Support Local Journalism


In 1991, KTVB Anchor Dee Sarton was dispatched to cover the release of Jesse Turner -; a university professor with strong ties to the Boise area who had been seized by a militant Islamic group and held hostage in Lebanon for more than four years -; at a military base in Germany.

"It was exciting for our community. People knew the Ronneburgs, his family here," she remembered. "I was doing live reports from Germany on a nightly basis, and Carolyn (Holly) was doing the show I normally anchor, filling in for me here."

Each night Sarton and Holly would run through plans for their broadcast via an NBC satellite truck, with the NBC crew looking on.

"One of the last nights I was there they grabbed me as I was walking by the truck after my live shot, and they said, 'Hey, we've got a question for you. Do you really like that chick back in Boise that you talk to every night on the air? '

"I said, 'Well yeah, she's one of my best friends,' and they just were flabbergasted.

"They said, 'Well it sure sounded like it, but do you have any idea how rare that is in this business that two anchorwomen at the same station actually like each other? ' And you know, that had never crossed my mind that that would be a rare thing."

Sarton, 52, and Holly, 49, who have worked together at KTVB for more than two decades, share the story as an amusing but telling example of their rare relationship and of the atmosphere at KTVB.

"I would say that I've worked very closely, I mean in just a unique relationship, with my friend Dee Sarton," Holly said. "I couldn't think of a better person to sit next to and work side-by-side with. And I hope that our relationship as two women has really set the standard in our newsroom for working relationships."

Sarton and Holly have become fixtures in the world of Treasure Valley television, providing familiar faces throughout the years for KTVB's daily news broadcasts.

"Both of them are extremely important to the editorial product you see on air. They are reporters, they are anchors and they are editors," said Doug Armstrong, KTVB president and general manager.

Although neither is a native Idahoan, the two women have grown deep roots in the valley through their dedication to their work and to serving the community as a whole.

Armstrong said their years of experience and knowledge of the region bring a journalistic standard as well as historical context to the station's reporting that have made KTVB successful.

However, "the thing that sets them apart from a typical journalist is their desire to serve the community."

Both Sarton and Holly are active in a number of community organizations -; especially relating to causes benefiting youth -; and participate in numerous events.

Both raised families in the valley and decided to stay here for an unusually long time in their industry despite offers from larger markets. Sarton and Holly plan to stay with KTVB for as long as they can and retire in the area.

Both women said they have stuck with the business for so long because they sincerely enjoy their work and love the community.

"Every day is different. I'm a curious, nosey person, so I love the opportunity to explore and learn new things all the time," Sarton said. "If I'm curious about something or care about something or whatever, I have license to go out and find out about it, ask questions and get to know it."

As an animal lover, Sarton's favorite example is the time she met Morris Hornocker. Tom Brokaw mentioned to her that Hornocker, a renowned big cat expert, happened to live in Ketchum.

"I could hardly wait. I called him, I went up, I spent some time with him and got to interview him and learn from the horse's mouth, or from the tiger's mouth, whatever, about big cats," Sarton said. "I remember that day thinking, 'I have the greatest job in the world that I can do this.'"

For Holly, it's the medical stories that stand out the most.

One story she holds especially close to her heart is that of Laurel Richter of Boise, one of the first women to receive full-body radiation treatment for breast cancer.

Richter died in 2001 after publicly battling the disease for nine years.

"So many people you encounter become these inspirations to you," Holly said.

Both women have had the opportunity to travel to report from international locations as distant as China and New Zealand.

Holly's work has put her in some interesting situations, most famously when she was indirectly struck by lightning while reporting live from the Boise River Festival during a flashflood.

Holly was on scene to announce the parade had been cancelled, as Sarton looked on from the studio.

Just as she went live, lightning struck a pool of water at her feet, traveling up her microphone cord.

"The jolt threw me, and luckily there was an engineer right there to catch me before I hit the ground," she said. "My microphone went one way, and I went the other way."

While she was not hurt, Holly realizes she was lucky.

"I don't take lightning lightly anymore. I head indoors."

In addition to their roles as anchors, reporters, and editors, Holly and Sarton share their experience with the station's younger employees.

