TORRINGTON – With March being National Women’s Month, The Torrington Telegram will continue highlighting prominent women in Goshen County.
Working two jobs, serving the community in several ways and maintaining a strong relationship with family is no easy feat. Motivated by her love for people, Valerie Grant, this week’s Women’s Month feature, has been doing all these for years.
A typical workday for Grant is being at Pieper & Marsh Family Dentistry Monday through Thursday from about 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. When she’s not in the dental office, she is likely working as a real estate agent with Premier Properties, usually during the lunch hour, evenings and Fridays.
“Service and caring for people…compassion for people is really what I’m all about,” Grant said. This idea is what drives both her work and community involvement.
“I guess I just love involvement,” she said, “I get teased at work that I’m a mover and a shaker. I always like knowing what’s going on in the community.”
Grant’s community involvement has changed throughout the years. In the past, she was a member and local president of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), which funds educational opportunities for women. She served a term on the school board and, while her two sons were in school, volunteered by making meals for preschool, working with the Presbyterian Church youth group and teaching Sunday school.
“And when they got older, I had to find other ways to serve and volunteer,” Grant said.
As current president of the local Lions club, Grant continues to be involved in her community. Grant says the Lions are dedicated to take action to make communities better. Internationally, they support disasters and crises. Locally, they help people in need of eye exams or glasses.
One of her passions is volunteering at the Allen H. Stewart Lions Camp outside of Casper. Each summer, the organization hosts summer school for youth experiencing visual impairment. This is at no cost to their families.
“We, as Lions, help to get them there,” said Grant.
Some of Grant’s favorite experiences at camp have been seeing the kids perform at their end-of-camp talent show and getting to meet people from all over the world through service.
She served as the Lions district governor for the state of Wyoming in 2017, but her involvement with the organization goes back to one of her former high school teachers.
“I actually had some pretty wonderful teachers,” Grant said, reflecting those who have deeply influenced her. Mel Gabel, Grant’s high school math teacher, started inviting her to Lions’ meetings and events when the organization decided women could be members.
“I grew up in Nebraska, just across the line, two miles north of Henry,” Grant said. She attended the Chalk Butte School two-room country school, which still stands today.
Grant said, “I have a few teachers in the community that always say they remember when I was very shy after coming in from Chalk Butte. ‘Well now look at you!’ they’d continue.”
Grant came to Torrington High School as a freshman. Upon graduation, she attended Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) for a year. Her plan had been to go into the nursing program in Scottsbluff. A few different factors changed those plans.
At EWC, Grant lived next to a couple of young women who worked in the area as dental assistants. They told her about an opening and, as she was to be married that June, she thought it was a good decision. She applied and started working in July. Today Grant has been a dental assistant for 43 years.
Just before becoming a dental assistant, Grant married her husband, Craig, who she said has been her hero and biggest support. She recalls the first time she met her husband was in Laramie, where she attended a school leadership event.
They started dating soon after.
Grant mentioned that since he was five years older, he was really respectful.
“You know, we only would go out Saturday nights and if I had to be home at midnight, he had me home at eleven.” They dated for three years.
“When you’re a teenager, you wished you lived in town, but then I went and married a farmer,” said Grant. Craig had grown up on and continued his family farm.
About eleven years ago, his equipment had been wearing out and wasn’t too keen on buying it new. In the midst of that decision, the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution came to Torrington. He has since been working there as a correctional officer.
Grant jokes about her husband’s career decision, “my husband would always say, ‘My wife, she sells Mary Kay, she sells real estate, she pulls teeth, and I’m looking for another job for her!’ but I found him another job instead.”
The couple’s oldest son, Dustin, teaches high school science in Rawlins. He and his wife are raising their five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.
The youngest, Cody and his wife live in Torrington. He works at the prison as a recreation specialist and the couple has two young boys. Grant said, “they’re the ones I get to babysit the most.”
Time spent with family is a priority for Grant. What keeps them close are holiday gatherings and frequent visits to their lake house on Hawk Springs Reservoir.
When Grant and Craig were first married, they had a lot on the lake where they would camp. Several years later, they built a cabin.
“We wanted to have a place we could create memories with our grandkids,” she said. And that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. One of her favorite memories has been watching the little ones bring in a surplus of fish last summer.
Grant said family is the driving factor behind most of her decisions.
With her dad having ten siblings and her mom having five, Grant grew up in a large, but close family. She, herself, has three brothers, two of whom are living in the area.
“Back then, on a farm, you just all worked together...we didn’t come to town but once a week…everything was just always about family,” she said.
This idea stuck with Grant in the years to come, as her job decisions often revolved around family.
When her sons got to high school, Grant had to have an ankle surgery and couldn’t work at the dental office. She took this time to be a resource and support for her sons. Grant soon got her real estate license. She worked in real estate and filled in at Pieper & Marsh occasionally. During this time, Grant said she spent time engaging in the community and taking her sons across the country for wrestling and baseball.
When her youngest son was a senior in high school, Pieper & Marsh asked her to come back. Having been missing the patients and frequent contact with people, she agreed.
Grant kept doing real estate because she said it would be her retirement job.
“If I ever retire,” she said with a laugh, “but for now, I just keep doing two jobs.”
Hoping to slowly retire, Grant said, “I don’t think I can do it all at once.” But, eventually, she and her husband hope to retire at their lake house in a few years. She said seeing her grandkids growing so fast reminds her “to slow down and smell the roses.”
Some of this slowing down is spending time with her mother. Grant said she feels blessed to be able to still spend time her mom, who will be celebrating 90 years on Easter weekend.
“I feel really blessed in this community, that I’ve gotten to do a lot of different volunteer services. I love the offices and my jobs and feel blessed that my health allows me to do all that.”
Grant feels she hasn’t quite found a balance between working, serving the community and family life, but sees the importance in slowing down at times.
What has kept Grant in Goshen County all this time are the opportunities to be involved and to raise a family in a good place.
“When you’re a teen, you always think you’ll move away and then I didn’t end up taking that path,” she said, “A lot of people then came back and I thought, ‘Well maybe this was the place I was meant to be anyway.’”
Now, with COVID-19 and unrest in the country, Grant said she is even more glad to live in Wyoming.
As a realtor, Grant has a unique perspective on the growth of her community. According to her, Premier Properties has been busier this winter than in years prior. She feels it is people wanting out of cities, as they’re seeing people move from Texas, Chicago, Michigan, Colorado and several other states.
“We’re seeing a growing and more diverse community, and I don’t think that’s bad, I just hope as we grow, we can remember what makes Wyoming special.” Grant said this is the fact that as a community, people are there for one another.