DARBY— Veryl Baaska Kosteczko was born in Wisconsin on Oct. 31, 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression, the second child of Arthur and Dorothy Baaska. She left us at the age of 91 on Dec. 22, 2020, in the year of a global pandemic. In her long, full and independently-strong life, she made a tremendous impact on her family and community.
As a young child in Thiensville, Wisconsin, she defied her mother’s wishes to be a proper young lady and chose to climb trees, go fishing, learn to swim like a fish, hunt with her dad, and become a free spirit. In an era where opportunities for women were limited, in 1951 she obtained her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
She began her teaching career in Milwaukee, where she met Ed Kosteczko, a trombone playing jazz musician. After their wedding, they lived in Milwaukee and then Thiensville. Their three children, Anne, Terri and Stan were born there. Veryl continued to teach primary grades although in that time pregnant teachers were not allowed in the classroom.
Camping and fishing were part of the family’s loves, with several summers spent in Montana. In 1960 they made the decision to move west and relocated to Missoula. She taught primary grades there for two years while they searched for the right property to purchase. In 1962 they bought land up the West Fork of the Bitterroot outside of Darby and built their home. She began teaching in the Darby school system in 1966 where until 1985 she taught several primary grades, reading, and was the high school drama coach. Tales of her students’ exploits in and out of the classroom along with their successes were some of her best stories. Summers were spent horse packing in the Bitterroots and the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness area. After the sale of the West Fork residence, they built a home just outside of Darby. She pursued and obtained her M.Ed. in 1979 from the University of Montana.
Before and after her retirement from teaching she participated in other activities that supported the teaching profession, education and literacy. She and others saw a need for collective bargaining and she was instrumental in organizing the Darby teachers to join the Montana Federation of Teachers/AFT/AFL-CIO. She became a negotiator, member of the executive board, secretary, and then president of the MFT/MEA. She also participated in the MFT-MEA merger. Other civil contributions were serving as the chair of the Bitterroot Community Credit Union Supervisory Committee, the secretary of the Ravalli County Democratic Central Committee, secretary/treasurer of the Darby Senior Citizens, officer of several local senior citizen organizations, and she was an active member of literacy and education reform boards. She received several awards including the MFT/AFT Appreciation Award and obtained the honor of lifetime membership, the City of Darby Volunteer of the Year and the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Awards, and awards from the cross country ski club and Bitterroot Credit Union. In 2002 she received the United States President’s Volunteer Service Award.
Of note was her involvement with the Darby Community Library where she spent innumerable hours as the chair of the Library Board of Trustees and in other capacities. Veryl’s efforts were instrumental in obtaining substantial grants and funding that led to the construction, furnishing and landscaping of the building. When it was dedicated, a plaque in her honor at the entrance of the beautiful facility was revealed.
She will be remembered by her hundreds of students and colleagues as a dedicated educator who genuinely cared. In the Darby community she was the surrogate mom to many wayward sons. Her friends will remember her as someone who enjoyed hiking and skiing, and in later years having spirited discussions over a cup of coffee. Her family will remember her encyclopedic memory, how she could put us to work, and the way she could tell us that a specific book was excellent or just plain awful. They’ll also remember with fondness the stories of her companion of 15 years, her Australian Shepherd, Pogo.
Veryl was preceded in death by her husband, Ed Kosteczko. She is survived by daughters, Anne Camper (Randy) and Terri Casey (Dave); son, Stan Kosteczko (David, Molly and Mason); granddaughter, Hali Camper (Colter Lease); and great-granddaughter, Nora Veryl. When she learned that Nora was on the way, she commented that she was glad the line of strong, independent women would continue. She was an incredible role model to us all.
Ever socially minded, she requested that there be no celebration of her life until the summer of 2021, when we plan to have a gathering to share stories of her and her contributions. If desired, memorials may be made in her honor to the Friends of the Darby Library, P.O. Box 909, Darby, MT 59829.
The family extends a special thank you to the staff of Frontier Hospice and neighbors Jill and Sean Jackson for ensuring that she could remain in her home. We were comforted that we could take care of her and that she could talk with her close friends.