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The 10 (plus 1) sexiest men I know

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The 10 (plus 1) sexiest men I know

A look at almost a calendar full of men who give back to our community, and what they see as important.


What makes a man sexy? Sitting in a business meeting and listening to Dave Sleyster talk about the origins of his business, Energy Electric, I found myself pondering this question. That’s partly because Dave is a sexy guy—an opinion I’ve heard expressed by many women, and one I agree with. But why is he a sexy guy?

The answer came quickly: sexy men have two basic qualities. One, they have a huge ability to laugh, including at themselves. Sexy men know when to take things seriously, and when they don’t need to. And two, sexy guys are those who live beyond themselves; they’re taking the time to give something back to the community.

With these criteria in mind, it occurred to me that I know an awful lot of sexy men and I began making a list that quickly grew out of control. And control was important, because in thinking about these men, I knew I should write about them—and write about the many projects they are involved with that help to better this place we live in. But 35 men are a few too many for a magazine story, so I limited the list to ten. And then added one more, my own David. Sure, it’s prejudicial, but any list of ten—even the ten best cinnamon rolls—is going to be. And he meets my criteria. Which, now that I think of it, leaves me just short of a calendar.

Let me assure the men I know not named in this list—yes, you are sexy men too. Every one of you. So please don’t call me to complain. There just wasn’t enough room.

So here they are, in alphabetical order: ten of the sexiest men (plus one) I know.


Chris Bessler

His roots are planted in small towns. Born in Riverside, California he grew up in the small town Glide, Oregon; Chris Bessler was a small town boy. At the age of 16 he began working in sawmills, and continued to do so through college, graduating from the University of Oregon with a major in journalism and a minor in English. 

In 1978 he rode into Sandpoint on his motorcycle and took a job as a reporter, then editor, at the Bonners Ferry Herald. After three years there he left and traveled a bit, then returned to work as a reporter at the Bonner County Daily Bee, where he would eventually also end up as editor. He met a local girl, Sandy Swikart, and in 1986 the couple left to travel, got married, moved to Santa Cruz, Calif., and had their son Nate. Chris had landed a job working on several magazines, but Santa Cruz was too big and, “I didn’t care for California,” said this small town boy. “There were too many people.”

Wanting a better place to raise their son, the couple moved back to Chris’ hometown in Oregon, while looking around the Northwest for the place they wanted to settle into for good. “It was the only time I ever drew unemployment,” he laughed. 

There was simply no better place, they found, than Sandpoint, and they returned here in 1990, when Chris founded what was then called Keokee Co. Publishing and Editorial Services.

The company-of-one published books and magazines, provided editorial services, and handled marketing for local businesses, and published the Chamber of Commerce newsletter. Given the difficulties of establishing a business, Chris at the same time worked a half-time job for the Selkirk-Priest River Basin Association.

The dream was to create a regional, outdoors magazine focusing on the Inland Northwest but the market wasn’t there to support it. In the meantime, among other projects, Chris began publishing Sandpoint Magazine, which just this winter celebrated its twentieth anniversary.

With an appreciation for small towns, and recognizing the crucial role economic vitality plays in local lives, Chris has served on various boards that seek to promote small town business life, including the Chamber’s Visit Sandpoint Group and the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association. He has been an advocate for local, small business and for public education. “It’s corny, but kids really are our future,” he said. “A good educational foundation [for our children] results in better lives for everyone. The future rests on our ability to provide a quality education.” Chris is currently serving on the board of the Panhandle Alliance for Education, a group he says is “simply amazing. They give tens of thousands of dollars in grants to local teachers, and the Ready 4 Kindergarten program prepares children for school. Kids who start out behind stay behind,” and PAFE, he says, is working to ensure that doesn’t happen with area children.

Though most of Chris’ own volunteer time at present is divided between DSBA and PAFE, he said he tries to support other community groups too. Keokee provides a simple, one-page website free to any local 501(c)3 nonprofit group, or services at cost if they want a larger website. He said at last count, Keokee was hosting for free or at cost websites for 14 nonprofit groups ranging from Panhandle Special Needs to Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail.

Most recently, Chris jumped on board a grassroots effort to raise awareness of world hunger. A friend, Eric Rust, came up with an idea for a day dubbed “Feel the Hunger,” for individuals to experience hunger themselves as a way of raising awareness of the desperate need in many parts of the world. Chris encouraged anyone interested in fighting world hunger, or just learning more about it, to check their website.

“Just under 1 billion people in the world are chronically hungry—undernourished or literally starving, according to the UN’s World Food Program,” Chris said, citing stats from the website.

