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2013: Adios, au revoir, auf Wiedersehen

-  Before tiptoeing into the new year, The Outlook steps back for a look at the past 12 months


The passage of time has brought 2013 to a close, and with it the opportunity to glance back at some of the bigger news events of the past 12 months.

Not all of that news was rosy — we had more than our share of murders. Some of the news was inspirational, such as the dedication of the new police station in Rockwood.

Other stories made us laugh (like the tale of Sir Stuffington, the goofy one-eyed pirate kitten), or tugged at our heart strings (like the news of the death of Bill Porter, the famous door-to-door salesman who was the subject of a made-for-television movie).

So, before the ball drops on Times Square, let’s take this opportunity to look in the rearview mirror.

COMMUNITY NEWS

From contentious city government meetings to tragic events that claimed the lives of East County residents, there has been no shortage of local news.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Dozens of protesters gathered outside Gresham's Sweet Cakes by Melissa in February to protest the bakery's decision not to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

• In January, the owners of a Gresham bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on their religious beliefs. The cake debacle fired up supporters and protesters in February after the couple filed a state complaint against the bakery. At the end of August, Sweet Cakes by Melissa owners Aaron and Melissa Klein taped a poster on the business’ window stating the store at 44 N.E. Division St. is closed, but the business will continue as an at-home bakery. Pasted next to the poster was a small sign with a picture of a wedding cake stating “Religious freedom is under attack in Gresham.”

• In a year that witnessed the controversial resignation of Damascus City Manager Greg Baker; outrage that led to the resignation of City Councilor Mary Wescott and others from appointed city commissions; and a failed effort to disincorporate the city in the November election, it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel of discord in this town that shares borders with Gresham and Boring. Now, Damascus residents face the real possibility of choosing between three versions of comprehensive land-use plans in the May 2014 election. And, if that weren’t enough, a lawsuit has been filed that challenges the legality of the outcome of the vote to disincorporate.

• The Greater Portland Police Activities League Program announced Feb. 12 that without additional funding it would be forced to close its Gresham center and its administrative office in the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct building. East Multnomah County reeled from the announced, especially children who considered it a port in the storm of gang violence and poverty that mark their neighborhood. Then, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area announced it would take over operation of the PAL Center. At a public ceremony Tuesday, June 11, Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area and Friends of the Children announced their plans to create nearby facilities projected to open in 2015.

• Tom Klansnic, a popular Gresham elementary school principal who helped orchestrate a high-profile anti-bullying program, and his attorney claimed Klansnic was let go from the Gresham-Barlow School District because of his sexual orientation. The district disputed the decision was because of his sexuality, but could not comment because the decision was a personnel matter. Shock, sadness and anger swept over North Gresham Elementary School on Klansnic’s last day, April 24, with some calling him a family member.

• Gresham achieved a major milestone with the opening of the Rockwood Police Facility on Nov. 21. Mayor Shane Bemis made that point in his dedication speech when he said that not only was the new station “the city’s most important urban renewal goal-to-date,” but that it would serve the low-income area and help lower crime not just through its presence, but through good policing. For the building to be a success, Bemis said it needs to work with its Rockwood neighbors. “It needs to represent creativity, collaboration, partnership and coming together.”

• Reynolds School District announced on June 12 that Jeff Gilbert, the former principal of Reynolds High School whose contract was terminated June 20, 2012, will pay the Reynolds School District $17,216.03 by March 2014. The agreement came after the district commissioned a private investigator, Susan Nisbet, to conduct an investigation over the course of 18 months into Gilbert’s potential misuse of public funds. Gilbert was principal of Reynolds High School from 2008 until he was fired for alleged misuse of public funds, failure to maintain his administrator license and insubordination last year by former Superintendent Joyce Henstrand.

• Voters in the Gresham-Barlow and Corbett school districts voted down bond measures of $210 million and $15 million during the Nov. 5 election. Representatives from both districts said they would have to propose another bond at some point since the challenges they were designed to address remained.

• After 11 years, Debra Derr returned to her stomping grounds, taking the helm as president of Mt. Hood Community College July 1, becoming the 10th present in MHCC’s 47 years. Derr, 56, was selected as one of three candidates from 38 applicants by a search committee of students and employees and approved by the Board of Education as the finalist Saturday, April 6. She returns to MHCC after serving as the school’s vice president for student development and services 11 years ago.

