Bill Ouimet trudged through waist-high snow and reached a 16-by-20-foot cement building that would be, for the next quarter decade, his home.
It was 1977, and Camp Stidwell, on the south end of Mirror Lake, was in need of a caretaker. Vandalism had creeped in, so his presence was going to stave it off.
“I came here in January, and the old guy that hired me … we went around back, opened the door and I walked in. Cement floors, tin roof, no insulation,” Ouimet said. “He goes, ‘See you in the spring, son.’ I turned around and he was gone.”
The next morning, Ouimet—pronounced “weemet”— cut a path down to the lake, chopped a hole in the ice and carried back some water to heat on his front-porch stove.
“I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’” he said.
Nearly 43 years later, Ouimet is still there, albeit in a much nicer home, but even that wasn’t built until 2005.
It has been a decade since Ruth Klinginsmith and Karin Wedemeyer embarked on their journey of establishing a music conservatory here in Sandpoint. Guided by their backgrounds as musicians (Ruth a violinist and Karin a German born and raised opera singer), the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint opened its doors to musical hopefuls, with just a handful of students in the cold back room of a dance studio, in September of 2009.
“I do remember our humble start-up when we set out to add to the music world in Sandpoint,” recalls Karin, Music Conservatory of Sandpoint’s (MCS) executive director. “As we had met in a little café, we patiently waited for our coffee to cool down, which took just enough time for us to move away from our initial idea of creating a Saturday workshop to improve general music reading skills to a full-blown idea of creating a music conservatory. One that one would imagine on the East or West coast—but Sandpoint?”
The Sandpoint community is unlike any other, joining together to help out when others are in need and are facing hardships. The community has an opportunity to come out and show their support to a local family as Heath Okon, husband to Diana and father to their two sons Brycen and Christian, has been battling advanced stage synovial sarcoma.
“Advanced stage synovial sarcoma is cancer that starts in the extremities of the body, typically arms or legs near the joints,” says Diana. “Heath’s is in his thigh and, unfortunately, was very large before diagnosed. If the cancer has spread, it typically metastasis to the lungs and continues on from there. This makes it near impossible to cure. Heath's has metastasized to his lungs, and he had over 20-plus in both lobes.”
First diagnosed in May of 2018, Heath has been through chemo and immunotherapy, radiation and inpatient chemotherapy. Though these treatments have shrunk some of the tumors, they are still, unfortunately, inoperable. “The fact that nothing is operable has been extremely difficult,” says Diana.