To learn more about the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association, visit their website at DowntownSandpoint.com. You can support the work of the Panhandle Alliance for Education at PanhandleAlliance.org. And you can learn more about hunger, and what to do to relieve it, at FeeltheHunger.org.


Blacky Black

Born right here in Sandpoint and a graduate of Sandpoint High School (class of ‘71) Duane “Blacky” Black’s love has always been given to the environment surrounding him. Hunting, fishing or skiing, the best time for Blacky is when he’s somewhere outdoors.

After high school he left the area to continue his education in Spokane, and returned with a degree in accounting, though his first job in the area was as a carpenter, helping to build the bridge in Hope. “I had zero experience, but I was really good in math,” he laughed. He apprenticed with the local carpenter’s union, and ended up getting his hand in on the siding for First Security Bank, the dam at Priest Lake, what was then the “new” Safeway building, the local water treatment plant, and he even worked on the Long Bridge.

But carpenter’s work was “drying up” and, after marrying in ‘84, he began building houses, including two custom homes on Indian Point. Wanting a steady job with “full time work and insurance,” he went to work as an accountant for SERAC. It was a business not destined to stay in Sandpoint, however, and Sandpoint was where Blacky wanted to be. “I could see the writing on the wall,” he said, and he ended up going to work for Alpine Motors selling cars. “It was a hard decision to make,” he said, but living in this area was a priority. By 1999 he had become the sales manager for Alpine Motors, a position he still holds today.

There’s making a living and then, of course, there’s making a life, and for Blacky, making a life included enjoying his local environment. In 1972 he joined the ski patrol at Schweitzer Mountain, a position he held for 35 years. The ski patrol not only rescues skiers in trouble, but is also responsible for avalanche control and other issues that affect safety on the mountain. “Truthfully, if I prick my finger I have to go lie down,” he laughed, but in an emergency situation, he says, that all goes away. “It’s a whole different thing when you’re helping someone who’s hurt.” Ski patrol members are trained to the equivalency of EMTs. (Visit here for a great story in Sandpoint Magazine about the ski patrol, written by Sandy Compton.)

There’s skiing, and then there’s fishing. “I think I was probably the first catch-and-release barbless fly-fisherman in the area,” said Blacky. “When I was a kid, I’d go out with my dad and he’d catch the limit and I’d catch the limit and we’d go home and fry up some fish and put the rest in the freezer. Come spring you’d throw away all the freezer-burned fish to make room for more.” These days, he counsels “Don’t waste the resource. If you have to have a fish to eat, kill a 12-incher. Let the big fish go so they can make babies. Take only what will fit in the frying pan, and don’t kill the brood stock.”

That concern for the fishery led Blacky to become a founding member of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. A national organization, Trout Unlimited works to “conserve, protect and restore” America’s coldwater fisheries.

Blacky’s nephew Troy says, “What Blacky should be famous for is simply being impassioned for the outdoors. It’s a privilege for us to be out there and we have to be responsible stewards. That’s what he teaches everyone around him. He always tries to make somebody’s life better,” Troy added.

One thing everyone should know about Blacky: “I’m the world’s best hugger,” he laughed. “That’s because it’s sincere.”

If you’d like to help conserve and protect the local fishery, please limit yourself to what you’re really going to eat, and what will fit in the pan. The Idaho Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited can be reached at 208-265-2640. Unfortunately, there is no longer a “Rude Boys Ball” to support Schweitzer Ski Patrol, but you can make their job easier by skiing safely and responsibly when you’re on the mountain. To learn more about the ski patrol, call Schweitzer at 208-263-9555. 


David Broughton

Born in North Carolina, and raised in both North Carolina and Delaware, David Broughton found himself in Sandpoint, Idaho on his twenty-first birthday. Looking for work he went down to the Pasttime on First Ave., and was hired to work planting trees in the woods; he would continue to work in the woods for decades after, along with working as a carpenter, eventually owning, with partners, a cedar shake mill in Priest River, Idaho. To this day he retains a lot of pride in his shakes, pointing out those on the roof Truby’s Health Mart on Main St. in Sandpoint. “Those were all hand cut and hand split,” he says with a smile.

Like many who worked in the woods, it turned out that David couldn’t continue to make a living there. “In 1985 I was between jobs and Kim Benefield (then-owner of Blue Sky Broadcasting) asked me if I would haul some stuff to Oklahoma for him. While I was there I saw a job available selling television advertising.” He got the job and spent the next five years doing so, in the process gaining another indelible memory: working with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, when he was assigned to write a story for the local newspaper.

His children, however, still lived in North Idaho and he missed them desperately, despite flying frequently back and forth between Oklahoma and the north. In 1990 he returned to the Sandpoint area, and began working for the local radio station selling advertising, a job he’s held ever since.

