and the politics of town government.
“It was the largest turnout for a primary election in history,” she said.
Beverly didn’t stop there. She continued on beating the streets in those travelling shoes, drumming up support from the community and the businesses to make the many improvements that were accomplished during her tenure as President of the Friends of the North Valley Public Library. She is passionate about books, and was the driving force behind the popular NVPL book sale fundraisers as well as the wildly successful annual Chocolate and Authors party and the local art painted chair auction. As president of the Friends of NVPL, she has outlasted five executive directors of the library and has seen fourteen or fifteen board members come and go.
Then she decided to befriend another institution in the town, and became the second president of the Friends of Historic St. Mary’s Mission where she worked in the gift shop for eight years.
Then she noticed one Creamery Picnic that Citizen of the Year Dale Burk and Volunteer of the Year Joan Prather were going to be in the parade but there was no way to know who they were or what they were being honored for. She rectified that and supplied a sign for everybody. This, of course, became an annual job.
But Beverly didn’t do all the things she did in Stevensville just out of good will and good intentions. She knew very well from day one what she was taking on, the work involved, the sneakers that would be worn out. And she’s not moving on without giving some thought to the old friends she will be leaving behind.
“I’ve made a special effort to cultivate some young friends as we went along,” said Beverly. “I’m sure that they are going to do just fine.” Of course, “young” probably means something else to a 91-year-old woman like Beverly.
She’s headed back full circle to where her first long career began, Reno, Nevada. The daughter that she followed out to Stevensville has since divorced and moved to Reno. Beverly thinks it’s time to follow her daughter again.
“I love this valley,” said Beverly. “I have met so many wonderful people. I have so many good friends. And I have a lot of very wonderful acquaintances. I wish there was a better term. I love living here.”
“One thing I know, though, is when to leave the stage,” she said with a laugh.

One Response to Longtime ‘Friend’ bids adieu to Stevensville
  1. Jan Mahe
    January 30, 2017 | 5:52 pm

    Beverly is amazing . A best friend to my dear mother , Jean clary . It would be hard to write all that Beverly did & was. The joy and insight she brought into a visit with her , alone , was hard to discribe. Her zest for life and her desire to bring good to all she was involved with , was beyond words . I see she didn’t ( or wouldn’t ) address all the young people she took an interest in . The girls (she met at the library ) who were being raised by single moms . She became friends with . ( mentor ) took shopping for a day . Helped with clothing & then lunch . Just being around Beverly made you sit alittle taller , and smile alittle broader . I did her hair for years . So my insight into who she is & was is huge . I can’t share most of it , but I can say her sence of humor and her ability to accept what came her way was incredable . When we lost mom , she grieved & would nearly always mention her in an indearing way . A story or some the like . Beverly was a force to be recond with . When she had a project& you were a friend . You where not safe from not being involved with . She had fire in her eyes and pasion in her heart God bless her and all the women in her life . May you keep going Beverly & when you stop may your flight to heaven be swift . I’d like her address . If you can pass it on . Thank you .Jan Mahe

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