Havre Daily News
After today's school elections, Havreites will have another important vote to make - which Havre Public Schools official makes the best spaghetti sauce.
The chefs are: HPS operations director Ric Floren, school board member Joe Marino, and Havre High School principal Jim Donovan and assistant principal Jerry Vandersloot.
Wednesday night's spaghetti feed will benefit Havre High School special education teacher Kim Kirby, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in February. Dinner will be served from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Havre High School cafeteria and will cost $5 person and $20 per family. Donations also are welcome.
The evening will include music and an auction.
Diners will vote for their favorite sauce with bills. The number of bills will be counted - the denominations will not matter. A $50 donation could be counted once or 50 times, depending on whether the voter uses 50 $1 bills or one $50 bill.
Kirby, who has taught at HHS for 25 years, said he is touched by the response he has gotten from his colleagues and neighbors.
“I always knew that the Havre community was very giving. I am overwhelmed more than anything,” he said. “I'm impressed but I am not surprised in any way with the response, the love and the caring that the community has for an individual like myself.”
A group of Kirby's colleagues put together the benefit.
Kay Nessland, a friend of Kirby and a counselor at Havre High helped to arrange the benefit.
“The community has really stepped up. It's mind boggling,” Nessland said.
Kirby's wife, Debbie, who is also a teacher with Havre Public Schools, said they are overwhelmed with the support they have gotten from local businesses and individuals.
“My husband has worked on a lot of benefits over the years, so to be on the receiving end - it is emotional,” she said.
Kim Kirby said he knows the four chefs have very competitive personalities.
“They all have a lot riding on this like the bragging rights involved,” Kirby said. “Mr. Donovan has been giving my wife daily updates on his cooking. He just grins and giggles about it.”
The competition is as heated as the sauce they are preparing.
Marino said he is going to prepare “Grandma Marino's Special Sicilian Sauce.” He learned the “age-old” recipe in the 1970s when he was a firefighter in New Jersey. He added a few special ingredients from the kitchen of his grandmother, Brooklyn native Cecelia DiFede. He said he knows the sauce is excellent because “in sticky situations, those guys brought me back safe so I could cook for them.”
The podiatrist said he “might have a bit of a following” because he has served his sauce at local benefit dinners including fundraisers for the Hi-Line Therapeutic Riding Association, which provides therapeutic and recreational horseback riding for individuals with physical, mental or behavioral challenges, and Hope on the Hi-Line, a group formed to relocate those who were made homeless by hurricanes Rita and Katrina to the Havre area.
“They are all nice people, excellent educators - they are probably just horrible in the kitchen,” Marino said of his competition.
He added he has never actually tasted his competitor's cuisine. Sadly, Marino will not get to chance to partake in the other chefs' sauces. His wife, Roseann, will be dishing out the sauce for her husband, who will be in Detroit the night of the feed.
Donovan said he will be preparing his own, special recipe.
“The competition is very good. I hate going against a guy whose name ends in a vowel, if you know what I mean,” he joked about Marino's Sicilian heritage.
To ensure a level playing field, the pasta will be the same for all four sauces. The Havre High food service staff will be preparing the spaghetti.
All four have already named themselves the winner.
“The shortest, best-looking guy has the best chance. So, that'd be me,” Vandersloot said with a laugh.
Floren had a few digs on the competition as well.
“Marino thinks he's going to win because he is Sicilian. It is not the Sicilians who are good at making spaghetti - they are known for their pizza,” he said.
Floren said he has been making his family's secret sauce for about 40 years.
“(Vandersloot and Donovan) have limited culinary skills. They are more suited for hot dogs and beer. Spaghetti sauce requires some refinement, and I don't know if they're up to it or not,” he said.
Vandersloot admits he is not much of a connoisseur. He has been perfecting his sauce with the aid of his wife Mari.
“We've tweaked the recipe and it's great. We're going to win,” Vandersloot said.
Floren said if any sauce is left, it will be jarred and sold.
Entertainment for the dinner will be supplied by pianist Anthony McLain, who is a Havre High senior.
During the benefit, about 40 donated items will be auctioned.
Kirby said one of the most touching donations is a pencil sketch drawn by one of his students, Jhameil “Junior” Moore. Kirby taught Jhameil Moore and his father, JB Moore.
“It's going to be an emotional night. I have never been on the receiving end of this before,” Kirby said.
Kirby learned he had cancer when he went in for back surgery earlier this year. He said he researched hospitals that perform liver transplant procedures and decided on Seattle, which was one of the closest to home.
“About the time I was researching, I went to church and the pastor's message was people heal faster if there is people around them that love them,” he said.
The Kirbys have already made two trips to Seattle for medical visits.
Kirby said the decision was especially important because he would need to stay wherever he had the surgery done for a few months after the procedure. A part of the requirement to get a transplant is that a family member must be by the patient's side during the recovery time. He and his wife will need to stay within an hour's drive of the University of Washington Medical Center in order to monitor the anti-rejection drugs he will take after the procedure.
The benefit will help pay for the couple's travel expenses and medical bills. She said their insurance does not cover travel and covers only some of the medical costs.
“It is going to help us so much,” Debbie Kirby said
Kim Kirby said he hopes to return to Havre High as soon as possible after the surgery.
“I don't want to miss out on my kids,” he said.
Kirby said he will return to Seattle after this school term to have his tumor evaluated and get his name on the waiting list for a liver.
“I am praying that they can get the transplant done in July, in the hope that I will be able to return to school in September,” he said.