You never know who will drive around the corner, especially when you’re visible like the writer can be. I was in the early stages of repainting the Senior Center/Masonic Lodge building one Sunday afternoon in late June. I noticed Wendy Brouillette’s black sports car turning east at the corner toward the Post Office. A few yards down the street, she made a quick U-turn and came to an equally sharp halt in front of me. A beautiful long-haired young woman jumped out of the passenger side of the car, yelled out, “Robert,” and ran over to give me a big hug.
Lucky for me that I was out Painting Main Street that day. The young woman was Marie Birky, an old friend and co-worker from a decade past at Deaconess Medical Center in Billings. Marie and I had kept in touch for a while after I moved to Lavina and she to Harlowton. But, when she and her family moved to Columbia Falls, we lost contact.
But then, she reappeared as Wendy Brouillette’s best friend and we had two opportunities around the All-Class Reunion to visit and compare notes from over the intervening years. Marie works in school administration and her husband, Mike, still teaches elementary age children. The Birky children are in different stages of growing up and out of the house. Marie and I now email from time to time and have a third friend - Wendy B - to thank for getting us back in
Wendy Brouillette is best known in Harlowton for her work with the annual Kiwanis Show. She started with the show in 1994 singing in the women’s chorus and doing solos. “I don’t even know how or why I got into it. I thought the show was lame - when I was a teenager. But, that obviously changed.”
Times change and people change. Wendy moved up to music director in 1997 when her mother, Rosemarie Steele, was the general director. Directorial duties were always shared until Wendy became overall director in 2001 when she was eight months pregnant. “My mom quit and nobody stepped up. There’s a lot of hours to put into a show. But, it has always been fun. One year, I counted up my hours and the total was scary.”
Her favorite shows have been “TV Land” with television theme songs from the 70s and the Disney production with tunes from years past and the Mouseketeers singing them. Wendy is already thinking about the next Kiwanis Show. “Mitchell (Scot is Kiwanis President for next year) is on my case about it. We may do a mock Grammy Award show.”
Asked about standing and performing before an audience, Wendy replied, “It never has bothered me, but don’t ask me to give a speech. I’ve been singing in front of people since I was little.”
Like many “activists” in Harlowton, Wendy B has several jobs and responsibilities to divide her time. While an interest in massage was in the back of her mind for some time, it took Marie Birky to say, “Let’s go.” Three years ago, Wendy and Marie finished their long-distance book work and headed to Billings for hands-on training at the Rocky Mountain School of Massage.
Years past, Wendy had gone to a massage therapist for a neck problem. “I started feeling better and had increased energy.” That experience and Marie’s push got them going.
After finishing school, Wendy opened Healthwise Massage office in the Montana Building and began to build up a clientele. (Marie calls her occasional business Healthwise Massage ??) “Massage is the poor man’s insurance. With regular massage you can prevent a lot of health problems. People think that massage is just for relaxation for the rich or for treatment of muscular injury. But, it can be beneficial for everyone’s overall health.” Besides working on clients, Wendy has trained her family - Brittany, Brianne, and Dante - to help her get some of that health-renewing massage.
Two years ago, Scot Mitchell invited her to move her office to the basement of the Bair Memorial Clinic where she now spends about half her work time. The other half she is employed as a CNA at Wheatland Memorial Healthcare.
Wendy is intent on building up her massage business. “I get a lot of clients referred by other clients. You obviously did something good, if they send their friends to you.” In February, Brouillette began doing chair massages at the courthouse once a month and does the same at the hospital, on occasion. You may well see her in other places and towns promoting and offering massage therapy to the public.
Shortly after my interview with Wendy, I was talking to one of her satisfied clients. Tom Horan had occasion for an appointment with her a few days before. Tom couldn’t help remarking, “Oh, she puts her elbow into my back and my sacroiliac and, ouch, does it sting. But, it sure feels good afterward.”
Wendy and I ended our own conversation talking about our mutual friend, Marie Birky. Wendy told me that she saved Marie Birky’s son’s life twice - “Once for real.”
It appears that Wendy’s healing abilities go far beyond music, massage therapy and CNA work. By email, Marie gladly
confirmed Wendy B’s statement: “Yes, Wendy saved Braydon's life ... twice. And probably mine a few times as well.”