Reporter Kaycee Murray said Holly has been her mentor since she was a ninth-grader.

"They're the seasoned veterans," said reporter Scott Evans, who joined the news team in June. "They are what holds the station together."

Evans said one of the things he's working on as a relatively new reporter is bringing out his personality in his reporting.

Sarton suggested he go home every day and tell his story to his wife and focus on how he communicates when he's talking to someone familiar face-to-face, rather than through a camera.

"The thing about Dee and Carolyn is what you see on TV is what you get," he said. "They're very genuine and caring. They care about the community."

Commitment to community

Both women pride themselves on being part of the Treasure Valley community, and when viewers wanting to talk or ask questions approach them in public, it's always a positive experience.

"I want them to consider me a friend -; a trusted friend. They invite me into their homes every night via the television, and I really appreciate it," Holly said. "I think there's just such a can-do spirit in this community, and I like being a part of that."

Sarton said the feeling that everybody knows her has helped maintain a comfortable, small-town feeling despite the area's explosive growth.

Their pride shows in their involvement in community efforts.

Holly and Sarton are especially dedicated to championing efforts related to youth and education, and both serve on numerous boards and committees in the valley.

"This whole television station focuses on youth," Armstrong said.

Promoting health and fitness is very important to Holly, and she has participated in the Idaho Women's Fitness Celebration since its foundation.

Holly is a regular emcee of Smart Women, Smart Money -; an educational conference geared toward teaching women financial strategy -; and she is often asked to participate in area community events. She recently served as grand marshal of Caldwell's Treasure Valley Night Light Parade.

"We get a lot of calls from people, and we try to do as much as we can here at Channel 7," she said.

Sarton's involvement in youth efforts is in part tied to Wednesday's Child, a weekly segment featuring children in need of adoption.

Sarton and her husband, Terry Bower, have also been heavily involved as advocates for area charter schools using the Harbor School Method.

Sarton said she got involved as a parent.

"I was always seeking out the best education for my kids, and when other people wanted to get involved I was happy to help," she said. "(The Harbor School Method) is just an incredible education method."

Her son Chase, 14, will be among the first class to attend Liberty Charter School from kindergarten through graduation.

Sarton, a motivational speaker, has addressed women's groups at area churches and led retreats for the past 20 years.

Faith is a big part of life for Sarton and Bower. After Sarton participated in a mission trip to Senegal during which she and other Idahoans raised money to drill 30 wells to provide water to the impoverished country, the couple began a fundraising effort through the non-profit LOVE INC.

Bower explained they spent several years with the organization, traveling to area churches each week to raise money for poverty fighting efforts. Dee played the piano and sang. "It's a real gift she's got," he said.

Reporting tragedy

Holly and Sarton have witnessed plenty of change in the valley.

"The growth is unbelievable," Holly said. "Although I report on it every day, until you really start traveling around the valley and seeing it, you just don't realize the explosion that's happened in housing."

Holly remembers, in her early days at the station, being sent to Meridian primarily for dairy stories.

But for Sarton, the most striking change has been less innocuous.

"I think, in all honesty, the impact of methamphetamines and drugs on our community is the most drastic change," she said. "It's one that I see weekly because my Wednesday's children ...; such a high percentage of those kids' lives have been devastated by meth in particular or drugs in general."

Sarton lists her involvement in spreading awareness of the budding epidemic among her proudest professional accomplishments.

In 1998, just as the prominence of meth addiction was beginning to be recognized as a serious issue, Sarton participated in the award-winning documentary "Life or Meth."

"I remember when I first started doing the stories on meth, no one had heard of methamphetamine; a lot of people were in denial about it and its impact and what it could do to our community," Sarton said.

Both women said reporting bad news is always hard, especially when children are involved.

"I know what a rippling effect that has on people and on families. It's devastating, but it's part of the job," Holly said.

"I think once I became a mother it also became more difficult," Sarton said. "I've heard a lot of news people say that that once you have your own children you suddenly start to realize the impact all of these things that you're reporting on have on the future generation."

Sometimes the bad news hits closer to home.

Sarton said there have been numerous times she's had to report a story that has affected her personally.

