RIGGINS “Idaho County is a great place to live, love, and learn,” smiled Jeannie Fitch of Riggins, from her home located alongside the Little Salmon River. Her love of her small-town life is just one reason Fitch has been chosen as the 2018 Idaho County Fair Grand Marshal.
Jeannie was a 10-year 4-H member in Buffalo, Wyo., raising baby beef, sheep, and raising, breaking, and rodeoing with her horse Tashi.
“I have great respect for the 4-H program and what it offers,” she said.
She was the 1965 Johnson County Fair and Rodeo Queen in Buffalo, graduated from Eastern Montana College with a B.S. in elementary education/special education in spring of 1969, accepted her first teaching job as first grade teacher in September of 1969 in Billings, Mont., and was married in November of 1969 in Buffalo, to the love of her life, Buck Fitch.
Buck grew up in Grangeville, graduated from College of Idaho with a B.S. in math and history in 1966, and accepted a job with Saga Food Service that took him to Eastern Montana College where the two met.
Buck and Jeannie moved to Riggins in the fall of 1970 and both began teaching school, celebrating their first and every wedding anniversary thereafter. Jeannie taught first grade at Riggins Elementary School for 23 years and second grade one year, as well as helping with elementary sports and music and other needs throughout her teaching career. She was named Riggins Teacher of the Year two years in a row. Buck taught math and history and other subjects as needed, as well as coached every sport at one time or another throughout his 30 years at Salmon River High School.
“I was happy to be able to take eight years off in the middle of my teaching career to be home with our babies, Jed and Julie,” she said. She returned to first grade when Jed was in second grade and Julie in kindergarten; she then taught Julie in first grade; Buck taught both Jed and Julie in junior high and high school math. Both children were in the Idaho County 4-H Program with their 4-H clubs in Riggins.
Jed now lives in Dillon, Mont., where he is the Beaverhead County attorney. He has two children: Finn, 9, and Darby 4; Finn is in his first year of 4-H. Julie and Jason moved to Donnelley, Idaho, in June 2018 as full-time missionaries for the year-round Shiloh Bible Camp. They have two children: Kylie, 16; and Ty, 14. They are all involved in this new endeavor.
Buck and Jeannie began volunteering right away at school, in the community, and at their church which they said helps make a small community run smoothly. Suddenly, they said, like the river that flows past their home, the years have swept by as well…filled with many memories of good times spending time with family and friends.
Their first big volunteer work was helping with the 1970 Riggins Labor Day Barbecue; the barbecue faded out just in time for Hot Summer Nights to carry on the Riggins celebration where they continued to help. Jeannie is the emcee for the event’s Famous Talent Show as well as “the Voice of Riggins” as she announces the Easter Egg Hunt, the Color the Canyon Run, the Riggins Rodeo Parade, the Cancer Walk, and the Salmon Fish Run.
Jeannie served on the Idaho County Fair Board for eight years after she had spent 10 years as a 4-H leader in Riggins and many years as a 4-H supporter; she has also served as judge many times at the Idaho County Fair, and has encouraged her fellow Riggins residents to take part in the fair.
“I used to take upwards of 100 projects from Riggins residents to enter in the fair yearly,” she recalled.
The Fitches are members of the Salmon River Community Church and have served on its board, taught Sunday School, and after-school kids programs, and helped with many other church activities. Jeannie has contributed to her community by writing the Riggins News for the Idaho County Free Press for the past 33 years. Buck was a crop adjuster during the summer months while teaching; and full time following retirement with Jeannie assisting him.
Buck and Jeannie purchased the Fitch Family Ranch north of Grangeville from his brother and sister in 2013; they and their son Jed have spent many hours, days, and months getting the place back into shape after 30 years of the pasture land being leased out and the house rented. They have had friends helping with some ranch projects as well as professional help.
The past 46 of their 48 years in Riggins have been spent in the same home which is located right on the Little Salmon River where they raised their kids -- and lots of other kids -- and now have their grandchildren visit as often as possible as well as family and friends.
Buck and Jeannie followed their parents’ footsteps: Buck’s parents, Woody and Marge Fitch, were honored as grand marshals of Grangeville Border Days in 1998; Jeannie’s parents, Charles and Pearl Buell, were honored as grand marshals of the Johnson County Fair and Rodeo in Buffalo in 1999; and Buck and Jeannie were honored as Riggins Rodeo grand marshals in 2016.
“I so enjoyed the years I spent being involved with Idaho County Fair, leading 4-H’ers, serving on the Idaho County Fair Board, and making lots of great friends along the way,” Jeannie said.
Buck and Jeannie are enjoying their retirement years -- especially spending more time with their children, grandchildren, and friends, though they still find time to volunteer -- and attend the Idaho County Fair.