By Tim Lee
Mary Pyette is one of a kind – a Greek American, born and raised in Gildford, Montana now living in Chinook. She is a Gildford girl. “I am from Gildford, and I am going to shout it!” Mary exclaims as she recalls a few cheers from her school. Her childhood homestead still stands in a family field to this day, leaning slightly to the side, all the paint worn away by dust and wind. But it is still standing strong, much like Mary herself.
Mary has lived in Chinook since 1955, a key part of the community for as long as anyone can remember. The Blaine County Senior Citizens’ Center is her central hub where she serves everyone who visits. It is her job to pick the music (she likes Johnny Cash), find out who needs greeting cards, and make sure they are laid out for everyone to sign. Mary is also a prolific photographer and incredibly adept with her iPhone for someone her age as she snaps pictures wherever she can. The seniors’ center is filled with her work showing all the good times the center has had.
“I worked at a catholic hospital and I always wanted to be a photographer because I liked taking pictures. But one day my dad was in the hospital and the nurses there told me, ‘You would make a good nurse.’ I tried it, and that is why I became a nurse.” Mary became known for her work as a county nurse, mainly by the children in the community due to her unique techniques for dealing with children. “I went to this workshop on distraction. They said you can distract people from pain by making them look at a picture. So I had my daughter paint a nice picture of a native on a horse and the native had all these feathers, so when the child would come in I would have my syringe all loaded and ready to go and I would tell them, ‘Now you have to count these feathers, no one has ever told me how many feathers there are!’ They would count 1, 2, 3 and I would give them the shot. The story got around that when you went to Mary Pyette’s office you would count the feathers. A boy came in one day and crawled under a table and said, “I know what you’re going to do with me! You are going to make me count those stupid feathers, and I’m not counting them! He opened the door and was running down the street. So here is the county nurse and his mother chasing him down the street.” It feels like a scene Norman Rockwell would paint.
Mary’s husband was a key part of the community with his business called Red Rock Power. The business still thrives to this day under a new name, but the business may not have happened without a little gentle pressuring from Mary. “My husband decided he was going to go into line work. There was a line truck in North Dakota, and he said ‘Mary, I think I will get that line truck and do some line work.’ So we got in the car and backed out of the garage and he gets in and says, ‘Oh Mary, I just changed my mind.’ I told him to get in the car, we are going! We drove all the way and got the truck. We started Red Rock Power but the garage is just by my house and so I would keep an eye on those boys and take them banana bread, raisin bran muffins, and if they were really good, I would take them some Greek baclava. It takes two days to make baclava.”
Mary is known as “The First Lady of Red Rock Power” and has a beautiful legacy that has helped Chinook continue its success. We at Lifestyles also wish to thank her for being a key role in getting our magazines out to the Chinook community as she passes them out for us.