J. Viola Herak
RONAN — Julia Viola (Vi) Sullivan Herak, 91, beloved mother and grandmother, died early Nov. 16, 2011 in Ronan. Vi was born in D’Aste, Montana, on May 27, 1920, the youngest of four children born to Julia and John Sullivan, immigrants from County Cork, Ireland. She graduated from Charlo High School in 1938 and from Western Montana College of Education in Dillon, in 1940. Vi taught at the Valentine Country School in Columbia Falls for two years, and then returned to Charlo to work for the Lake County Farmer’s Union Cooperative. Viola married Nick Herak, Jr., on Feb. 13, 1943. They farmed, ranched, and raised nine children on the Herak homestead south of Charlo. After retirement they spent part of each winter in Las Vegas, where they had many good friends. After Nick’s death in 1987, Vi moved to Polson. She continued to spend part of each winter in Las Vegas, where she was active in the St. Viator’s Catholic Church Women’s Club and Right to Life.
Viola was an involved citizen throughout her life, active with the Charlo Women’s Club, the Mission View Garden club, the Big Flat Pioneers, the Farmers Union, Grange, the Charlo Parent-Teacher Association, the Charlo Fourth of July Committee, and the Charlo School Reunion Committee. In 1963, she was named Lake County “Woman of the Year.” She and Nick were named Charlo “Citizens of the Year” in 1986. At the state level, Vi served on the Montana State Board of Natural Resources and the Montana Health Coordinating Advisory Council. Viola was a devout Catholic who sang in the choir, participated in the Altar Society, taught Catechism classes, and helped lead the Catholic Youth Organization. She was active in the Helena Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, serving as vice president and president and participating for years as an active past president. A lifelong Democrat, Viola served as officer of the Lake County Democrats for many years. Senators Mike Mansfield and Lee Metcalf were friends, and she recalled with pleasure meeting President and Mrs. Kennedy. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed her to the Montana State Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), which oversaw and implemented federal farm programs. She was the second woman to ever hold that position, and in 1963 she became the first woman to become an ASCS chairperson, which required extensive travel around the state of Montana to meet with farmers, and periodic visits to Washington, DC.
Viola was an avid historian who clipped and stored hundreds of news articles and other records relating to the history of the D’Aste community. She also collected extensive materials on the Big Flat Pioneers, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, and the Charlo Schools. She participated actively in the Lake County Schools History Project. In 2006, she donated several history notebooks to the D’Aste Women’s Club, which honored her at a large D’Aste reunion.
Viola was preceded in death by her husband Nick, her brother John Sullivan, and her sisters Mary Sullivan Logan and Margaret Sullivan Hendrickson Roberts.
She is survived by her children, Nick Herak (Karen), St. Ignatius; Mary Sand (Rob), Killdeer, N. D.; George Herak, Butte; Julie Bryher Herak, Basin, Mont.; Martin Herak (Roxanne), Charlo; Theresa Doyle (Dan), Polson; Agnes Meyer (Chuck), Las Vegas; John Herak (Lenora), Dixon; and Tom Herak, Charlo. She is also survived by twelve grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, brother-in-law Don Herak (Spokane), sister-in-law Emmabell Herak, Carson City, Nev.; and many beloved nieces and nephews.
Funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Charlo, on Monday, November 21, followed by burial at the Catholic cemetery in St. Ignatius and a meal at the Charlo Senior Citizens Center. A vigil/rosary was held at Charlo Catholic church on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. The family suggests memorials to St. Luke’s Extended Care Facility in Ronan, or the D’Aste Community Center.