• After the city of Troutdale said no thanks to a pricey offer by Bremik Construction to lease space in its new downtown development, business tycoon Junki Yoshida thought he’d do the city a favor by offering to help build a new city hall. Instead his proposal was met with some well-intentioned criticism and some borderline racist remarks at a Troutdale City Council meeting on Dec. 10, which sent the Japanese millionaire into a rage, and Yoshida vowed never to work with the city again.

• After city and state investigations determined the accessory building former Mayor Jim Kight had built on his property was a house, the city of Troutdale notified Kight on Monday, Oct. 28, that he needs to bring his 1,016-square-foot building with a 1,016-square-foot basement into compliance. Kight, who put his house up for sale, has emphatically insisted the building he had built while he was mayor in 2010 is a city-approved, legal accessory structure that does not qualify as a house.

• Reconstruction of the View Point Inn’s roof was under way on Nov. 13. Inn owner Geoff Thompson received the county’s approval on Sept. 5 to restore the historic inn on East Larch Mountain Road in Corbett after it caught fire almost three years ago in July 2011. Thompson filed for bankruptcy and the structure sat in a state of disrepair much to the disapproval of the community. Later, an insurance settlement allowed Thompson to move forward with restoration.

• Early Tuesday morning Dec. 17, a man died in the Corbett district’s first fire-related death since the mid-1970s. Robert Eugene McLaughlin, 60, was found dead in the basement of a house that burned down shortly after midnight on Southeast Hurlburt Road, which burned down. Officials believe the fire started in the basement, where McLaughlin slept and kept a wood stove and propane heater.

• Fireworks smoldering inside a waste bin were likely the cause of a fire at a Troutdale mobile home Saturday, July 14, which injured a 69-year-old woman and killed her son, Jeffery Averette, as well as pets. Averette, 52, who moved in two days earlier to take care of his mother, celebrated his move by setting off fireworks Saturday evening with his new neighbors.

ANIMALS IN THE NEWS

Critters captured headlines in 2013. And why not? Everyone loves a good animal story.

• Sir Stuffington, the adorable one-eyed kitten, became an Internet sensation in late September after his foster mother, Blazer Schaffer of Troutdale, posted a picture of him dressed like a pirate on Facebook. Picked up from the streets at 6 weeks old, Sir Stuffington’s snarl-lipped, disfigured face moved people all over the country to donate thousands of dollars to Multnomah County Animal Services’ foster care program.

• On Thursday, Feb. 8, animal services confiscated 52 chickens, roosters and turkeys from a Gresham backyard after the owners’ house was foreclosed on and the residents’ evicted. Neighbors reported that animal control officers spent more than six hours chasing and catching the birds that were later taken to a local shelter.

• Sightings of a black wolf-like animal in Corbett and reports of dead livestock in the area lead authorities to take a closer look when the animal was spotted again Wednesday, Nov. 6, in a field down the road from the grade school. Wildlife biologists determined the animal was a hybrid, a mix between a domesticated wolf and a domesticated dog. A local family who lives near the field is fostering the animal they call ‘Sweet Pea.’ “She is domesticated,” the Corbett woman said. “She is very gentle.”

• Gresham police and firefighters received calls about a grumpy goat that had climbed onto the roof of a house on Southeast 172nd Avenue on Thursday, Aug. 22. “Don’t get any closer — the goat will charge you,” the goat’s owner warned one officer. Fortunately, official action wasn’t necessary — the owner climbed up and whisked the 35-pound animal away.

NOTABLE DEATHS OF 2013

East County witnessed the passing of notable residents who, in their own ways, provided important contributions to their families and the communities that surrounded them.

Mother Francine Margaret Cardew — A founding member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Bridal Veil and co-founder of the Franciscan Montessori Earth School, Mother Francine Margaret Cardew died Tuesday, April 16, at age 79. She became a nun in 1952, following her aunt’s footsteps and calling off an engagement. She began as an elementary school teacher and went on to teach and serve as an administrator for Catholic schools in Spokane., Wash., Salem, Ore., and Bozeman, Mont., before becoming director of elementary education for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, B.C., and Portland. Cardew was known as a charismatic teacher with a twinkling sense of mischief, a fondness for coffee and a profound love for children and animals.

Bill Porter — Famous door-to-door salesman Bill Porter died Tuesday, Dec. 3, at age 81. Porter was born with cerebral palsy, but overcame his physical limitations to become one of the most successful door-to-door salesmen in the country. His life story was depicted in the TV movie “Door To Door,” which starred William H. Macy and won six Emmys. Porter couldn’t drive or ride a bike, walked with difficulty, had little use of his right arm and had trouble speaking, but it was his drive to succeed and downright stubbornness that saw him through.

