Tigard couple a powerful force for good
- Barbara Sherman
- The Times - News
Ronald McDonald House Charities is inducting Dick and Jean Powers into its Hall of Fame
TIGARD - Jean and Dick Powers have quietly volunteered for decades at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oregon and Southwest Washington, and they just don't understand why suddenly there is such a big fuss being made over them.
But now they're in the public eye - the Powers will be inducted into the Ronald McDonald House Charities Hall of Fame - which just started in 2004 and has only 10 members - at the annual Hearts and Hands Auction on Sept. 23.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oregon and Southwest Washington provides a 'home away from home' for families and their seriously ill or injured children who have traveled long distances to receive treatment at Portland hospitals.
Combined, the couple, who are the first to be inducted together, have volunteered for more than 30 years: Jean has been a weekly volunteer at the West Ronald McDonald House for almost 18 years, welcoming and assisting families, and Dick has been working nearly that long as a photographer recording Ronald McDonald House Charities events.
'You get more than you give with this kind of volunteering,' Jean said.
She got involved after seeing a newspaper advertisement asking for help when the house had the equivalent of less than three fulltime staff members. Dick, who is a well-known local cameraman and photographer for the Portland State University Athletic Department, soon came on board as well.
The couple met in Austin, Texas, when Dick was serving in the Army. 'He went overseas, and I went into the service,' Jean said.
Dick served 'for the better part of 30 years and through two wars' and was a ski trooper in the 87th Infantry 10th Mountain Division.
Jean, who served in the Marine Corps, said, 'They were pretty effective in Northern Italy.'
Dick trained in Colorado, explaining that the mountain ski division 'is like an infantry division, except we're equipped and trained to work in extreme mountain conditions,' he said.
When Dick retired from the Army in 1965, they moved back to the Portland area, where he was raised, and are preparing to celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary in October.
'The word 'retirement' doesn't mean to me what it means to other people,' Dick said. 'I didn't want to be an old retired soldier.'
To keep busy, he took up photography, initially motion pictures. 'When they went to video, I went to still photography,' he said.
And about five years ago, he went digital.
'For 20-plus years, I was paid to ski,' Dick said. 'In the summer of 1967, they were preparing to open Mount Hood Meadows, and I made sure I was part of it. It opened in January 1968.'
Dick, who skied until two years ago, took many photographs that now are on display in the Mount Hood Meadows lodge, and he is going through his old videos and photographs in preparation for its 40th anniversary.
Dick has photographed Rose Festival activities for 37 years in addition to his PSU activities.
For the Ronald McDonald House Charities, he photographs golf tournaments, fund-raisers, appreciation banquets and groundbreakings.
'You got to stay busy,' Dick said.
At the West Ronald McDonald House, Jean answers the phone and checks families in and out. She also cleans rooms after families leave.
'They are required to do certain things, but we have no maid service,' Jean said. 'Germs are the things we want to eliminate. Sometimes church groups or cleaning companies volunteer to come in and clean, so that helps.
'I try to be there for the families when they need a warm, loving person to lean on. A hug does a lot. Sometimes families come back year after year. Many times the families return. Sometimes the results are good and sometimes not.'
Dick added, 'She gets a lot of hugs.'
Jean thinks her ability to help families in need might come from being raised in a big family and then raising four girls.
'And I served in the Marine Corps in the Casualty Department during World War II,' Jean said. 'We had to notify families of a death.'
Since their marriage, 'she's been a great homemaker,' Dick said.
Although she didn't work outside the home since moving to Tigard, Jean was a Camp Fire and Girl Scout leader - 'It's all part of having a family,' she said.
When the Powers were told that they were being inducted in the Hall of Fame, Jean said, 'I was flabbergasted. I was stunned. I felt there are so many people who deserve it more than us. It is quite an honor.'