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Happening People

September 24, 2015

“My inspiration is my parents,” says Ruth Weinberg, who grew up in London, the daughter of German-Jewish refugees who felt welcome in England. “They created a nonprofit to provide affordable housing for international grad students and their families.” After graduating from the Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy, Weinberg got her first job at an old Victorian psychiatric hospital. When it shut down, she spent a year on an organic farm in New Zealand and two years with a group home for adults with developmental disabilities in Alaska. 

September 10, 2015

“I always knew, implicitly, that I was a musician,” says Scotty Perey, who took classical piano lessons from age 5 through high school in Billings, Montana. He sang in the school choir and taught himself guitar. He studied engineering for a year in Boulder before leaving that career path to study music at Montana State in Bozeman. He moved to Eugene in 1988 and finished a bachelor’s in music composition in 1994. He started giving music lessons at home in 1990, the same year he joined a new band, The Sugar Beets. “We met at the UO,” he says.

August 27, 2015

A native of Berkeley, California, Anne Donahue studied sports psychology at the University of Oregon and competed in rowing and ultimate Frisbee. “Our ultimate team, Dark Star, finished third at the national championships,” she says. After graduation, she went into business, printing T-shirts in her garage, until it caught fire. She took care of a woman with multiple sclerosis and did housecleaning and landscaping.

August 13, 2015

After two years at Lansing Community College, close to her family home in suburban Holt, Michigan, Jamie Walsh and a couple of friends moved to Los Angeles to establish California residency and decide where to go to school. “I didn’t like L.A. at all,” says Walsh, who headed north to study art history at Humboldt State in Arcata. “It’s small, and nature is everywhere,” she says of that much-smaller California town.

July 30, 2015

Though she was born in Los Angeles, Jill Torres has lived in Eugene since age 3 when her parents separated and she moved north with her mom. She went from Meadowlark Elementary to Crest Drive when her mother remarried, then to Jefferson Middle School. “It was a wonderful environment,” she says, “with a lot of social justice activists.” Meanwhile, her mother got a degree in education and began teaching fifth grade at Oak Hill School. “I had the opportunity of free high school at Oak Hill,” Torres says.

July 9, 2015

The daughter of artistically inclined parents, a woodworker and a flower farmer, Leda Hermecz grew up in tiny Silverhill, Alabama, located between Robertsdale, an agricultural town, and Fairhope, an artists’ colony on the shore of Mobile Bay. She left Robertsdale High School after two years in favor of home schooling.

June 25, 2015

“My mother was a special educator,” says Gretchen Dubie, a Catholic school student through college in Burlington, Vermont. “I was fascinated by her students’ honesty and humor.” In 1994, one day after graduating from all-girls Trinity College with degrees in special education and psychology, Dubie and two friends hit the road for Alaska and summer work in a cannery. Returning in September with a new boyfriend, Chris Gadsby, she stopped in Eugene to visit an old friend.

June 11, 2015

“I was born on the bayou,” says Dennis Hebert of Houma, Louisiana. “When a hurricane came, we’d board everything up and feel the house shake.” Hebert left the University of Southwest Louisiana in Lafayette to get married, but instead got drafted. He received a Dear John letter and a Purple Heart in Vietnam. He finished a marketing degree on the GI Bill, moved to Phoenix and started doing carpentry. He traveled the West for three years in his 1961 International van, the Turtle, picking up jobs along the way. Returning to Phoenix in 1981, he met a lady, Larena.

May 28, 2015

“My original plan was to be a high school choir director,” says Mo Robeson, who studied music and art at her hometown school, San Diego State University. “That’s where I met Denny Robeson.” They got married, he joined the Coast Guard and she finished up her degree at the University of West Florida in Pensacola while he went to flight school. She sang with the Honolulu Chorale and Symphony when he was stationed in Hawaii as a search and rescue pilot. They spent five years in Aberdeen, Washington, where he worked in air traffic control and she taught at Grays Harbor College.

May 14, 2015

“I learned to read at age 4,” says Isabelle Rogers, who entered first grade at Oak Hill School a year later. She skipped kindergarten and eighth grade on her way to high school graduation from Oak Hill this year at age 16. Rogers started writing stories when she was 7. She won a Glitterary Award from the Young Writer’s Association the next year for her story “If It Rained Down Soda.” “I liked to write,” she says. “My parents encouraged me. I still bounce ideas off my parents.” 

May 7, 2015

Born on the farm near Cairo, Georgia, where his great-granddad was a sharecropper, Hershell Norwood migrated north with his family as a young child and started school in Orange, New Jersey. After one year of high school, he got a scholarship to Hampton School, a boarding school in New Hampshire. He excelled at football and moved on to Tufts University near Boston. “I played quarterback in high school and running back in college,” he says, “and got a degree in theater.” He began work on an MFA in acting at Brandeis in the late 1970s, then spent a decade selling ad time on NBC Boston.

April 16, 2015

“My parents started an arts co-op in Boulder in the 1970s,” says Colorado native Mitra Chester, who studied anthropology and religion at University of Colorado Boulder, then moved to Austin, Texas, and got married. She worked in clothing resale and began to design clothes. She and her husband, Aaron, did some research, chose Eugene for its cool climate and cool people and moved here in 2003. They ran two boutique resale stores, Deluxe and Kitsch, and she put on a yearly local fashion show beginning in 2007.

