Bringing people together to better the community
Local resident Wayne Looney embodies what it means to give back and be involved in the community.
He spent time during his career giving to his community as a coach and working with young people. When he retired, he moved to Prineville and immediately became active in his new community. He has lived in Prineville for 20 years.
Looney was born and raised on a family farm just outside of Salem. He attended and graduated from high school in Salem in 1962.
He attended Willamette University and received a degree in history. He met his wife while attending the university. He played football and enjoyed it tremendously. He aspired to get into education and coaching.
"I wanted to continue in that area," indicated Looney. "I went to work at Sheldon High School in Eugene and was there for two years."
His wife was a microbiologist and had a good job in Eugene. At the time, they had no children and no debt, and Looney decided to go back to school and get his master's degree in history at the University of Oregon. While he attended, he worked as a graduate assistant in the football program.
"It was a good opportunity for me to learn something about football, and it was a lot of fun," he added.
From Eugene, Looney and his wife moved to Baker City. He was hired to teach physical education, and he soon learned that he needed to get his teaching credentials in physical education —even though he had his master's degree in history. Although he had been hired based on his transcripts from Willamette University and University of Oregon, he needed to go back and get certified to teach P.E.
He went back to college once again and received his physical education certification at Eastern Oregon University. About the same time, he moved his family to Pendleton. Although his children, Joe and Mary Kate were raised in Baker City, they grew up and graduated in Pendleton.
"They are both married and have successful families of their own at this point, but they both went through school in Pendleton. It was, and I think still is, a very good school district," said Looney.
He pointed out that his wife worked for Interpath Laboratories in Pendleton — a huge lab that collects samples from around the country. When the children entered high school, they made the decision for her to quit the job.
"I was concerned, as it was during the HIV crisis," he added. "I got up there to pick her up and witnessed her working in a space suit, under hoods and stuff like that. It was dangerous and very stressful. We were in a position where she didn't need to continue, so she didn't."
During his time at Pendleton School District, Looney taught P.E. and coached.
"Coaching takes a lot of hours if you are going to do it right," Looney emphasized. "The general statement about me is I am determined to be successful for the people who I work for."
He added that because he spends as many hours as it takes to be successful, it can be a weakness and deterrent for time with his family.
"I am going to spend as many hours as it takes, and those are hours taken away from your family," he said. "I don't respond well to losing. I differentiate between losing and getting beaten, which a lot of people don't understand. Losing to me is when you have not prepared, haven't done the work and haven't done what is necessary to allow the people you are responsible for to be successful. That's losing — or those kids have not played to their level that is possible and we lose. Getting beaten is when the other people are better, and they are well-coached and you get beaten. There's no sin in that one in my opinion. I think that is true in life."
Looney retired in Pendleton after 30 years in education. In 1998, they met Lance Romine in Prineville to look at some of his log structures he had built, as they were looking to build a log home. Although they had not planned on moving to Prineville, on a whim they looked at a lot that Romine showed them and fell in love with the town.
"I stepped out on the site where our home now is and said, 'Oh my gosh, this is exactly what we want.' I am very proud of the home that we eventually built and very pleased with how it turned out," said Looney.
Romine supplied the logs and Looney built their house with the help of Romine, his son and some of their friends. It took them approximately one year to complete.
"I couldn't say enough good about Lance," said Looney.
Looney did not do any service club or volunteer work while he was teaching and coaching. He was involved in professional clubs and organizations, but not service clubs. Shortly after completing their home in Prineville, he was invited by Gary Romine to come to a Kiwanis meeting.
"Gary is a wonderful person and such an asset in this community," commented Looney.
He liked what he saw and joined. He has been a Kiwanian in Prineville for almost 20 years, and it is the only service organization he has been part of.
"It's a tremendous club. Our mission is to strengthen the community — primarily it's children, and that is what I am interested in, so it was a natural for me," said Looney. "I think everybody needs to have a purpose. I didn't retire to sit in a chair and die. As long as I feel like I can be a contributor, I want to contribute.
"If I think I can move something forward in the community that I live in, I will help."
He was the past president of the Prineville Kiwanis Club and currently, he is an active club member and board member. Some of the big projects in the past few years he has been involved in include the toddler park at Pioneer Park, the splash pad and the Kiwanis Summer School. The first two were large capital projects.
"It was satisfying to see how the community stepped up to what they saw as a valuable asset for our community," he said of the splash pad.
"If we act as a community jointly, we can actually bring things on line that no other entity singly can do," he said. "There is tremendous power in group effort, I think. Not only in just allowing the resources to become available to make something happen, but the buy-in from the community means that if it's a capitol project, it has a strong likelihood of being used and preserved and not abused."
Looney believes that it is tragic when a population or community thinks somebody else should do it for them.
"It's easy for me to represent something that I see real value in…If you are in that position where you are trying to bring a coalition or collaboration of people together to make something happen — if you have a cause that is just — then you can make that happen," he noted. "I have enjoyed that. I am proud of what our club has been able to do for the community in the time I had been a member of it. I am very proud of the part that I have had to bring that about.
"More than anything, especially in the splash pad, that was a real learning experience."
He indicated that the splash pad was about a $500,000 project — with half cash and more than half from in-kind donations from the community.
"That is what community is about."
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