Wherever You Are, Be a Part of It

by Tom Kuglin, Independent Record

Mary Douglas and Harry Israel enjoy the retired life.

The 80- and 81-year-old wife and husband have the time to travel, venture outdoors hiking or biking, volunteer for organizations and advocate for causes important to them.

Since one of those big interests being advocating for is public lands, western Montana is the perfect place for them.

“(Ohio doesn’t) have public lands to the extent that we do here, and with so many people in Montana and here in Helena interested, it’s made both of us really interested in environmental issues,” Israel, an Ohio native, said.

Mary Douglas and Harry Israel

Mary Douglas and Harry Israel

After a 40-year career in dental research and practice, Israel took a job with Indian Health Services that brought him to South Dakota and Montana. It was in his dental office in Wolf Point that his staff played matchmaker and introduced him to Douglas, a nurse in Wolf Point.

Marrying later in life can challenge many families coming together, but Douglas says the adventure has been a lot of fun and given them reason to travel across the country visiting children. Oregon appeared a likely destination as they left Wolf Point, but the beauty of western Montana convinced them it was the place to settle.

“Part of the reason we moved to Helena is we were impressed with a big mountain in the middle of town and trails everywhere,” Douglas said. “I guess for me it’s how I grew up camping, hiking and hunting.”

As they assimilated a few years ago, it became time to get involved. They met friends through organizations such as the Montana Wilderness Association and Prickly Pear Land Trust. After a moonlight hike with Montana Discovery Foundation, Douglas and Israel now volunteer as needed, helping with open houses at area cabins or assisting with hikes and snowshoeing trips.

“Volunteering keeps us busy,” Israel said.

“Participating has always been a feature of my life I’ve always ascribed to. Wherever you are, be a part of it.

“Lots of times it’s just going out and being a part of it, and that makes it fun,” Douglas said. “Part of it to me is the people. The people in Helena in these groups have become our friends. They watch over you and they make it fun to volunteer.”

Israel says he enjoys the progressive attitudes of many Helenans and, along with volunteering in the environment, often the couple advocates for the environment. Among their interests is opposing privatizing or transferring federal land to state control, and that means promoting the Democratic agenda during the legislative session, he said.

“We meet a lot of people with the hikes and enjoy participating in that, but we’ve also spent a fair amount of time on the Capitol lawn advocating,” Israel said.

Douglas says she is often the political instigator. “I hate getting on the phone and calling people, but somehow in my old age I’ve gone back to the way I was when I was young,” she said. “I’m always carrying some banner and trying to make things happen the way I think they should be.”

No comments yet.

Add a comment