Mildred Ribary was a fixture in Valley life

NORTH BEND - To many, Mildred Ribary was a teacher, instilling in them the wonders of reading in grade-school classrooms from North Bend to Snoqualmie Falls.

To others, she was the wife of a dairy farmer, who sometimes drove the milk truck on rounds when her husband was sick.

To still others, she was a volunteer, serving on the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Auxiliary.

To her sons, Jim and Fritz, she was simply known as "Mom," and her face would light up when they got together.

No matter what role she played, one thing's for certain: The 88-year-old lifelong Valley resident, who died Monday, Aug. 27, 2001, in Bellevue, will be missed by everyone.

"She was very vibrant. She had a glow about her. She would light up whenever she saw family and friends," Fritz said.

Born in Duvall on Aug. 24, 1913, Ribary was the daughter of Lloyd and Dorothy Leake. She grew up in Snoqualmie Falls, where her father worked for the Weyerhaeuser Railroad for 40 years.

A graduate of Western Washington College, she stayed in the Valley and became a teacher for the Snoqualmie Valley School District about 1934. She taught for 25 years, working at North Bend, Snoqualmie Falls and Snoqualmie before retiring in the 1970s.

It was at school at Snoqualmie Falls that she met her future husband, Joe Ribary. He would deliver milk to the school, and the two would steal away for a few moments alone. Others, however, soon learned of the relationship, and one day when she returned to the classroom, the students began giggling because they knew their teacher had boyfriend.

Mildred, who was an avid reader, took particular joy in teaching her students how to read.

"She thoroughly enjoyed being a teacher, and she was always excited about learning," Fritz said.

"She really enjoyed helping kids read. She always said once they learned to read, a whole new world opened up to them."

The couple settled on the 260-acre Ribary family dairy farm in North Bend. The land stretched from the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River to Rattlesnake Mountain, and so many children fished in the farm's creek that it became known as Ribary Creek. The family's house stood near where the entrance to Forster Woods is now located.

Joe purchased the farm from his father in 1949. Mildred stopped teacher in 1944, the year Fritz was born, but came back to the school district in 1954. Fritz said it was a common for people, upon learning his last name, to pause and say, "Your mother was my teacher."

Her life extended beyond the school grounds. Mildred was a member of the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Auxiliary, and was "adopted" by the Catholic Ladies Guild. She attended Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church.

She was also member of the Retired Teachers Association, and served as a mentor to new teachers in the district.

Despite her roots in the Valley, Mildred loved to branch off and see the world. Because winters were slow on the farm, they served as a perfect time for the family to visit cities from Santa Barbara, Calif., to New York and Washington, D.C. After her retirement, Mildred and Joe, who died in June 1992, would spend winters in California or Mexico.

"A lot of people didn't know how much she loved to travel," Fritz said.

"One year, we took a trip back to Washington, D.C., and New York. We picked up a car in Michigan and drove it back home."

When working for the school district, Mildred would often try to coordinate completing her teaching requirements with traveling. She spent a summer quarter in Hawaii for a program sponsored by the University of Hawaii, and another summer, she traveled to Europe with three other teachers.

As recently as a few years ago, Mildred and her sister, Betty Pederson of Chelan, both in their 80s, undertook a 1,000-mile trek through Glacier National Park, making their way up into Canada.

"She just never stopped," Fritz said with a laugh.

In January of this year, Fritz, Jim, who lives in Gig Harbor, Mildred and Betty flew to Hawaii, where Mildred hadn't been in 30 years.

"It was just a marvelous time," Fritz said. "I feel really lucky to have done that.

"They just loved the warm weather and the ocean, and Mom talked about that right up until the day she died."

Mildred also enjoyed her family, which over the years had grown to include seven grandchildren from Portland, Moses Lake and North Bend. And she never forgot a birthday.

"Anytime there was a reason to get together ... that was a good enough reason for her to get together and celebrate with family," Fritz said.

One recent celebration occurred Aug. 24, when Mildred's family honored her 88th birthday. And just prior to that she was named one of the grand marshals for the Alpine Days parade.

A memorial service for Mildred will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mount Si High School.

"It's amazing to me the number of people who have called and miss her already," Fritz said. "I hope her service will be a true celebration of her life.

"She truly has deep roots in the Valley."

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