Jim Fujii — Longtime Troutdale resident James “Jim” Mamoru Fujii died Tuesday, Dec. 3, at age 87. Born into a large Japanese immigrant farming family, Fujii came of age when Japanese American citizens were interned. Instead, his family moved to a farm labor tent camp in Nyssa, Ore. during the war. After serving in the U.S. Army, Fujii attended Oregon State University and became a dynamic businessman whose farm was named of the nation’s top 20 berry farms in 1991. Fujii Farms became iconic in the Gresham-Troutdale community, with many Portland area youths reminiscing about picking berries at the farm.

Nick Alexander — An East County businessman, philanthropist, education advocate and gourmet died Monday, Oct. 28, one day after his 62nd wedding anniversary and one day before the 60th anniversary of his immigration to America. Nick Alexander was 87. Alexander believed strongly in the American Dream, often speaking about how he arrived in the country as a penniless, jobless, Polish immigrant. From his humble beginning, Alexander built himself into a successful businessman and philanthropist. When was 45, Alexander launched his own company, Alexander Manufacturing, which he ran for 27 years.

Robert Silverman — Former MHCC president Robert Silverman died Monday, July 22 at age 64. Under his leadership, Mt. Hood Community College doubled the size of its nursing program, built a new allied health facility and survived a challenging period of budget cuts. Silverman was the fifth president of MHCC. He also served as chairman of the Oregon Community College President’s Council, composed of 17 Oregon community college presidents; and participated in a variety of civic organizations, including Gresham Rotary, the executive board of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, Portland Leaders Round Table and the Oregon Science and Technology Partnership board.

Clarence Mershon — Historian Clarence Mershon died Friday, May 10, at age 82. A retired educator, author of 10 books of local history and a specialist on the Historic Columbia River Highway, Mershon was described as “a native son” who didn’t just know East County history, but taught it. His family received the Troutdale Historical Society’s member of the year award last spring. Mershon was born in Corbett and “saw his life and his family’s presence as part of the grand scheme of history.” A retired administrator from the David Douglas School District, he relished telling the stories of pioneer families.

ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

The past year was a banner year for East County entertainers. Here are a few highlights.

• In late February and early March, Nutz ‘n’ Boltz Theater in Boring tackled the difficulties that arise when a clueless mother tries to save her despairing daughter from suicide in “Night, Mother” a 1983 play by Marsha Norman about daughter, Jessie, and her mother, Thelma (referred to as “Mama” in the play). Kelly Lazenby of Gresham portrayed Jessie in the production and chose the play.

• Two former students of Mt. Hood Community College made waves in the music world over the past year, according to a March 5 article. In February, trumpeter Chris Botti won a Grammy in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for “Impressions,” a wide-ranging, 13-song record that features Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Mark Knopfler, David Foster and Caroline Campbell. Botti attended Mt. Hood from 1980-81, when he was 17. Meanwhile, saxophonist-singer Patrick Lamb’s “Maceo,” a funky danceable instrumental tribute to Maceo Parker, peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Contemporary airplay charts, where the song spent 18 weeks. Lamb went to Mt. Hood from 1989-90.

• Gresham’s Center For The Arts Foundation offered free Music Mondays in July and August at the Arts Plaza on Northeast Third Street. Performers included Sonny Hess as well as Wayne Richards and Southern Nights.

• Speaking of the plaza, jazz fans descended on it Aug. 3 for the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival’s “Jazz on the Plaza” concert. Performers included Marilyn Keller, Thara John Memory & American Music and Soul Vaccination.

• The stars were not just on stage this year, they were also in the Sky Theater at Mt. Hood Community College’s revamped planetarium. The theater debuted its new digital Star Projection System Dec. 3. The new system greatly expanded the theater’s capabilities of showing the night sky and also allowed close examination of the planets, including Earth as well as the major moons of the solar system.

• Short story writer Stevan Allred read from his 15-story collection “A Simplified Map of the Real World” at the Gresham Historical Society Museum Oct. 17. Allred’s talk kicked off The Gresham Center for the Arts Foundation’s new program Third Thursday Studios. The evenings present artists and authors in a casual format.

Reporters Cari Hachmann, Lisa K. Anderson, Beverly Corbell and Rob Cullivan contributed to this summary.



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