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Volunteers join together to refurbish Alice Richmond's house

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Neighbor Troy Bowers works on the steps to Alice Richmond's deck.Troy Bowers was working at his home in West Linn one day, about 20 years ago, when a small green BMW pulled up outside.

The woman driving the car looked at him and said, “Hey, when you’re done, can you come work on my house?”

Bowers was a civil engineer by trade — home repair work was just a hobby for spare time. And so, to this woman he’d never met before, he replied, “Sorry, but I can’t.”

He couldn’t have known then that his path would cross once again with this mysterious woman — that they would become friendly and he would, indeed, end up performing significant repairs at her house nearly two decades later.

Over the past month, Bowers took his place among a handful of volunteers working to revamp the home of Alice Richmond — one of West Linn’s most active and passionate advocates. Richmond is known for her flair for fashion, her rotation of hats, and her sponsorship of the Fourth of July celebration and Oktoberfest.

The effort was led by fellow community member Bill Hill and city Councilor Thomas Frank, and thus far has included deck renovations, fresh siding around the house and the installation of a storm buffer. The centerpiece of the project, a new paint job around the house, will soon be completed as well.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Bill Hill, who helped organize the project, works on siding the house.

The common goal shared by Bowers, Hill and Frank alike was to recognize the work Richmond does on behalf of the community.

“She’s done so much to benefit others in the community,” Hill said. “This is just a small token of expression from us, thanking her for that.”

The project also coincided with Richmond’s 84th birthday, which was May 26. As Hill and Bowers finished the deck work last Saturday, Richmond offered them coffee and cake before stopping to consider the meaning of their gesture.

“I’m very humbled,” Richmond said. “And it proves that there are wonderful people in West Linn.”

The idea for the project spawned from Hill’s wife, Susan, who’d noticed during past visits that Richmond’s home was in need of a new paint job. Soon after, Bill Hill gathered with Bowers and Frank to come up with a game plan. Bowers would perform the basic carpentry work, while Frank worked his connection at Parr Lumber in West Linn to obtain material at a significantly reduced cost and Hill helped acquire a donated paint supply from Sherwin-Williams.

The paint, a butter cream hue, is a newly developed product from the company and is purported to be more weather resistant and environmentally friendly.

In the end, the only significant costs associated with the project were labor wages for the painter. Everything else was either donated or obtained at a highly reduced rate, according to Hill.

“It seems like everybody knows Alice,” Frank said. “So once people know what it was for, it made the process a whole lot easier.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - City Councilor Thomas Frank hammers a nail into the deck at Alice Richmond's home in preparation for a paint job.

The project was meant to be a surprise. However, true to form, Richmond found out before Hill or Frank approached her about it.

But that didn’t quell her excitement.

“When we told Alice, she was beside herself,” Frank said. “She does so many other things — if you’re that busy, in a way you just forget the things around you. She was very humbled, and very happy.”

When the crew first arrived to evaluate the house, it was quickly apparent that it needed more than a paint job. The steps and railing on the deck were no longer safe, a few floorboards needed to be replaced and the walls were in need of re-siding. It wouldn’t hurt to clean the roof, either.

The crew also decided to build a storm buffer to keep rain water from gathering in the enclosure near the front door.

The bulk of that work was done on May 11 and May 25, while inclement weather pushed the painting to this weekend. The group also had a birthday party for Richmond this past Sunday.

A West Linn resident for 54 years known for her ubiquitous presence throughout the community, Richmond said she had never experienced a gesture quite like this.

“I don’t know what to think, “ Richmond said. “Except that I’m going to wake up and I do put my hand on that railing (on the deck) ... I don’t have to worry anymore.

“To do something for me like this, it is the epitome of human kind.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Alice Richmond is widely known as one of West Linn's most active community members.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - A view from the backyard at Alice Richmond's house, before it was painted.

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