Forest Grove couple named 2019 'Newsmakers'
Washington County was well-represented in the annual Newsmakers of the Year award ceremony in Portland on Thursday evening, Jan. 30.
Each year the Royal Rosarians, Portland's "ambassadors of goodwill," honor members of the metro area who drew media coverage for their "exceptional acts of heroism and/or outstanding humanitarian work without regard for personal safety, public recognition, or personal gain."
Among the 10 individuals honored this week were Pamelajean Myers and Jeannine Murrell of Forest Grove, who were the Pamplin Media Group's nominees. In June, the News-Times reported how Murrell and Myers came to the rescue of their neighbors after noticing smoke coming from the house of the elderly couple.
While Murrell provided key details to the 9-1-1 dispatcher, Myers went inside the burning house, leading the wife to safety through the smoke. As flames grew higher on the exterior, Myers went back in and dragged the woman's husband, who was not ambulatory, out of the house. They reached safety just as a window imploded into the living room, sending a wall of fire to where he had been moments before.
"I'd argue that what you're about to hear describes a true act of heroism," said John Schrag, executive editor of Pamplin Media Group, who introduced the Murrell and Myers during the ceremony. "But it's my experience that such acts are almost always rooted in a lifetime of service."
Read the News-Times' story from July 9, 2019, on Pamelajean Myers and Jeannine Murrell's response to a house fire across the street from their Forest Grove home.
Schrag noted how the couple is very active in the communities of Forest Grove and Cornelius, donating money to various causes, from the public library and Cornelius Elementary School and volunteering with local groups such as the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Forest Grove.
"This is a couple that walks the talk," Schrag said.
Murrell told the 250 people at the ceremony that she felt lucky to live in a community where people come to the aid of others. She noted that as the house burned, other neighbors emerged to help the couple get the care they needed as paramedics arrived.
The others honored were:
• Oregon's "Kid Governor," Raaga Mandala, a fifth-grader at Jacob Wismer Elementary School in Beaverton, who was nominated by KPTV FOX 12 Oregon. Students across Oregon selected Mandala from among 20 applicants for the job after she talked about her efforts to address homelessness.
• Washington County Sheriff's Office Cpl. Jeremy Braun and Deputy Christopher Iverson, who were involved in a shootout last summer near Henry Hagg Lake with a man who had allegedly stolen guns from a nearby residence. Both men, who are still recovering from their bullet wounds, attended the ceremony and received a standing ovation after being introduced by KOIN 6 News anchor Dan Tilkin.
• Jose Troncoso, a Portland firefighter who founded Bomberos Latinos, which has provided training and equipment to fellow firefighters in 14 different countries. Troncoso, who was nominated by KUNP Univision Portland, credited his parents for ensuring that he grew up speaking both Spanish and English. "That has opened so many doors," he said.
• Lyndsee Wunn, a pediatric nurse at Randall Children's Hospital in Portland, who six years ago started Boxes of Love, a volunteer program to provide bins of new clothing, shoes, toys books and comfort items for children placed in foster care. Wunn, a Troutdale resident, said she recognized this need after she and her husband took in a foster child, an infant who arrived with not much more than a blanket and bottle of formula. Wunn, who was nominated by The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, described the bins as "a baby shower in a box."
• Steve Slavik, nominated by KGW Channel 8, who 30 years ago started a small St. Patrick's Parade in Portland's Alameda-Irvington neighborhood to impress his Irish father-in-law. Since then, it's grown into a huge community celebration that now boasts two dozen entries. The 2019 parade was particularly sweet for "Coach" Slavik, who a month earlier learned that after two rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, he was free of leukemia.
• Joe and Sheryl Stephens of Camas, Washington, who formed "Our City Cares" after their 25-year-old son, Jon, died by suicide in 2016. The couple, who was nominated by KATU ABC 2, say that by working with schools, faith communities and non-profits, they are changing the conversation around mental health in Southwestern Washington.
Royal Rosarian Prime Minister Kimberly Bown presided over this year's Newsmaker event. The Oregonian/OregonLive.com was this year's marquee sponsor. Portland's former First Lady Nancy Hales and KGW meteorologist Dave Salesky teamed up as master of ceremonies.
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