Obituary: Valerie Valos

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Posted at 11:28 AM, Apr 01, 2024

Valerie (Sakellaris) Valos passed away peacefully in her sleep, Thursday, March 5, 2024, at Spring Creek Inn Memory Care. Beloved Mother of Rikki Bushnell and Billy (Dara) Valos, she was loved deeply for her kindness and sweet disposition by all her family and friends, and those that she met throughout her long life. Her beautiful smile will be missed by all.

Born June 21, 1931 in Butte, MT to Greek Immigrants, Charles and Pota Sakellaris, who came to America from Sparta, Greece, Valerie was the oldest of their three children. Valerie’s father, “Charlie”, and his two brothers owned a confectionary store in Chicago where they perfected the art of making handmade candy for several years until they decided to go West in 1920 to the booming mining city of Butte (pop. approx. 93,000) and opened two confectionary shops uptown. In 1926 Charlie branched out and opened his own business, the Beehive Confectionary and Café, where Valerie, her sister, Georgia, and brother, Peter, would grow up doing their homework and eating their meals (and lots of candy!). As Valerie grew older, she would work in the café with her parents and later her siblings would join her. Valerie and Georgia were both beautiful and sweet girls and attracted many young suitors to the café with their warm smiles.

Valerie’s mother was a great cook and Valerie followed in her footsteps, learning to make all the traditional Greek foods from her as well. Valerie always loved being with people and thrived in the restaurant and in her clubs at school.

When she graduated from high school, she was hired by the FBI for her typing skills. (The FBI had an office in Butte at that time due to the size of the city and the notorious crime that went with it.) So off Valerie went on the train to Washington, D.C. to work for the FBI. Unfortunately for the FBI, she was terribly homesick and ended up returning to Butte.

Valerie was also a gifted pianist and had an operatic soprano singing voice, and applied to a well-known music school in Chicago when she was 20. While staying with her father’s family during her visit, she enjoyed the Greek parties and social life and at one such event she met Bill Valos who was immediately smitten with this sweet, beautiful girl from Montana. It was love at first sight and three short months later they were married, and Valerie and Bill started their new life in the north suburbs of Chicago. (Although she didn’t make it to music school, Valerie enjoyed singing in her church choir for many years, and continued to play the piano into her 80’s.)

In 1964 Valerie and Bill moved north again to the beautiful Riverwoods area to raise their children. Valerie and Bill befriended many of their neighbors there, whom they would golf and travel with, and get together many evenings for dinner, dancing, cocktail parties, and card playing. She loved having people over for dinner as much as she loved going out. Her love of people stayed with Valerie her entire life.

In the summer, when Bill was busy with the family business in Greece, Valerie would pack up the kids and head to Montana to see her parents and her sister, Georgia, in Butte. (Her brother, Peter, had left for the Navy and relocated to San Diego.) Valerie continued to drive out west with the kids to see her family for over 14 years until her sister and family moved to Colorado. She would also join Bill in Greece some years, visiting their relatives and friends there, and taking side trips to other countries, which Valerie enjoyed immensely.

In the late 70’s, after the kids had left for college, Bill had decided to open a Greek restaurant and Valerie was thrilled. She enjoyed spending time with Bill and “her boys” at the restaurant and would often step in as hostess whenever needed. She loved visiting with customers and the many family members and friends that often came in. They later sold their restaurant to their chef, but remained very close, and continued to meet family and friends there for over 34 years.

Bill’s next entrepreneurial adventure had him buying a travel agency and Bill and Valerie were off again on many amazing new trips for the next seven years before Bill retired. But before Bill and Valerie could slow down too much, their son, Billy (Dara), added two more grandkids to the mix. Valerie was as busy as ever, taking them on new adventures to Chicago and Montana.

She somehow still managed to find time to be a homemaker, work in her flower garden, golf, and enjoy dinner dates with Bill and their friends, along with annual trips to Montana to visit her daughter, Rikki, and her husband (Kurt Bushnell) every year. Valerie and Kurt hit it off from the start and enjoyed golfing together and became good friends.

Bill started showing signs of dementia in 2014 and Valerie needed help taking care of him, so they moved to Montana and lived in a house on Rikki and Kurt’s property in Belgrade, where they would have help whenever needed. Kurt retired when he started having health issues of his own and then made it his full-time job to take care of Valerie and Bill. Valerie was always grateful and thanked Kurt often and kept his picture on her desk to the end of her days.

When Bill could no longer live at home he moved into a Memory Care facility in Belgrade, where Valerie would visit him every day. Despite his dementia, Bill always remembered Valerie and would light up when she would arrive to see him. Bill passed away in 2016 shortly after the celebration of their 64th anniversary, a wonderful day that had them both smiling and sharing lots of hugs.

Shortly afterwards, Valerie started showing signs of short-term memory loss. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but fortunately it progressed slowly and she was able to remain in her little house for another five and a half years, where she enjoyed watching old movies, working in her flower garden, doing puzzles, shopping, eating out with her daughter and friends, and occasionally traveling back to Chicago. In the summers you would always find Valerie on her front porch looking at the Bridger Mountains, reading, perusing her photo albums, dozing off for a nap, or visiting with Kurt or family members and friends that would stop by.

When it became too difficult to live alone, Valerie moved into Spring Creek Inn Memory Care full time. Valerie’s sweet disposition and beautiful smile won the staff over and the feeling was mutual. In her early days there she would walk all around the facility every day, saying hello to all the staff. If she saw another resident that was lost or confused, she would always stop to help them or try to cheer them up. She loved visiting with the caregivers and nurses and telling them all about her family and her many adventures, and sharing her feelings on how thankful she was for the good life Bill had given her. The staff would always find time to look at her photo albums with her which she enjoyed so much. (She referred to the caregivers as the “angels”.) Valerie’s family is eternally grateful for the love and patience the entire staff showed Valerie throughout her stay at Spring Creek Inn.

Valerie is survived by her son, Bill Valos (Dara); daughter, Rikki Bushnell; daughter-in-law, Melissa Valos; grandchildren, Marika Valos Wasman (Eric), Zak Valos, Jessica Valos Huff (Dan), and Anthony and Niko Valos; nieces and nephews, Kirk (Chrissie) Boulet, Jorgette Davis (Neil), Greg Boulet (Vicki), Renee Boulet, and Stephanie Sakellaris; cousins, Nana Patrakis, Maria Koukouras, Kiki Boukas, and Cathy Catchforres; and many of her cousin’s children, whom she loved dearly.

Cremation has taken place, and there will be a service for family and friends at the Mountain View Cemetery in Butte later this summer. Special thanks to Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service for their help in easing our loss. In lieu of flowers, please donate to help cure Alzheimer’s.

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. []