Loving the community and wanting to help various groups in their efforts to promote it, he became an early volunteer with Lost in the 50s, organizing and running the street dance (which he still does, though he says it couldn’t happen without the efforts of dance deejay Bashful Dan). Almost as an extension of that job, he worked for five years as the backstage manager for the Festival at Sandpoint; the highlight there was when Lyle Lovett’s manager walked into the field house at Memorial Field, and realized it was the ‘home’ of Jerry Kramer.

But it was in 1994 when David discovered his true love; working as an official for various sports activities. “I began helping out at the local city rec umpiring softball games,” he said, and by fall he had added working as a volleyball official to the list. It’s an avocation he has continued through to this day.”

“On the high school level, there’s so many things that kids learn from participating in team sports,” he said of his desire to support the program. “The skills you learn in sports are the skills you use throughout life.”

He also likes to work at the elementary level, “where you have an opportunity to stop and explain to the kids what a certain rule is and why we have it, what it does to promote the game.”

He’s also continued to work officiating for various city recreation departments, mostly because he believes such programs promote, “having fun. That’s really what it’s all about,” he explains. “People getting out and spending time together, getting some exercise and having a good time.”

A good official not only keeps the game on track, he or she keeps players safe, and promotes a positive spirit in the game. A tireless mentor to new officials, David encourages all high school athletes to consider working as an official during their college years. “It’s a great way to earn some extra money.” Yes, officials can, and do, get paid for their work. A good official is worth their weight in gold, and while their pay may not reach that lofty goal, a few extra dollars in the bank are of benefit to many. 

“I would encourage anybody who enjoys a sport to consider becoming an official,” David said. He, himself, worked as a softball official when injuries kept him from playing the game. “It’s a great way to help make something positive happen for your community.”

If you’re interested in officiating sports, there’s no better place to start than the North Idaho Officials Association. Call Sharon Timblin at 208-946-9174. To help with Lost in the 50s, call Carolyn Gleason, the event organizer, at her business, Second Avenue Pizza, 208-263-9321. To support the Festival at Sandpoint, call 208-265-4554.


Sandy Compton

This may surprise some people, but Sandy Compton wasn’t actually born here. He was born in Shelton, Wash., but he and his family came back to the area, pointed toward his grandparents’ land in Heron, Mont., before he was a year old. The land, a quarter-section on Blue Creek just past the Idaho/Montana border, was purchased and moved onto by his grandparents in 1917 and Sandy spent the much of his youth tramping that property.

Sandy graduated Sandpoint High School in 1969. After 15 years in the hotel and hospitality business and a couple of stints in Las Vegas, he began to follow his love of writing after the place he grew up in drew him back. Since, he has put his his touch on many of the publications that bring area news to locals: the Bonner News Digest, The Daily Bee (he was a ski columnist for a few seasons), Sandpoint Magazine, and yes, the River Journal as well. He also did magazine design work for Multilingual Computing in Sandpoint for 10 years.

Today, he puts his writing and design skills to good uses as the program coordinator for the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, a grassroots organization aimed at preserving about 88,000 acres of land on the Idaho/Montana border—right near his childhood stomping grounds—with wilderness designation. In fact, he lives today on the property his grandparents moved onto almost 100 years ago. He often works and plays in Sandpoint, and ‘hosts’ the Storytelling Company, a (roughly) monthly performance series in Sandpoint. He also owns and operates Blue Creek Press, and is a prolific writer, with several books to his name, including his latest, “Archer MacLean and the Hungry Now,” a tale that could well take place in the wilderness out his front door.

Sandy could be called an adventure junkie—his license plates read “ADVNTUR”—and he loves to travel, be it thousands of miles over sea and air to Russia, one of his favorite memories, or just a mile out his front door into the Blue Creek drainage, a place of endless discovery to him.

 “Part of the reason I love wilderness is because of the adventure it offers,” he explained. “Wilderness makes you pay attention. There’s room for mistakes, but not many and not big ones.” 

His favorite trips into the mountains last several days, a timeline he thinks is necessary for getting into an appropriately appreciative mindset for wilderness. “You put 45 pounds onto your back and head up a trail and when you get to the end of that, you find an elk trail and follow that. Elk are not vertically challenged like we are, and halfway up a 100 percent slope you find yourself thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ And when you’re leading a group, you have a bunch of people behind you thinking to themselves, ‘If he would just die right now, we could take a break.’ 

“On the second day you’re telling yourself, ‘If I survive this, I will never do this again.’ By the third day you stop thinking about why or why not, and you focus simply on taking the next step. You don’t have any extraneous energy. Other than the trail, your only thought is when you’re going to eat and what it’s going to be and how good it will taste. But sometime during the third day, and definitely by the fourth, you’re thinking, ‘This is the best.’ By the fifth day you’re thinking, ‘If I had more food, I’d stay longer.’ You might stay forever.”