"The only good thing I can say about that is it's a huge reminder that every night, as I am reporting on the tragedies in other peoples lives, it's not just another news story. To somebody out there, it's life-altering."

On one occasion, the tragedy affected the entire newsroom.

In September 1987, reporter Mary Shore and photographer Dan Sullivan were flying back from Sun Valley when their plane crashed into the side of the mountain. Both were killed, along with the pilot.

"It was hard because we had to report on it. It was obviously a news story, and then a personal tragedy," Sarton said.

Holly, the morning anchor at the time, was the first to report the news.

Holly remembers the first footage she saw, melted camera equipment, adding a disturbing familiarity to the crash scene.

"It really hit my guts on the air," she said.


Sarton has worked in the televised news industry for nearly her entire adult life, but she didn't always know she would make a career of it.

Sarton decided before graduating from Pasco Senior High School in 1974 that she wanted to be a veterinarian and immediately began studying.

Her first news job was one of several she took at the time -; others included teaching piano lessons, working the college switchboard, and shelving books at a local library -; to pay for her education while attending Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

"I was working three jobs just trying to save up," Sarton said. "I was getting every job I could think of because it was going to be an expensive, long process. One of the jobs I got was at the local TV station. They needed a, quote, 'weather girl,' and it was a time I could work."

Sister Gayle O'Donahue was in sixth grade when Sarton took the job.

"It was pretty cool as a sixth grader to see your big sister on TV like that," O'Donahue remembers. "She was good at it, and she really took it seriously. She just wanted to do well at it; I remember at first her being very worried, like anyone is with a new job, and just coming home every night and working hard on it."

Sarton says her father, Daniel Sarton, who taught drama and speech at Columbia Basin, was her first tutor and greatest mentor in what was to become her life's work.

"I'd come home, and I trusted my dad to give me good advice, and he would talk to me for hours. We'd talk about how you do this thing, how do you communicate through a camera as though you're communicating to a real person? He was just such a gifted coach."

Still planning on a career as a veterinarian, Sarton enrolled at Central Washington University where she found another news job at a Yakima station. The new position gave her the opportunity to gain more reporting and even some anchoring experience.

"The more I did it, the more I became fascinated by broadcasting and the opportunities that it held."

Sarton struggled with the science and math involved in veterinary study, finding herself more comfortable with literature, speech, drama, and writing, which seemed to come naturally.

She finally decided to focus on a career in broadcast news when she made her first live broadcast, reporting on a local election.

"I thought, this was unbelievable that I was doing live TV and able to bring people information as it was happening. ...; That was the night that I said, 'I love this, why am I fighting this? I'm just going to go with this. I want to do it.'"

O'Donahue said while it was hard for her as a little sister to see Sarton move farther and farther away -; first to Eastern Washington University and KXLY in Spokane, then to Boise State University and KTVB in 1977 after she was contacted by Sal Celeski and offered a job, but she knew her sister had found her calling.

Sarton plans to enroll in online coursework and complete a degree in communication in the coming year.

Holly decided earlier that broadcast news was the career for her.

She credits the inspiration for her decision to longtime Portland television news anchor Richard Ross, who spoke at a ceremony during her senior year of high school.

"He said in order to be a great anchor, you have to be a great storyteller, and in order to be a great storyteller, you have to be a great actress," Holly said. Her high school background in theater, drama, music and dance made it a natural choice.

"I had no idea the study that would go with that, the things I would have to learn, the journalism part and the great English skills you should have, but I did have the performance part of it."

But Lucille Dement, her mother, said she saw the potential even earlier.

"She had (news) in her mind as a young girl -; she was always interviewing people, asking questions," Dement said. "She's not afraid of anything; she's always been very, very outgoing."

Holly attended Oregon State University and got her first real broadcast experience on the college television station, KBVR, as a reporter, anchor and eventually news director.

After graduating, Holly moved to Idaho Falls to work as a reporter at KIFI, Newsbeat 8.

"It was so great; I shot my own video, researched my own stories, edited my own stories."

When she was offered a job at KTVB in 1982, she jumped at it.

