Life of service honored
Heritage Court cites Carey woman’s work
Third in a series of five
By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer
"She is a hard worker from the core out,"
Holly Rivera says in praise of her mother, Verda O’Crowley, of Carey. For her
life of hard work, O’Crowley, 74, will be inducted into the first Blaine County
Heritage Court sponsored by the Blaine County Historical Society.
The 2004 Heritage Court will honor
O’Crowley and four other women for their contributions to the Wood River Valley
during the 2004 Heritage Court at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey on June 27 at 7
p.m. The other four women being honored are Lillian Wright, 90, of Bellevue;
Marge Brass Heiss, 94, of Bellevue; Billie Horne Buhler, 90, of Hailey, and Mary
Jane Griffith Conger, 78, of Ketchum.
Verda O’Crowley will be honored as a
"Lady of the Court" at the 2004 Heritage Court. Express Photo by Megan
O’Crowley started her life of hard work in
kindergarten. "I had to go to school a year early because they needed 12 kids to
keep the school running," she explained. The school was a one-room schoolhouse
with wooden plank benches and a pot-bellied stove in Muldoon Canyon, east of
Born in Jerome, O’Crowley’s family moved
to Muldoon Canyon shortly thereafter. O’Crowley recalls the harsh, long winters
living in Muldoon Canyon, where temperatures would fall to 40 and 50 degrees
below zero. Her family stocked up on groceries in October, relying on beans,
rice and dried fruit throughout the winter. The food had to last until May, when
the family was able to return to town for groceries.
Throughout the winter her father would
take O’Crowley and her siblings to the school in his sleigh. The family stayed
warm during the ride with the rocks they heated the night before.
O’Crowley lived in Muldoon for nine years,
and then the family moved to Carey, where she finished school. After a brief
stint working in Boise, she moved to Picabo to work for Picabo Livestock
Company. While living on the ranch, O’Crowley met her husband, Harry. She had
five children and raised a foster child all while working as the ranch cook.
"I would get up at 4 a.m. to cook
breakfast, then lunch and supper," she remembers. She cooked for up to 40
people, transforming the rundown shed into a productive cookhouse along the way.
"Whatever she did, she made it a lot
better than when she walked in," complimented her daughter, Rivera.
O’Crowley not only spent her long days in
the ranch cookhouse, but worked on setting up irrigation pipe as well.
Arguably, she did the work of two if not
While working as a pipe presser, between
preparing meals on the ranch, O’Crowley was unexpectedly fired from her
irrigation duties. Then, two men were hired to fill her job as the pipe presser.
In retaliation for being fired O’Crowley
went outside and burned her bra.
"Then they started treating women a lot
better," she said.
Her daughter describes the action as a
momentous occasion on the ranch that began her own convictions for women’s
rights. O’Crowley laughed at her daughter’s recollections, humility hiding the
life she describes as "mostly work, and very little play."
For all of her hard work and notoriety in
Picabo, O’Crowley was crowned Picabo’s princess. She rode in the first Hailey
rodeo representing Picabo, her home for over 45 years.
In addition to working as a cook for the
Picabo Livestock Company, she also worked at the Senior Center and Environmental
Camps in the Wood River Valley. "She would wear an apron and she was known
everywhere," said Rivera.
After retiring her apron, O’Crowley and
her husband moved to Carey, which is home today. These days, O’Crowley is active
in the Carey Senior Center and the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints. She
is the proud grandmother of 25 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Today, O’Crowley said she does not cook
unless she is forced to, but she still cans 1,000 quarts of food per year. She
has also traveled throughout the world, and to all but 14 states.
When at home O’Crowley stays busy
collecting antiques and learning the stories of each piece she finds. The
stories that emanate from pieces, like her 100-year-old burgundy couch, are
little rival to O’Crowley’s own life story.