Part of Sandy’s desire to preserve wilderness has to do with the pace at which you experience it—on foot, at whatever speed you can muster while scrambling for footing. “Humans have this enormously long history, but until about 4,000 years ago, we didn’t ride anything. Less than two percent of our time on earth as a species is all that we’ve spent being carried by something—our best information gathering speed is at a walk. I’m not sure about this, but I would bet that Meriwether Lewis journaled more when he was walking. When the expedition was going upriver, [Lewis] didn’t spend a lot of time on the boat, he walked along the river. We take in so much more when we’re walking.”

Sandy says, “Unless we morph considerably as a species, if we don’t preserve wild places where people can walk and and hear themselves think, we won’t be happy.” 

If you’d like to help Sandy (and others) in the efforts to preserve the proposed 88,000-acre Scotchman Peaks wilderness, visit ScotchmanPeaks.org.


Dick Hale

He hasn’t always been an actor, and he hasn’t always lived in Heron, but say the words “Heron actor” and most everyone in the know will come up with the name “Dick Hale.”

He was born in San Jose, California and worked as an electrician but in 1990, looking for a better environment to raise his children, Dick Hale and his wife Kathy discovered Heron, Mont. It could be said that the town hasn’t been the same since.

“It was a total fluke that we found Heron,” he said. “There was a group of people looking for land, and someone found Heron. I said, ‘Where the hell’s Montana?’ But when I saw Heron, I fell totally in love.”

That love story, like most, had a few glitches. “It was scary as hell trying to make money,” he laughed, and added, “We landed here in the mountains in the fall and had never lived in the snow. We were living in a tent and built the shell of a house.” The pair lived in that shell, with no electric and hauling water, for a while.

“When we moved here, the community center was boarded up.” And not just the community center; the former Heron elementary school was also unused. The town of Heron, in fact, was not much more than a grocery store with gas pumps.

In 1995 Dick and Kathy founded the Heron Players, a group of like-minded community members who wanted to make people laugh and who, even more, wanted to build a center for the community of Heron.

“These were the people who did it,” he said. “I really believe that all the people who volunteer their time have made Heron a much better place to live. They have been the ones who have created the atmosphere of Heron.”

The Heron Players put on two performances each year, and half the money raised goes directly into the community center fund, in order to keep the doors open. 

Those performances, now spanning over a decade, have in large part been written by Dick, who has also performed in some of the area’s most unforgettable roles, including that of Ghandi (one of his favorites). In addition to the plays, the group has also begun to add “improv nights” that showcase the skillful comedic talents of some of our friends and neighbors.

Helping to grow a sense of community from the seed of humor, however, is not the only thing on Dick Hale’s list. Though known for his comedic talent, Dick is a closet philosopher, with a strong moral bent and a deep belief in God. “I believe in the restitution of all things,” Dick said. “God will eventually bring everybody back to himself, but it’s a long, drawn-out process.” He added, “I have found God’s love is irresistible.”

He would like to write a book about his beliefs, and the lessons he’s learned through life, but for Dick Hale, writing comedy scripts is not a wasted effort. “The reward isn’t the end result, it’s what you give to something individually.”

To support the Heron Players, or simply to find out how to attend a production, please visit their website at HeronPlayers.com.


Bob Hays

If you ask people in the area the one person they know in Clark Fork, the answer will be “Bob Hays.” Owner and operator of Hays Chevron, a primary organizer of the high school’s alumni tournament and the community’s Fourth of July celebration, and the 2008 recipient of Panhandle State Bank’s “Shining Star” award, it seems everyone knows Bob.

But he’s not from Clark Fork. Not originally, that is. He was born, actually, in Hyshum, Montana and when his parents sold out after the war (the Second World War, of course), they initially “bought a couple of places in Sandpoint.” But Clark Fork resident Jim White “had a couple of horses to break,” so Bob’s father moved the family here.

Instead of becoming a rancher and horse-breaker like his father, Bob became an Ironworker. He married the beautiful Fay in 1961—the couple are getting ready to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. And in 1963 he bought the local Chevron gas station, in the process becoming the town’s hub for gossip, hugs and history.

And help. No story about Bob Hays gets told without, pretty quickly, getting around to how he helped someone out. “It’s the golden rule,” he said simply. “You help your neighbors. It’s what you do.”

