Montana Free Press August 1996

 Summer Residents - Joe and Nellie Israel

 Nellie Israel at Blain Gallery in Cooke City. Sept 2003
 For many years visitors to Cooke City were treated each evening to interpretive programs about the local flora and fauna, the history and geology of the area. The popular activity was offered by a U.S. Forest Service ranger at the little amphitheater across the creek from the Cooke City Store. The ranger was a seasonal forest worker who taught school during the year, but brought his family up to Cooke City every summer for almost 40 years. Nellie and Joe Israel began their summer excursions to Cooke City in 1952.

 Joe found work at the service station with Nick Babiluk. It wasn't long, though, that he got the job as the ranger at Cooke Pass, Probably, Nellie says, because he was a boy scout leader.

The family lived in the Forest Service cabin at Cooke Pass for a number of seasons. A friend described their trek up from the lowland each spring as looking "like a bunch of Okies" Here they'd come over the pass, pulling a horse trailer and with kids all around holding boxes of 4-H ducks and chickens in their laps. But the family loved it. And the visitors did too.Besides the evening programs which Joe did, he maintained as much contact with the public as he could. In charge of trails and campgrounds, Joe was constantly talking with the tourists as part of his job. And he loved it - as much as he loved teaching math in Joliet for 32 years. His personal contact with the visitors to the area was excellent PR for the Forest Service,as well as a valuable resource for the people unaware of the beauty, and dangers of the wilderness.


Joe and Nellie were able to purchase a piece of land on Soda Butte Creek in the late fifties, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to build their cabin on it. Though Joe died a few years ago, Nellie has continued to spend her summers there. She is an artist, displaying some of her works at Blain Gallery in Cooke City and an active member of the community.

Nellie has seen many of the changes in Cooke City over the last 40 years. She also got to know some of the old timers, people like Nick Babiluk, Two Dog, Shorty Nichols and Tommy Garrison, the old hermit who drove an Austin Healy out to his miners shack near Goose Lake. From them she heard of the bust times that went with the mining booms in the New World Mining District around Cooke City