Flathead Living Winter 2009/2010 : Page 33

c ommu n i t y O Over 30 years ago, a young man named Stephen Isley traded his life in the city for one where his creative aspirations would be fulfi lled. And so, in 1973, he began to design jewelry out of his home and soon had a small space he operated as a design studio with Sam McGough, who recognized Stephen’s talent and invested the time teaching him some of the other aspects of the jewelry retail trade. Eventually, Stephen met his wife, Cindy Just, a silversmith apprentice; the two slowly built what is today a thriving custom jewelry business and a fi xture on Central Avenue in Whitefi sh. Stephen and Cindy have spent a lifetime building a relationship with the Yogo Mine—and their customers, who come from around the world. “You never know who is going to walk through that door,” said Cindy during a casual interview. Indeed, and when a rough looking man walked through their door in the Winter of 2008, they had no idea that it would lead to the journey of self- discovery that followed…. Th e man explained that he was in town to see his son compete in the Special Olympics. “We talked shop for a while,” said Stephen. “And he revealed that he had traded his gold mine in Alaska for the Yogo Mine in Utica, Montana. And, in the spirit of the Wild West, he was working the mine himself.” It was an instant friendship and the man was so impressed with Stephen’s design that he drove all night to Great Falls and back to retrieve a treasure that he was excited to share with Stephen. “He walked into our gallery the next day with a box tucked under his arm,” recalled Stephen. And he said, “I have a favor to ask of you both.” He then asked them if they would design a custom piece around the three stones and, opening the box, he revealed three brilliant trillion- cut, cornfl ower blue, Montana Yogo Sapphires. Th e fi nished piece would then be donated to Montana Special Olympics to be sold at their annual auction. For Stephen and Cindy, the opportunity to design around such beautiful stones was exciting. But they both later revealed that they had no idea how emotionally fulfi lling www. f latheadl i v ing.com WINTER 2009/2010 | FLATHEAD LIVING 33

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