Despite his high profile in the community, a lot of what Bob does to support the people within it is done quietly, without a lot of fanfare. If a kid needs shoes so they can play basketball, someone drops the word to Bob and Bob suddenly “finds” a pair of shoes that will fit the kid. A family struggling to pay their bills might find they no longer owe for the gas they purchased at the station on credit. If someone in the community is in need, the word gets to Bob and he does what he can to help.

And then there’s the Fourth of July. Most everyone knows now that Clark Fork puts on a Fourth of July celebration unrivaled anywhere in the area. Like many places, it starts with a parade and ends with fireworks but, unlike many places, the time between the two is full of events. Races take up most of the morning: father/daughter, brother/sister, grandparent/grandchild: figure out a family combination and there’s a race to be run, with Bob generally holding on to the megaphone, and handing out the 50-cent pieces at the end for the winners. Follow it up with watermelon-eating contests, turtle races, greased pole climbs, chainsaw contests and more and it’s an exhausting day full of fun, all put together by Bob and his buddies in the Clark Fork Rod and Gun Club.

“The Fourth of July is the most important day in town,” Bob says, and the town’s population swells on that day. Not just with newcomers who have discovered this small-town treasure, but with family as well: for those who leave the area for work, the Fourth of July is one of two times when they really, really try to get home. And because they do, the Rod and Gun Club does their best not to disappoint. The club spends the year prior raising the approximately $6,000 spent each year on the celebration.

Then there’s the alumni tournament, which takes place the second weekend in March and is the second event that people come home for. 

The first alumni tournament took place in 1988 and featured five teams playing basketball. Today, it’s an entire weekend of basketball and volleyball, with players ranging in age from the year’s graduating seniors to those like Bob who, at 70, is still a contender on the boards. All money raised from the alumni tournament goes to support the athletic programs at the school.

Although many look at extra-curricular activities at school as truly extra, and therefore not particularly necessary, Bob is not one of them. “There are some kids that can go in either direction,” Bob said. “So it’s important that we do everything we can to give them a shot, to keep them interested in things that are positive.

“Money never did mean that much to me,” Bob added. “If you see a way you can help someone out, you should do it. It’s just the right thing to do.”

To support the Clark Fork Rod and Gun Club, give Louie Speelmon a call at 208-266-1365. If you’d like to support the Alumni Tournament, call Clark Fork High School at 208-255-7177. To support people in need... keep your ears open and follow the golden rule.


Jonny Knight

He might be the closest this town has to a celebrity: Jonny Knight, deejay of the Jonny Knight show on 95.3 KPND, is willing to lend his name to most any legitimate community function, but close to his heart are those programs that help area veterans.

“It’s the way I was raised,” Jonny said, who was born in Bristol, Tenn. and raised in an affluent home in Massachusetts. “You give back to where you live, regardless if it’s something mundane and trivial, or something big and grandiose.”

That giving began, for him, with his own service in the Army, when he was a “Cold War warrior” for several years, followed by six years in the active reserve. “I tried to get in on Desert Storm, but they didn’t want me,” he said.

With first-hand knowledge in what service people are giving to their country, his ‘retirement’ from active duty has led him to support programs that are looking to support our servicemen and women both overseas, and once they return home.

The Disabled American Veterans are an annual recipient of his support. Jonny spends a portion of every Memorial Day out in front of Wal-Mart asking for donations for the Forget-Me-Not drive, and he broadcasts live each summer from the DAV yard sale. “These guys deserve everything we can do to support them,” he said.

A personal interest for Jonny is film, perhaps another natural interest for him given his best childhood friend growing up was Christopher (Bentley) Mitchum, grandson of film star Richard Mitchum. 

“We used to run around filming everything,” Jonny laughed.

Although not involved himself—getting back into filming is something he’s only recently focused on—Jonny supports the efforts of local filmmakers through programs such as Sandpoint Films

Probably his greatest interest, however, is his work with the local Operation Grad Nite program, which pulls together students from area high schools to talk about the dangers of drinking and driving. “I was a partier,” he explained. “I see how easy it can happen, but losing a child to drunk driving devastates the entire community.” The reward for his support he says, is simple: “We haven’t lost a senior since we started it.”

“We are incredibly fortunate to live in this country,” Jonny added, and that fortune requires some payback. “If you’re not doing community service of some sort, then you’re doing a lot of taking and not a lot of giving,” he added. “It’s that simple.”

The Disabled American Veterans is just one of the many groups doing work to support area veterans. You can reach them at 208-263-5419. For other area programs for veterans, call the Bonner County Veterans Services Officer, Don Carr, at 208-255-2591. To support local filmmakers, call 208-290-0597 or visit their website at www.SandpointFilms.com. To support Sandpoint’s Operation Grad Nite, or a similar program at other area high schools, call your local high school and ask what you can do to help.


