Deloris Pribyl: Senior Citizen of the Year

When Linda Rutledge at the Senior Citizen's Center told "The Mountaineer" that Dee Pribyl is the 2016 Senior Citizen of the year, we couldn't have been more pleased. There is no harder community worker and genuinely nicer person than Dee. Singlehanded, she and two friends were responsible for a new library in Big Sandy. That is as it should be as Dee is and will always be a librarian. Her love of books is shown in the interview we did with her last week.

Congratulations Dee Pribyl. If anyone should be Big Sandy Citizen of the Year, it should be you!

Mountaineer: You were recently honored by being the Big Sandy Citizen of the Year by the Senior Citizen's Center. Comment on that honor.

Deloris: I am on the Board of Directors at the Senior Center and am very honored to have been voted Senior of the Year. We have such a wonderful Senior Center here. Not only do the cooks provide fantastic meals, but the Center also provides socialization and friendships and a chance to get involved in the community. Our director, Linda Rutledge, does an outstanding job in running the center. I first became involved in the Center, when I was the librarian here, bringing books to the Center once a month from the library. They also have a nice collection of books at the Center, and I try and keep those in library order.

Mountaineer: Were you born and raised in Big Sandy. Talk about your childhood?

Deloris: I was born in Great Falls, graduated from Great Falls Central High School in 1965, and received my B.A. in Elementary Education from the College of Great Falls (now known as the University of Great Falls). Both my parents came from fairly large families and I have 31 first cousins, whom I remain close to. My Dad's parents (the Slonakers) homesteaded north of Chinook in 1914 and my Mother's parents (the Gregori's) immigrated from Italy in 1921. My Dad, who was a paratrooper in the South Pacific during World War II, passed away two years ago at age 97, and my Mother at almost 95, is doing fairly well. I have a twin brother, Dennis Slonaker, and a younger sister and brother, Dorothy Conlan, and Larry Slonaker.

Until I was 14, we lived in Black Eagle "Under the Big Stack" of the Smelter. Black Eagle, up until the 70's was comprised mainly of immigrants from Italy and Yugoslavia. Black Eagle became a melding pot of the two cultures with lots of celebrations and traditions. Everyone had large gardens and perfectly manicured yards. I remember my grandmother with her beautiful opera voice, singing Italian arias while working in her garden.

We had our 50th class reunion from Central last fall. There was a lot of fun reminiscing, including how we all cruised Central Avenue almost every Friday night, and eating at the Burgermaster, where I also worked part time. However, nothing compares to the Homecomings that Big Sandy has every five years.

Mountianeer: You are a librarian. I know you feel

Pribyl strong about libraries. Please comment.

Dee: I have always loved libraries. When I was in high school, I volunteered in the library. I took college library courses. So to me, it was a natural fit to become the librarian here, and I cherished working there. The library is a great place for the gathering and sharing of knowledge. I have felt so honored to have worked alongside two amazing women, Ann Quinn and Marla Ray, to have a new library built in our town. There is nothing better than to "hold a book in our hands when reading it" and to "climb inside them and live there." Hopefully people will come and sit at the tables and chairs that we will have there and treasure the books that surround them. Also we will bring back 100 years of Mountaineer Newspapers from the Historical Society where we have stored them, and people will be able to browse through them again.

Mountaineer: Talk about your family. Sons, daughters, grandchildren. I believe that you have or did have a daughter that is or was a librarian in South America. Is that true?

Dee: When my husband Jim and I were first married, we both taught in Medicine Lake Montana. I taught in the elementary school and Jim taught Industrial Arts, P.E. and was the wrestling coach in the high school. In the early 70's, we moved to the farm when Jim's Dad retired. Jim's heart and soul was always to farm and Big Sandy became a great place to raise a family. Our children, Ron, Debra, and Lesa thrived here. They were involved in sports, cheerleading, FFA, FHA, speech, class officers, science Olympiad, and Odyssey of the Mind to name a few. Of course, we, as parents were volunteers and advocates in all their programs, including Church and 4-H, besides school activities.

Ron, (Renee) of Havre, graduated from UTI, a technical school in Arizona and works for FICO Controls. Debra Klemann (Wayne) of Kalispell, received her Master's Degree from MSU. She has a private counseling office and works for the University of Montana, doing mental health training and research. Our youngest daughter, Lesa, also received her Master's from MSU and has taught in New Zealand, Italy and Chile. She is now teaching in Barcelona, Spain as an elementary school librarian. We are the biggest fans of our three grandsons, Kyle, Kameron, and Kody, and our two granddaughters, Elizabeth and Courtney.

Mountaineer: The library is about completed. What is your next big project?

Dee: I have always liked to volunteer. My next project is to finish the St. Margaret Mary's Centennial booklet. The project was put on hold, to give my attention to the library. However, in doing research, the Church actually was built in 1916, not in 1913, as was originally thought. I'm hoping to finish it this fall.

Anything else on your mind?