A Story About a Life Well Lived and the Beginnings of Big Creek Coffee

We lost one of our first, and favorite, customers earlier this year. Barbara Boatwright, my mother in law, died after a long hard battle with Alzheimer's Disease. I'd like to tell you a little about her and the role she played in helping launch Big Creek Coffee.

Barbara was a talented classical pianist when she was young, but ultimately decided not to pursue that path professionally. Instead she became a great consumer and patron of the arts, with an encyclopedic knowledge of classical music. With my own background in music, we hit it off early. In fact, my wife Jennifer first took me to meet her parents at a performance by the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra where we heard Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto (still my favorite piece of classical music ever).

Barbara was a hard worker. She worked to help her husband John pay his tuition at M.I.T. Later, she worked and secretly saved everything possible so she could surprise him with startup capital for his first entrepreneurial venture. Ultimately, the business did very well and she took great pride in her behind-the-scenes contribution.

Which brings us to the beginnings of Big Creek Coffee. Four years ago I had the vision, the plan, the desire, and the willingness to work hard, but we needed a little help with startup capital. Enter John and Barbara, two of the most helpful and supportive in-laws anyone could ask for. By this time, the disease had a pretty good hold on Barbara, but my desire to start a business really got her fired up. I'm pretty sure it triggered happy memories of when she helped John get his start so many years ago.

At the time, she was having troubles with memory, and she repeated herself often. So, each time I'd see her, she'd say the same thing, "How's the business going," and, "you'll come see me if you need anything, right?" (Of course, she was no longer handling any money at this point). Every time, I'd tell her, truthfully, that the business was going really well, and I'd get to watch her face light up all over again as if she were hearing that for the first time.

After we moved to the coffee shop on Main Street, Barbara and John were regular customers. They'd come in for Salted Caramel Mochas most days, or sometimes just regular coffees. If you've been in the shop much, you've certainly seen them. Toward the end, as Barbara got less and less mobile, and less and less able to communicate clearly, they still came in. It was her favorite place to visit. Even on the hard days, she'd still have a big smile on in the coffee shop.

Big Creek Coffee remained the one sure way I could still connect with Barbara as the Alzheimer's progressed. The last week while she was in hospice, her family tried slipping her sips of our coffee through a straw. As I watched my wife and her family prepare for the inevitable, I felt like an outsider as the son-in-law. Somehow, though, making that one small contribution to her comfort helped me feel useful and connected.

What we do in our business isn't important in the grand scheme of things. It's just a beverage. But we do brighten people's days, and I cannot tell you how much satisfaction I get from that one simple fact. To be a good thing in someone's otherwise rotten day--that's pretty cool.

Marcus Daly Hospice was a great comfort to Barbara and her family at the end. They run such a clean, classy, and compassionate operation. To show our thanks, we've decided to turn our Spring Party into a hospice fundraiser at our shop on Saturday, April 5, from 10-3.

We're going to donate 100% of sales of drinks that day to Marcus Daly Hospice. Please bring your friends, have some delicious coffee and a good time, and help us raise a pile of money for this incredibly valuable community asset.

--Randy Lint, Chief Bean
Big Creek Coffee
301 W. Main
Hamilton MT 59840

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