Jim Lippi

In a town where it seems everyone gives freely and generously it can be hard to stand out, but if anyone does in Sandpoint it’s Jim Lippi, owner of Ivano’s Ristorante Italiano on the corner of First and Pine in downtown Sandpoint. It was Mother Teresa who once said “we can do no great things; only small things with great love.” While Jim has done great things, it’s in the small things where he might make his biggest impact. There is scarcely a day that goes by where he’s not approached to support, in some small way, various community efforts and he does so not just generously, but with a sincere appreciation that he’s able to do so.

“When I first moved here and opened a business, I looked at people like Ernie Belwood (Belwood’s Furniture) and John Porter (Sandpoint Super Drug) and how they conducted themselves, and I decided that’s the kind of businessman I wanted to be,” he said. “That’s the kind of business I want to run.”

Jim’s father owned a restaurant in Roseville, Calif., where Jim was born and raised, but food service wasn’t the field he initially wanted to go into in life. Instead, he attended college and earned a degree in Environmental Resources and Physical Education, plus a California teaching certificate. He started out life as a high school science and PE teacher.

He met his wife Pam in the teacher’s education program and, like so many before them, the pair were determined to find a better place to raise their children. “We wanted out of California,” he said. “We wanted to raise our kids in a small town, in a place where we could go hunting and fishing.” Jim’s brother was living in Sandpoint in 1984, Jim and Pam moved to the area and opened Ivano’s.

The areas Jim most enjoys supporting revolve around education, catastrophic health issues, and families. “There’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting around the dinner table on Sunday night with your family,” he said. “Everybody should have that experience.” That’s one of the reasons he supports Kinderhaven, a program that simply looks to provide children in crisis with a safe, secure and loving home.

Kinderhaven steps in when children are removed from their homes for some reason, and opened in 1996 as a way to keep siblings together when they could no longer stay in the family home. Since that time, Kinderhaven has provided a home for over 1,300 local children. It is the only facility of its kind in North Idaho, and is a non-profit organization directed by a volunteer board of directors.

Pam Lippi works as a PE teacher in the local elementary schools, and Jim enjoys supporting programs that support local education: in particular, the PTOs, PTAs and Booster Clubs that work tirelessly to provide what is needed in our public schools. A few years back, he added to that support when he established the Ivano’s Scholarship Fund. 

“We wanted to help kids go to college,” he said simply, but the Ivano’s scholarship, result of a group brainstorm session with Sandy Compton and Rich Ballard, is not quite the same as more traditional scholarships. For one, it doesn’t put its strongest focus on high grades and extracurricular activities. “Sometimes kids have to work after school,” said Jim. “They just don’t have the opportunity to develop the results that traditional scholarships tend to look for.” Recipients of the scholarship, which is available for four years of scholarship, are also offered the opportunity of summer work at Ivano’s if they’re in the area. Since its inception, the scholarship fund has provided tens of thousands of dollars in support to area students.

“This is a truly giving community,” Jim said. “The spectrum of the people who give is so wide.” Regardless of their own circumstances, “everyone does the best they can,” he said. “That’s important. You focus on the effort.”

If you’d like to support what Kinderhaven is doing, visit their website at www.KinderhavenSandpoint.com, or give them a call at 208-265-2236. You can support the program in many ways, from providing transportation to doing laundry to helping obtain the many consumable supplies needed by young children. Cash is always nice, too. To support the Ivano’s Scholarship Fund, call the restaurant at 208-263-0211. Groups at your local schools can always use your help: call the one nearest to you to find out about opportunities.


Mark Savarise

Born in upstate New York and growing up in Denver, Mark Savarise learned early an appreciation for the outdoors, but his first love was medicine. “I always wanted to be a doctor,” he said, even though no one in his family worked in a medical field. Now, several decades later, those interests remain paramount.

“I was always interested in science, so I found surgery the most interesting [field in medicine],” he said. After graduating with his MD, he served in the U.S. Air Force to pay for medical school, and was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi. “I wanted to find a great place to live,” and he found it in Sandpoint. In 2000, he and his wife Yvonne, a physical therapist, moved to the area, where he joined Dr. Richard Neher as a partner in Selkirk General Surgery.

“I love the outdoors, and the quality of life here is astounding,” he said. Not content with just practicing medicine, Mark helped to found the Pend Oreille Pedalers, self-defined on their website as “a group of local singletrack and road riding addicts,” and is a volunteer physician for the Schweitzer Ski Patrol.

Medicine is never far from his thoughts, however, and one of Mark’s main interests is in ensuring that people have access to health care. He serves on several national committees looking at the issues, and travels most months to America’s bigger cities for meetings and discussions.

