Five hundred names. A nice, round figure. The list was composed of people (and a few pets) I met during our first 10 months in the southern Willamette Valley, 50 people at a time each month. We celebrated the list in December 2019 and pulled out fun facts – such as the most-common first name, the locations where I met most of the people, and pets vs. people. 

Within two months of 2020 the pandemic struck, forcing us into individual isolation and communal physical-distancing. Facial coverings created another kind of barrier, separating us even further on many levels.

And yet the historic events of 2020 – Covid, wildfires, economic collapse, political elections, protests and rallies around social justice – didn’t happen in a vacuum. I continued to meet more people specifically as a result of the turmoil. More sources, more experts, more neighbors, readers, more business colleagues, more friends. More often those meetings were done by email and phone and video – but nevertheless new people who enriched our lives. I have a bit of catching up to do, so these columns in the future will cover names spanning from January 2020 through each week’s newspaper publication. 

And the newspaper is a good place to start.

We added to our team in the past year. Chelsea began in March 2020, and quickly made a huge impact for us. She became our lead advertising designer, oversaw production on the 2020 Visitors & Newcomers Guide magazine and Emerald Valley Magazine’s Fall/Winter “Comfort Edition” and is designing the debut Emerald Valley Almanac annual now. Ramona, her mom, is a nurse and enjoys raising chickens. Emma also joined our team in September following a two-month internship. Her writing, photography and idea-generation has been valuable. By extension we’ve gotten to know her partner Nate, and her mom Julie, too.

Some folks have come and gone through the past year, and we miss them. Sarah came on board at a critical time for our business and did terrific sales work on our behalf. A new arrival still here: Hadlee, born in October to our sales leader, Jordan. Jordan was mentioned in the very first “50 First Names Only …” column while she was a bartender at The Roundup. I won’t count her name here. 

Our new office in Springfield is working out well, and we’re grateful our landlord, Adriel, was willing to rent a small space in the Professional Building. We’ve gotten to know Susan, Jonathan, Julia, Moana and Lisa during our first six months there. I also met Ramon there, the installer for our phone and internet.

We’re meeting people all over the place in Springfield – and not just the Historic Main Street portion of downtown. Vahana and Rita from Springfield City Hall have been supportive, and helped The Chronicle acquire its street banner. 

City Councilor Steve, Becki of the Springfield Board of Realtors, and Nancy, Springfield city manager. Aloha is an avid reader of our newspaper, and volunteered to help us sell subscriptions. Her bubbly and loving personality pays off for this veteran of phone-bank calls for charity organizations. We are proud to get to know Mark; his new podcast featuring women in leadership adds value to larger conversations. And congrats on earning his master’s degree! 

It was good meeting Travis at Pleasant Hill Feed Supply, and hearing about his parents’ decision to buy the business and work to expand it. I met Jeff during the construction of the new Creswell 76 Station; he’d prefer I never mention his name, but based upon the high praise from his boss, I’d be remiss to leave him out.

Another difference-maker in their job is Lindsay. Her creativity and strategic thinking has Farmlands Market creating a more-welcoming environment in the store while also raising its profile on social media.

One of our favorite places in Cottage Grove is the Coast Fork Brewery and Feed Store, and the Brewstation. Dale, Heather, Stephen and Emily are a dynamic family and business. The family won CG Business of the Year in 2019. Speaking of the Grove, we’ve gotten to know the Chamber of Commerce’s Shauna and Georgia much better. We’re looking forward to building on this partnership. I’ve been interested in the Bank Building in Historic Downtown for years. It’s been a pleasure watching it renovated and reopen. Len’s vision and Chalice’s execution have paid off with a vibrant mixed-use building. 

I met Valerie, who shares a last name with me, during a Chamber business breakfast event.

Amber and Rachel are Creswell residents who are on the front lines, rallying support for marginalized communities. Their bravery and courage to stand up for justice was inspiring.

We see Bobby, and Dave with his dog Pancho, on a regular basis in front of our Creswell newsroom.

Bob is a gifted photographer who contributes to the paper. He has a solid photo-journalism background and has generously shared his knowledge and perspective with us.

I was asked by Hannah, the only senior on the Lewis & Clark College’s women’s basketball team, to be part of their lecture series. The video conference hour flew by, and a bonus to chat with head coach Kristina for a bit, too.

Jeanette (insurance) and Lester (real estate) are newer advertisers and friendly folks. 

Ariel has been working with the City of Creswell and local businesses on behalf of OregonRAIN. She’s also been a terrific resource and connector to experienced professionals. 

Speaking with Bryce several times – after he won the Oregon Amateur and returned to San Jose State University – was a pleasure. He made the most of having a dad who runs Emerald Valley Golf Resort in Creswell.

Lots of folks have come into the newsroom – adhering to pandemic guidelines – to renew subscriptions, place ads or obits, or simply to chat. Others have messaged me over social media or called. Linda, Tim, and another Tim

I met Denise only last week, and it’s an important connection. She’s the owner/founder of Bean Counters in Springfield.

Lastly, I finally met Jon face-to-face and we enjoyed a few hours of journalism “shop talk” while eating lunch at the Brewstation. We had plenty of common history stretching all the way back to Florida. A recently elected Cottage Grove city councilor, he said he’s enjoying the experience and is working to help the community grow.

For the record, from those 500 names on the 2019 list, Chris and its many variations was the men’s and overall most common, variations of Susan were the most common women’s name, and there were at least 10 pets included.

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.