"I always wanted to work here. I had even heard about it at OSU -; great reputation in journalism," she said. Then Sal Celeski -; "the father of journalism in Idaho" -; hired her. "I had heard about him back at Oregon State. Great ethics, great journalist, and Channel 7 has always just had a fabulous reputation of being a good, solid community member."

Commitment to family

Holly met her husband, Dave Hawk, originally of Vale, Ore., on a snowy day at the Idaho Falls airport.

Holly, then working for KIFI, was waiting for someone to fly in for an interview, and Hawk, a Big Sky referee at the time, was waiting to fly out to a Boise State University basketball game.

His plane was delayed by the snow and the two struck up a conversation.

"I saw her and asked her out, and she said she didn't date strangers, so she asked me to lunch instead, and I said I didn't do lunch," Hawk recalls, laughing.

"We just started chatting," Holly said. "Who knows where you're going to meet the love of your life? "

The two were married in August 1983.

In addition to his and Holly's two children, Hawk had four of his own coming into the relationship.

Holly doesn't consider them stepchildren, instead referring to the mix as a "blended family" of six children, ranging in age from 17 to 37. The couple has 14 grandchildren, with a 15th on the way.

"If there's anything that would define me, it would be that family is the most important thing of all to me, and being a mom is the most precious thing to me. It comes way before my work; I'm just lucky to be able to be a mom and a journalist at the same time, both demanding jobs."

Favorite family pastimes include competitive sports -;all six children have participated, with Hawk serving as a coach and Holly supporting them however she can -; and outdoor activities, especially camping and horseback riding.

Holly said she stays active in her kids' lives despite her sometimes-hectic work, largely due to the sensitivity and flexibility of KTVB management.

She works on the News at Noon and the News at 10 as well as the weekly Seven Days program.

"It's really a unique shift; I went to this when (17-year-old son) Kevin started school. I wanted to be home in the morning, home in the afternoon, watch his games," she said. "I've been so lucky to blend my personal life and my professional life with a lot of support from management here."

Born and raised in the Portland area, Holly is the youngest of four children.

Her father, Merle Dement, worked as a grain inspector for most of his pre-retirement life, and her mother, Lucille, was a homemaker.

Holly says her parents have been her greatest role models.

"They built a great foundation for their children -; high expectations, boundaries with a lot of love."

Sarton and her husband Terry Bower married in 1980, but their relationship can be traced back to early childhood.

The two met in Sunday school while in the second grade and dated through high school.

"I really don't remember any time in my life when Terry wasn't a part of our family," sister O'Donahue said, recalling his presence at birthday parties and other events throughout her childhood.

Sarton and Bower have two children: 21-year-old daughter Brianne, who sings jazz in Boise, and 14-year-old Chase.

Sarton enjoys spending time with her family whenever possible. Favorite activities include biking and skiing, as well as do-it-yourself home decorating.

Sarton also loves to read, especially nonfiction, and tries to include Chase when she can.

"Because of my son's age, a lot of times he and I are working on projects together. Right now he's studying the Civil War, so we're reading a book on the Civil War," she said.

Sarton established an extended family in the valley by convincing her parents, brother and sister to move to the area.

"I always told them, you are all going to live here some day. ...; The more they came to visit and the more they spent time here the more they saw why I loved it so much."

O'Donahue, who works as a teacher and spokeswoman for Nampa's Liberty and Victory charter schools, jokes that her sister should be in the Idaho tourism business.

Craig Sarton, their brother, works as a graphic designer.

Parents Daniel and Gwen Sarton initially planned to retire on the Oregon coast, O'Donahue said, but the siblings banded together and convinced them to come to Idaho instead.

"We are just a very close family."

Daniel Sarton died late last year, struggling for three years after a serious stroke.

While his loss was very difficult for the family, O'Donahue said living close together helped everyone cope.

"It was a real blow to us, but we were fortunate to have each other nearby," she said.

"I miss him terribly," Sarton said.

She spent two weeks away from work with family during his final days.

"Carolyn came in and filled in for me, never a question asked, never anything but 'I'm here for you.'"

Bryan Dooley is a reporter for the Idaho Press-Tribune. He can be reached at or 465-8222. On the Web:

Recommended for you

Load comments