With a group of others, he has also established the Pend Oreille Surgery Center, where outpatient surgery can be performed without the delays now often associated with the lack of facilities at the local hospital.

Although he supports the efforts of last year’s Congress via the American Affordable Care Act, he points out that “it’s just a start.” The act, he explains, currently focuses just on health insurance, but “We need reform of the whole system.” This type of reform, however, he says “has no easy answer. [The current act] has 2,000 pages, and it really needs 20,000.”

Despite the rhetoric surrounding the current discussions of health care, Mark points out, “We already ration care, we just do it in a really stupid way.” The true challenge, he believes, is not just in making care more affordable, but it making it less necessary.

“In many ways I have a very libertarian outlook,” he said. “People need to start taking responsibility for their health.”

At its heart this involves lifestyle issues. America has become, on the whole, an obese nation, and obesity brings along with it certain health care risks; often, very expensive health care risks, given that they tend to be chronic, like diabetes and high blood pressure.

And often expensive in ways most people aren’t aware of. “For example, hospitals and other health care providers have had to purchase equipment designed to handle morbidly obese people.” From wheelchairs to beds to x-ray machines, health care has had to adapt to a population growing in all directions.

In addition, many chronic conditions are best treated, at least initially, with changes in lifestyle. But, “People want a pill. They want it to be easy. Nothing’s going to work,” Mark adds, “if people don’t start taking responsibility for themselves.”

To learn more about the Pend Oreille Surgery Center, visit PendOreilleSurgeryCenter.com. For more on the Pend Oreille Pedalers, visit PendOreillePedalers.com. To learn more about how to improve your personal health, visit with your regular doctor, understand your family’s health history, and by all means get off the couch and get active!


Dave Sleyster

Born and raised in Denver, Colo., Dave Sleyster, who owns Energy Electric in Sandpoint, has always loved living in a place with access to the outdoors. Like many looking for a better place to raise children, he settled on Sandpoint, where his sister was living, and came up here in 1987. 

It wasn’t a particularly booming time in construction, but he was “lucky,” he says, and after doing some whole house construction, he was hired to work on the Samowen Peninsula in a large project for the Klauss family. “Things were starting to pick up,” he said, and he was soon able to work full time as an electrician. Energy Electric, the business he started when he moved here, now employs four additional employees and the business can support  the construction of every aspect of residential and commercial electrical services, from alternative energy systems to generators, to high-tech smart houses.

With his background in construction, it was a natural for Dave to support the local efforts of Habitat for Humanity, a program that seeks to provide affordable housing for the needy in a community, one house at a time. “I had gotten involved in the volunteer work with the “Extreme Home Makeover” house in Sandpoint,” he said. “And I liked the way it felt: it’s a good feeling to help give someone a place to live.”

Extreme Home Makeover Home Edition, a television show that chooses a needy family and provides them the ultimate in housing, was just a one-off project in this area: Habitat is here every single year.

Habitat for Humanity, it could be said, is not quite as ‘extreme’ in its building plans as a television show can be: the focus is on providing a simple and affordable single-family home that someone can live in the rest of their lives, without huge upkeep or tax expenses. People are chosen to ‘receive’ a Habitat house upon application; and those successful applicants are required to share in the building of the house. The program believes the sweat-equity the owners build in their home is a major part of the success of their program. And applicants are not “given” a house—they are sold a house through a no-profit mortgage.

With his concern for housing, Dave has also served on local volunteer fire departments. But it was his sister’s death from cancer that piqued his interest in supporting community programs that help cancer patients cope with their diagnosis and treatment. Community Cancer Services in Sandpoint (originally known as Heather’s House), is a fully registered non-profit that offers a number of programs designed to meet the needs of those diagnosed with cancer. This support can range from financial assistance, counseling and the loan of medical equipment to nutritional supplements and wigs. They also maintain a large library full of cancer-related materials.

“I am really proud to live in this community,” Dave said. “The way the people here rally around other people when they’re down... I can’t tell you how important that is. I am glad to be able to do my part.”

Habitat for Humanity’s local chapter (www.iphfh.org) can be reached at 208-265-5313. You can also support the program by shopping at their local Re-Store, which sells donated home improvement materials, located at 1424 North Boyer Ave. in Sandpoint. To find out how to support local volunteer fire departments, call the one located in your community. If you’d like to help Community Cancer Services, they can be reached by telephone at 208-255-2301. Their website is www.CommunityCancerServices.org.


