Meet the 2024 class of North Idaho’s Women of Wisdom » Sandpoint Reader (2024)

By Reader Staff

The Women Honoring Women Committee has announced its 2024 Women of Wisdom honorees, including a Lifetime Achievement Award to Linda Gibbs.

More than 100 women have been honored by the committee since 1999, which elevates women with vision who achieve goals through collaboration, love to learn, who are leaders and committed to serving our community, who inspire others, and face life’s challenges with grace and courage.

Honorees are Linda Gibbs, Ina Loman, Jean Elsaesser, Marcia Pilgeram and Carlene Peterson.

Awardees will be celebrated on Saturday, June 15 at a Gala Brunch celebrating at 11 a.m. at the Ponderay Events Center (401 Bonner Mall Way).

Linda Gibbs

Linda Gibbs. Courtesy photo.

Raised in Dover, Gibbs and her husband Joe were hired by the United States Forest Service after high school, where she worked as a clerk/typist. She retired 34 years later as chief financial officer for the Custer National Forest.

Gibbs worked as the finance section chief on an inter-agency incident command team responsible for all expenditures for payroll, vendor payments and contract support activities for wildfires throughout the U.S. Throughout her career, she worked to mentor and inspire young women to achieve higher levels within the Forest Service.

After retirement — and back home in Dover — Gibbs volunteered with the Community Assistance League, including as secretary and treasurer. She served on the Dover Urban Renewal Board and is the Dover Election Precinct captain. She is a member of Beta Sigma Phi, a Lost in the ’50s volunteer and member of the Sandpoint Sailing Association. For more than a decade, Gibbs has volunteered a day a week at the Bonner Community Food Bank.

Linda and Joe Gibbs have two children and four grandchildren. When she is not volunteering, Gibbs golfs at the Elks Club with her grandson Issac, sails on Lake Pend Oreille, plays mahjong, directs plays and sings.

Ina Loman

Ina Loman. Courtesy photo.

Loman spent her career helping change the world for countless Bonner County students as a teacher — but also as a lifelong community volunteer.

Born in Lakota, N.D. in 1930 — and the oldest of 10 children — Loman came to Sandpoint with her family in 1946, graduating from Sandpoint High School in 1948. She married fellow SHS alum Paul Loman. Upon Paul’s discharge from the Navy, the Loman’s moved south to Lewiston, where their three children were born.

The family moved again to La Puente, Calif., where Loman enrolled full-time at Cal Poly in 1968. She achieved her dream of becoming a teacher in 1972, at the age of 42, when she graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree and went on to earn master’s degrees in education and administration.

The Lomans returned to Sandpoint and lived on Sixth Avenue and Poplar Street for almost 50 years. Ina taught at Southside, Northside, Lincoln, and Farmin elementary schools and was loved and respected by students, parents and staff until her retirement in 1993.

In addition to her work as a teacher, Loman served as a court appointed special advocate and as a driver for Meals on Wheels.

At age 84, Loman took a trip to New York City with her daughter and granddaughter, where they walked the Brooklyn Bridge, saw a Broadway musical and got a “family” tattoo. The tattoo artist remarked that Loman was “the oldest person she had ever tattooed.”

Now, approaching her 94th birthday, Loman resides at the Bridge Assisted Living in Sandpoint where she is still enjoying life’s adventures.

Jean Elsaesser

Jean Elsaesser. Courtesy photo.

When Elsaesser moved to Priest River in 1977, the Priest River library consisted of a single room in the City Hall and there was no library for Blanchard residents.

Elsaesser led efforts to form the Friends of the Library organization in 1998. More than 20 years later, the city of Priest River could boast a new library at the center of a downtown redevelopment project. In addition, the Blanchard facility provides full library services to all of west Bonner County.

Born in Sterling, Mass. in 1951, Elsaesser attended Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., earning a B.A. in education and a K-8 teaching certificate. She met fellow student Ford Elsaesser and they married in 1973.

Elsaesser worked as a seventh-grade teacher at Idaho Hill until the birth of her first of three children in 1981. She then volunteered in her kids’ schools, managed two Girl Scout Troops, one Boy Scout Troop and was a 4-H mom. She also commuted to Whitworth College, where she took evening accounting classes in preparation for taking and ultimately passing the national certification exam and becoming a certified public accountant.

Elsaesser has provided accounting services to families and businesses throughout Bonner County for 40 years.

Jean served as a library friend, volunteer, treasurer, general manager, board member and general manager on a library remodel. In 1982, Elsaesser began working as an election volunteer for the East Priest River Precinct. She started in the counting room and has served as chief judge since the mid-1990s.

Her other passions include reading, teaching and traveling.

Marcia Pilgeram

Marcia Pilgeram. Courtesy photo.

The youngest of four children born in Trident, Mont. and raised in Helena, Pilgeram grew up independent and inquisitive — and her love of cooking surfaced early, as she began preparing food for her family by the age of 8. Pilgeram attended Helena High School and Carroll College, going on to work for a veterinarian who inspired her to become an animal health technologist. She then joined the Montana Livestock Department, testing cattle, elk and bison. Soon after, she met her future husband and joined him on his third-generation cattle ranch.

After ranch life ended, Pilgeram opened a catering and event venue in Missoula. One of her clients was Montana Rail Link, and so began her career and passion for uniting food and travel. When a group of investors founded a private passenger train on the Montana Rail Link route, Pilgeram relocated to Sandpoint for the startup of Montana Rockies Rail Tours in 1995. That was also when Pilgeram became a single mom of three kids.

She continued with Montana Rockies Rail Tours until 2004, then became a chef on private Pullman trains. She also organized food and wine tours for the Smithsonian. Today, Pilgeram owns and operates the Capers travel agency, specializing in cultural travel.

Pilgeram is a longtime member of the Angels over Sandpoint, a volunteer for the dessert auction for Bonner General Health Foundation’s Heart Ball and was part of the team involved with raising more than $100,000 for the foundation. She has also volunteered for Rotary’s CHAFE 150, the Panida Theater, the Bonner Community Food Bank, the Festival at Sandpoint, and the Scenic Half. She is a regular columnist for the Sandpoint Reader, in which she introduces readers to the world and highlights people and places closer to home.

Although she loves food and travel, Pilgeram’s greatest love is her children and her beloved grandchildren. She is also proud to claim Sandpoint as her forever home.

Carlene Peterson

Carlene Peterson. Courtesy photo.

Peterson is a successful businessperson; a community leader; a devoted wife, mother and grandmother; and a person of faith. Born in Missoula, she came to Priest Lake with her family at the age of 2 and continues to reside in Priest River with her husband Jim.

Peterson states that the values passed down from her mother — always being honest even if it hurts and working hard to get through tough situations — have contributed to both her personal and professional successes.

She was a dedicated stay-at-home mom when her children were young, processing much of the families’ food, sewing their clothes and working side jobs to help make ends meet. Starting her career as a real estate agent in her late 30s, today Peterson is a “top producer” and associate broker for Tomlinson Sotheby’s International Realty.

Her community involvement began at age 7, when Peterson started collecting pop bottles to raise funds for Priest River Logger’s Day, now known as Timber Days. She remains active with Timber Days, and also volunteers with Lost in the ’50s, Oktoberfest, the Selkirk Area Realtors annual charity golf tournament and the Realtor Political Action Committee fundraiser. She served for more than a decade on the board of the Priest River Chamber of Commerce and has volunteered with Priest River Advocates for Women.

Meet the 2024 class of North Idaho’s Women of Wisdom » Sandpoint Reader (2024)
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