Don Williams celebrated his 86th birthday on March 9, surrounded by friends at Stacy’s Covered Bridge Restaurant. Standing, from left are: Shawn Kelley, Karol Kuhn Simons, JD and Ruth Linoz, Tyson Woodard, Ralph Weeldreyer, Kris Woodard, Cameron Reiten, Celia Gowing, Jeff Gowing, Bev Kelly, Dale Pallin, Bob Martindale, Grant Johnson, Richard Meyers, Dee Dee Nash, Noel Nash, Jim Gilroy, Mary Gilroy, Russel McGuire, and Theresa McGuire. Seated, from left: Casey Woodard, Don Williams, Cindy Weeldreyer and Linda Sexton. Kneeling: Nadine Kelley. Cindy Weeldreyer and Linda Sexton were co-hosts of the event.

By the grace of God, I celebrated my 86th birthday, 46 of those in south Lane County. I was fortunate enough to be invited to my birthday party with about 30 wonderful people who have contributed in one way or another to the betterment and welfare of Creswell and Cottage Grove. It was wonderful to reminisce about projects we had worked on over the last 46 years, but it once again brings to mind many wonderful people who have left us to go to a better place.

In reminiscing the last 86 years of my life, I look at my classmates in school and I find that most of them have preceded me to the “Great Beyond.” I think about being hired into my 37-year career with Weyerhaeuser in 1954. I was hired into maintenance as a millwright helper, continuing education, and later, two apprenticeships. On that hiring date there were 165 maintenance personnel of pipefitters, machinists, etc. One year later my very good friend Bob hired me as an apprentice. His birthday is March 14 – he is four days younger than me. Of the 165 maintenance personnel, to my knowledge, Bob and I are the only two left. Keep in mind that younger folks were hired after he and I became journeymen and were teaching the craft to younger personnel. The difference between Bob and I, and many of the others, is that after work Bob and I would journey uptown and pick up a veggie smoothie usually twice a week. After that, we’d go to the target range on the Snohomish River. Many of our colleagues were at the tavern having a beer. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to a good cold beer, but I do believe a good solid diet is instrumental in achieving the ’80s and ’90s in longevity of life.

I look at, not only my colleagues in the workplace, but schoolmates, and on the lane where I live. My neighbor passed away last summer at 100 years old. Most of her life was spent canning and raising her own foods.

In my Rotary Club, I am now the senior member as well as the oldest member.

One other mark of longevity: I believe there are two or three Chamber past presidents who were ahead of me, but are no longer active in the Chamber. So as an active participant in the Chamber, it would appear I am now the oldest participating past president.

I recently completed a second tour of duty with Bohemia Mining Days – 2020-21 – as president. I believe former mayor Bill Whiteman is the senior remaining past president of BMD, as he was ahead of me in the ‘70s.

I’m reminded of a trip we must all take one day. I read that Moira Banks Fossum, a longtime employee of Weyerhaeuser, has passed away. I remember when she came to work as a receptionist/telephone operator, soon to move into shipping and routing of lumber and plywood products. She was a full-blown Irish lass; she and her mother celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a passion — at least here in CG and in their future home of Brookings. Moira was the wife of former division manager of Weyerhaeuser Paul Fossum. Paul preceded Moira in death a few years ago. She will be laid to rest next to Paul in Brookings. They were both civic leaders in their retirement community.

In the year I was president of the Chamber here in CG, at a time when the Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce included Creswell. I asked Moira to do some special activity planning for the Chamber for a revenue source, as the Chamber was running in the red. She and Susan Garman, who was the office manager and tour guide for the The Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railway passenger train rides to Dorena – these two organized a wonderful Valentine’s Day Dance at the Armory. What a joyous and happy time it was. Moira and Susan had Marshall Keeting, school superintendent, help them with the entertainment, orchestra, and so forth.  Marshall was so happy and so helpful working with the ladies in these events.

Moira and husband Paul were close friends, socially and in community spirit.  

