Personal Histories: Mike Dragani & Mary Jeraj

If making wine, skiing, hiking & gardening sounds appealing to you, chances are you’d get along just fine with Mike Dragani and Mary Jeraj.

Mike Dragani and Mary Jeraj on the balcony of their heritage home near the Revelstoke courthouse.

If making wine, skiing, hiking and gardening sounds appealing to you, chances are you’d get along just fine with Mike Dragani and Mary Jeraj. The two Revelstoke locals have found love and adventure in this mountain town and heartily believe those who live here are lucky to call Revelstoke home.

Dragani has been a Revelstoke local since he was four years old, when his family moved to town so his father could help build Highway 1 through Rogers Pass, the Meadows in the Sky Parkway up Mount Revelstoke, and Mica dam. He graduated high school in 1970, and after a couple years, his father sat him down and asked him what he planned on doing with his life.

“I started an apprenticeship in 1973 at Mica, building the dam,” Dragani says. Trained as both a concrete plant operator and a crane operator, he worked at Revelstoke dam once Mica was finished. When the Revelstoke dam was done in the 80’s, he bought a crane truck and ran his own business, Rebel Boom Truck and Crane until this past year.

Meanwhile Jeraj, a first generation Canadian born to Slovenian immigrant parents, headed from Toronto to Revelstoke in 1976. Fresh from the University of Toronto’s teacher program, Jeraj was on the hunt for a job.

“At the time they were laying people off due to declining enrolment in Toronto,” she explained. “In Revelstoke, with the dam being built and the influx of families into town, they couldn’t find enough teachers, so I moved here for work.

“When I first moved here the mountains were scary, I felt claustrophobic.”

Her parents, on the other hand, felt right at home. “My dad, who used to mountain climb in Slovenia, which borders the Alps, loved it here,” she said. “And you couldn’t get my mom off Mount Revelstoke. My dad told me that had he known about Revelstoke, he would have moved here. But back then you immigrated to where your ethnic community was based.”

As Jeraj got comfortable with her mountain surroundings she embraced the snow, learning to ski as an adult. Figuring she would eventually move on to Kelowna or Vancouver, Her plans changed when she met Dragani.

“It was in ‘83,” Dragani said, “during a mixed league volleyball game.”

The two fell in love and bought their home — one of Revelstoke’s most iconic heritage homes. “It was a fixer upper,” Jeraj said, “but I remember I used to walk by it a lot and always thought it was an interesting home.”

The house also resonated with Dragani, who has a passion for Revelstoke’s heritage and was on the heritage committee for 25 years. Built in 1903, one of three homes built by the Taylor brothers; local business owners and politicians, Dragani and Jeraj have brought the house back to its past glory. Their home is a regular stop on the Revelstoke heritage walk, where people often pose for pictures outside the gate.

The couple have embraced a life of skiing (Mike skied 104 days this year at the hill plus a couple heli-skiing days), hiking, camping, fishing, travelling, cooking and gardening. Every year they grow grapes and make wine. Friends and neighbours meet in the garage to crush grapes. “They’re work parties,” Dragani jokes.

The couple’s love of Revelstoke is apparent in conversation. “There are towns and cities, bigger and smaller, that don’t have the feeling Revelstoke has. We have community involvement, a diversity of quality stores and restaurants, professional services like doctors and dentists other places don’t,” Jeraj said. “Because this place offers so much recreationally, talented and capable people want to live here. The town is charming and safe.”

“I saw a bumper sticker once that said ‘My real life is better than your vacation.’ That’s pretty true about living here,” Dragani laughed. “The community spirit in Revelstoke is great. People say Revelstoke is changing, but everything changes, that’s just the nature of reality. Time changes things, industries change.”

“Frankly, we love the energy the new people who have been moving to town over the past decade or so are bringing,” Jeraj continued. “People who want to bring even more to Revelstoke. And it’s so great to see the young families who are spending time introducing their children to all opportunities available here.”

The couple are often seen walking their large shaggy dog Blazer, working in their garden or around town, happily embracing and loving all the adventure and quality Revelstoke has to offer.