Corey Vogel

The only one of his siblings not born in Idaho, One of just two of his siblings not born in Idaho, Corey Vogel instead made his appearance on a military base in Alabama, while his father was serving in Viet Nam the Viet Nam war. By the time he was one, however, he was living in the shade of the Scotchmans, part of the fourth generation of a family dynasty that has made Clark Fork a consuming interest for a lifetime. “Part of it’s pride,” he said. “When you look at our ancestors, they worked so much harder than we do. They accomplished so much with so little.”

The area’s pioneers literally carved a place for themselves out of this western wilderness, supporting themselves, their families and their communities on extraction resources like timber and mining.

There’s not a lot of work in timber and mining anymore, not a lot of work in any field to keep the local kids at home, but Corey was one of the lucky ones. After graduating high school (class of ‘88) he went to college and began working summers for Ruen-Yeager and Associates. “I liked math,” Corey said, and characterized his college ‘career’ as “all over the place; mechanical engineering, civil engineering.” After getting married and fathering a child, he went to work full time for Ruen-Yeager and has been with them ever since. His work, he says, is basically “surveying Bonneville Power lines. We’re subcontractors for BPA.” The work has taken him all over the BPA service area, but for the last few years, he’s worked mainly in Portland from March through November, flying home on the weekends, and spending the winter months right here at home.

The Ruen and Vogel families he descends from have long been supporters of education in the area. “I have my father’s grandfather's high school diploma, which was signed by my grandfather great-grandfather as President of the School Board,” Corey said. “That’s pretty cool.” His father also served on the board, as did his brother Dex, and now the next generation of the family—Ashley Ruen—is doing the same.

When the history of a community is pretty much indistinguishable from the history of your family, it’s “natural,” Corey says, “to want to preserve it.”

“There’s so much out there in boxes in people’s attics that’s going to be lost if we don’t do something about it.”

Doing something about it, for Corey, means establishing, if just unofficially, the Clark Fork museum.

There’s no building to house it, no big exhibits to display—at least, not yet—and not even a website, but that hasn’t stopped Corey from gathering as much information and old photos as he can and scanning them into the computer, many of which have been posted on his own Facebook page or on the page for Clark Fork High School. It’s a never-ending process (he has almost scanned into the computer ever single yearbook ever published by the high school) and one he enjoys immensely.

“You know, like most kids here, when I was in high school all I wanted to do was get out. You get out, though, and realize just how special this place is,” he said.

Corey, who played basketball in high school, is now the varsity boys’ basketball coach when he’s not busy working, getting out into the outdoors with his son, Conerey Conorey, or working to preserve the area’s history.

And not just for Clark Fork—at the urging of his friend, Nick Doherty Daugherty, he joined the Bonner County Historical Society, and even served as the President of its board. “That was a full time job,” he said, “not one that someone can do while working full time, especially when they’re out of the area as much as I am.” Nonetheless, it’s work he continues to support, and encourages others to do so as well.

“You know what they say about people who forget their history,” he said.

For another project, he’d like to see further efforts toward developing an oral history. A project undertaken through Bonner County’s historical society recorded many oral histories from Clark Fork pioneers—including one from his grandmother great-grandmother, Tillie Ruen, that he calls “amazing.”

If you’d like to help preserve area history, consider supporting the Bonner County Historical Society and Museum. You can reach them at 208-263-2344 or visit their website at www.BonnerCountyHistory.org. If you’d like to support Corey in his efforts to preserve the history specific to Clark Fork, send him an email at [email protected]


Ed Note: I did not get Corey Vogel's story fact-checked prior to printing, so the online version contains corrections. As I could not figure out how to get this stinkin' software to do a strikethrough on text, the original (incorrect) information is highlighted in orange, and the corrected information follows. My apologies. TG


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Landon Otis

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Festival at Sandpoint, veterans, Friends of Scotchman Peaks, wilderness, Sandpoint Magazine, history, Kinderhaven, cancer, Pend Oreille Surgery Center, Clark Fork, health care, Chris Bessler, Keokee Publishing, DSBA, Schweitzer Mountain, Bob Hays, Bonner County Historical Society, DAV, Community Cancer Services, Clark Fork High School, scholarships, Pend Oreille Pedalers, Blue Sky Broadcasting, Great Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Sandpoint Business Association, Blacky Black, Alpine Motors, ski patrol, David Broughton, North Idaho Officials Association, Lost in the 50s, Sandy Compton, Dick Hale, Heron Players, Fourth of July, CFHS Alumni Tournament, Bentley Mitchum, Sandpoint Films, Jonny Knight, KPND, Jim Lippi, Ivanos, Ernie Belwood, John Porter, Mark Savarise, obesity, health care reform, Dave Sleyster, Energy Electric, Habitat for Humanity, Extreme Home Makeover, Corey Vogel, Clark Fork Rod & Gun Club, Ivano's Scholarship, Heather's House

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