In the ’80s, another prominent member of the Weyerhaeuser staff was Ron Howe, our accountant. When I assumed the duties of Chamber president in 1983, I asked for and received the OK to have a three-day intense think-tank to reorganize the direction of the Chamber. We had 25 or so members of the community show up, and Ron Howe facilitated the two-and-a-half-day event. This was all volunteer time for the betterment of the business community and tourism economic development. We lost Ron at the end of December 2021. 

In 1977, all the school doors were locked due to budget restraints. Paul Fossum, Weyerhaeuser manager, called on two or three staff members to get the school doors open again. This was my first introduction to Chamber work. Ron Howe went to the school board and was, for many years, a member and president of the school board for Cottage Grove. When the tourism committee was formed, I asked Ron Howe to come out of retirement and be the facilitator for 12-18 citizens of CG, to organize ideas and proposals for tourism and economic development through the Chamber and south Lane County. The airport welcome center, carousel project, graffiti rapid response, bridges and beyond campaign, and other ideas came out of these meetings. Through these meetings came Cindy Weeldreyers’ idea of a community bulletin that she still puts together weekly – Around The Grove. 

I first met and started to work with Ron in Everett, Wash. in 1964. Ron was one of the five members of the task force brought to Cottage Grove by Paul Fossum and vice president Howard Hunt of Weyerhaeuser. In the very early ‘70s, the Weyerhaeuser Board of Directors was strongly contemplating shutting all of the CG operation down. Paul and Howard Hunt formed a task force to bring new blood and ideas. In later years, plywood and the old mill were discontinued, but Mill B is a major contributor to the economy today through these efforts and the dedication of two strong Weyerhaeuser individuals.

Frank Long, retired school teacher, longtime Morning Kiwanian, was very instrumental in the fundraising organization and building of the Cottage Theatre. He, too, has recently passed away.

I first met Frank in the very early ‘80s, when my wife, Jean, took a creative writing class from Frank at Lane Community College. I called on Frank several times for advice for projects, and we always met at the Koffee Kup to brainstorm. 

When I was asked to get involved with the Dr. Pierce Barn the second time – around 2010-2011 – again I called on Frank for his assistance.  The first time was 1990 when we raised funds to restore the barn and put a new roof on it. We had a 20-year lease. In the meantime – between 1990-2011 – the property went into receivership and was sold at a bank auction. When the 20-year lease expired, the Historical Society, which I represented, made an effort to save the barn a second time. I once again called on Frank’s experience to negotiate with the land owner, along with Jim Belknap, realtor. 

This is a project that failed all our attempts. I only repeat it here, to pay tribute to Frank, as one of his many efforts in the area.

Wilbur Heath was also instrumental in many projects. We lost him in 2021, too. Wilbur employed many folks through the years in his logging company, Heath Brothers Logging. He was known in the industry as a “gypo logger.” He was famous for putting on the logging shows at the Lane County Fairgrounds, where the new equipment, ideas, and inventions are brought to the fairgrounds for the public and the industry. There were lectures on proper forest management and the environmental wellbeing of streams and roadways. Wilbur was famous for his participation and support of the CG airport and museum. He was instrumental in the effort to save the Dr. Pierce Barn.

Another close friend was Karen Winters. She was our first Rotary lady president, as well as the first woman to become a member of the CG Rotary Club. She was a third-generation Rotarian. Her grandfather was a Charter member in 1960 of the club. Her father, Ivan Hoyer, joined Rotary about seven months after it was Chartered. Karen served as president and held one of the main offices for several years, Avenue of Service (Club Service).

As many of you know, Rotary has Five Avenues of Service, with Club Service being the number one service, as the Chair of that Service serves directly under the president in order to direct and organize activities of the club.

Ivan Hoyer’s father started Hoyer Accounting. Upon the fathers passing, Ivan took over the business, and when Ivan retired, daughter Karen took over, she worked there up until a few weeks before her passing.

In the projects I’ve been asked to become involved in, both in the workplace and community affairs, I have been so blessed with individuals, such as the above, carrying most of the heavy work, always with good sound advice and a desire to do good things for the community, as well as the workplace.