SHERIDAN — Stella Montano selected a note at random from a clear jar full of multicolored pieces of paper and a package of Kleenex.
Knowing you while we worked at the hospital was a wonderful gift that turned out to be the beginning of a powerful friendship…you saw through my hard exterior and into my heart. Your next words changed my life and probably saved my sanity. You looked right into my eyes and saw my pain…up until that moment, I had not considered myself at all. You suggested the caregiver group to help me cope. Because of your insight into my life, that moment, I was able to truly love my mother in her illness of Alzheimer’s and assist her until her last days. You have a rare gift of love and our world is blessed to have you in it.
After 13 years as the family caregiver director at The Hub on Smith, Montano is retiring to focus on activities she enjoys and treat every day like a Saturday. The Hub will host an open house to celebrate her retirement Sept. 13 from 2-4 p.m. at 211 Smith St.
Montano said she is honored to have helped caregivers through loss, find ways to let go and take care of themselves in the process while she worked at The Hub.
Sometimes it’s just a simple conversation that helped a person find the answers they need to make it through a challenging moment in life. Montano said she works from her heart and hopes people know the depth of dedication she has given to her work.
“To me, the biggest thing that I have done here is having the honor of working with the people that have been sent my way,” she said.
Still, Montano doesn’t plan to stray far from public service after her retirement. She resides on several public health and service boards and plans to continue supporting those organizations and spend time focusing on the work that can be done through them — on her own time.
She and her husband are involved with AARP and plan to help organize care packages for deployed Wyoming troops.
“Where for some people they probably get very tired and drained, that’s what energizes me, is being able to do that kind of work…I don’t think I’ll be very far from community service work,” she said.
During her time at The Hub, Montano received awards for her service to the Sheridan community including the Human Services Person of the Year and the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Sheridan Award.
Montano said while she’s grateful for the recognition, public service is about helping people in the moment they need it, not notoriety.
“If I didn’t have the programs around me here at The Hub and the resources in the community, I couldn’t do what I do,” she said.
Montano’s husband, Clarence Montano, has been fully retired for three years and the two are ready to spend more time on their projects and shared interests. They are both healthy and want to enjoy that time fully, as it could change at any moment, she said.
The Hub was one of 11 communities nationwide to be awarded a grant through Dementia Friendly Wyoming in 2016, largely because of Montano’s work in the Sheridan community, executive director Carmen Rideout said.
Montano said her husband fully retired the year they were awarded the grant, but she wasn’t ready to stop working quite yet.
“I asked him to give me three years to put my heart and soul into a program that I fully believed in,” Montano said.
Now that the grant has ended and different programs at The Hub are moving forward, Montano is ready to move forward with other projects in her own life.
She hopes to leave behind a passion for public service, a dedication to people and a memory in the minds of people who she touched through her work.
She is particularly proud of her role growing the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program. Requirements were that a “grandparent” in the program be older than 55 years. Montano said she didn’t treat grandparents younger than 55 any differently and still found ways to support them.
“My legacy here is what I have given to this program,” she said. “I feel that I’m better for it and I think they’re better for it.”
Rideout said it’s bittersweet because Montano’s skills and experience were a perfect match for the role and her approach to the job will be hard to replace. But after a career dedicated to serving others, she hopes Montano enjoys time set aside for her own happiness.
“For everything that we did over those 13 years and then beyond that…whatever we do going forward, Stella has laid the groundwork for that,” Rideout said.
The Hub will continue working with and connecting to caregivers, but it will take several months to find the right person to fill the role, she said.
“It’s too important of a position, it requires some thoughtfulness,” Rideout said.
Montano said while some tasks didn’t seem to fit under her job description, it didn’t matter. Serving people in the moment was always her priority.