Historical defacing hits close to home

Pat Edwards

I was so dismayed this week when I read about the defacing of the historical marker honoring Sam and Mattie Reynolds in West Eugene with a racial slur. I didn’t know Sam or Mattie personally, but I’ve long known of the strength of their family and the hardships they suffered in establishing themselves and the African-American community in Eugene. I covered some of the journey that Black families such as theirs had to take before settling in an area off of West 11th Street in my book, OREGON’S MAIN STREET: U.S. Highway 99 “The Folk History.”

  In addition, Jim was a longtime friend of Sam and Mattie’s son, Bob Reynolds. Jim and Bob played on the same AAU basketball team out of Springfield in the mid-1960s. In fact, it was how I met Jim. Some of their other team members during that time were Jerry Cyphert, Rick Herman (who later managed West Lane Thriftway in Veneta), and Don Ainge. Jerry was my co-worker at Calkins Finance in Eugene and recruited me to keep score for the team. Jim and I began dating and we went to team get-togethers where Jerry played the banjo and we had sing-a-longs. I remember how much I enjoyed watching the children who came to watch their fathers play … notably Bob’s little boy, Quentin, and the young son of Don Ainge — Danny Ainge, who later became a pro basketball player and General Manager of the Boston Celtics. They were always at each game.

  Bob and Jim kept in touch, over the years, whenever possible after the team broke up. He was well-respected in the area. Sadly, Bob passed away in October 2019. His obit told of the good man he was. “He believed in helping others, giving to those in need, and he took great pride in providing for his large extended family.” Jim attended his funeral, paid respects to his family and said goodbye to not only a good friend, but a portion of his youth that was dear to him.

  Sam and Mattie were wonderful parents and raised their children with respect, kindness and courage. I saw that first-hand and have long held so much respect for all that they accomplished in their lives. They didn’t deserve the disrespect they were shown last week.

  Right now, we are all experiencing a dismay and an actual depression at the trials that our country is now experiencing. I have gone through periods of deep sadness over the destruction and disrespect that is occurring in our country by a small percentage of our citizens. I worry about what kind of world my generation is passing off to our children, grandchildren and, in our case, our great-grandchildren.

  It was pointed out to me when I was in an especially bad funk recently that I needed to take a closer look at my grandchildren’s generation, especially. I’ve been so encouraged by not only our grandchildren as they become parents, but by many of their friends, as well. They are once again parenting … really parenting their children. They are teaching them good manners, respect for authority, and they spend so much more time with them than some of the earlier generations did. I am confident that their children will grow up with the kind of values that will allow them to take hold of their future and guide it back to common sense and decency.

  We all need to look at the good that surrounds us right now and get away from dwelling on all that is bad. I have faith that in time, we will all come back together and respect one another, not only despite our differences, but because of them.

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