April 9, 2015

“My dad worked for Rhythm and Blooms,” says Alex Ruiz, who was born in Eugene, two months before his parents moved back to their hometown of Santiago Apóstol in Oaxaca, Mexico. “They wanted me to be a U.S. citizen.” Ruiz returned to Oregon at age 11, lived with his older brother Lorenso and began sixth grade at Cal Young Middle School. “I didn’t know English,” he says. “It was challenging.” He took ELL classes and learned the language, but got into trouble with friends who were experimenting with drugs.

March 19, 2015

Farm girl Mia Nelson grew up outside of Glencoe, Minnesota, where her dad managed the local Green Giant packing plant. “The world’s largest corn-packing plant,” she says. “I worked there summers.” After two years at Rice University in Houston, she transferred to Oregon State to study biochemistry. “I wanted to be a vet,” she says, “but I quit school to work for the Green Tortoise bus company.” GT had a shop in Lowell, where buses were converted for cross-country touring.

March 5, 2015

“My goal was to work at the Los Angeles Zoo,” says Karen DeBraal, who grew up in nearby Glendora. She earned a two-year vet tech degree, studied zoology at Cal Poly Pomona, then worked as a zookeeper for four years. “I was severely disillusioned,” she says. “I thought zoos should be genetic arks and participate in reintroduction.” DeBraal moved to Santa Cruz, where she worked for Greenpeace, served as media rep for Earth First! and returned to school at UCSC for a degree in environmental science.

February 19, 2015

“In sixth grade, I went to environmental camp for a week, in the woods near Placerville,” says Shelley Villalobos, who grew up on a 5-acre walnut farm near Chico, California. “I came back changed, aware that our choices matter for the planet.” Villalobos played softball all through school in Chico, for one year at local Butte College and for three years at the UO, while she completed a degree in journalism and wrote a weekly column on the environment for the Oregon Daily Emerald.

February 12, 2015

“I’ve had a garden every year since I’ve been an adult,” Kevin Hillman says. “My largest garden at home was 1,000 square feet.” After high school in Fremont, California, Hillman worked in steel fabrication for 24 years. He came to Oregon in 1978, found work at a machine shop in Springfield and lived in Cottage Grove. In 1985, he moved to rural Lane County outside Marcola. He left the machine shop in 1996 to work for the Springfield School District. He drove a school bus for a year then became a vocational assistant in the metal shop at Thurston High School.

January 22, 2015

A third-generation Eugenean, Dan Gleason attended Harris Elementary, Spencer Butte Middle School, South Eugene High and the UO, where he got a degree in biology and took a particular interest in birds. After a couple of years as a substitute teacher, he returned to the UO in 1972 for a job, preparing student labs for a variety of biology courses. Every summer since then, even after his retirement in 2004, he has taught a four-week field ornithology course for seniors and grad students.

January 8, 2015

“I was known as ‘eco-girl,’” says Kelsey Juliana, recalling her K-8 years at the Village School in Eugene. “I ran down the hall, turning off lights, and went through the recycling bin to find usable stuff.” The daughter of Catia Juliana and Tim Ingalsbee, who spurred on the Warner Creek timber sale protest, she was two months old when her parents got married at the protest site in May of 1996. “I grew up around adults who made it their life’s work to protect these places,” she says.

December 24, 2014

“We had an amazing world-lit teacher who introduced us to Greek literature,” says Johanna Mitchell, who was then a high school senior in Miami. “There was a lot of mention of planets. That’s astrology!” Mitchell went to a bookstore and found Sun Signs by Linda Goodman. “I devoured that book,” she says. “I knew then that astrology was a vocation.” She spent a year at the University of Miami, but dropped out to protest the Vietnam War, and for 10 years worked at retail jobs in fabric and jewelry stores in Iowa City and Berkeley.

December 11, 2014

SoCal gal Donna Riddle spent childhood summers at Outpost Camp on the trail to Mount Whitney. “My mom, my sister and I ran a trail camp for a pack station that hauled people to the summit,” she says. “I have love-of-nature genes from that time.” Riddle got married just out of Corona High School, had a couple kids and did anti-war work in Orange County. “I went to a protest in Century City,” she says. “People sat down, and police attacked with clubs.” A year later, in 1968, she and the kids moved to Eugene.

November 13, 2014

“I had an Irish Catholic upbringing,” says Maggie Donahue, who grew up in Chicago and attended an all-girls high school. “When I was 9, I did therapy, every day, at the home of a child in the parish who had brain damage. It led to a career in special ed.” She spent two years at an all-girls college in Colorado, then returned to Chicago and Loyola U for a degree in psychology.

October 30, 2014

The son of a civil engineer in Plainview, Texas, Larry Weaver studied math and physics at University of Texas at Austin and served in the Peace Corps in Colombia before he came to the UO for grad school in physics. “The research I did was in molecular biology, in Brian Matthews’ lab,” he says. “We studied the structure of proteins, using X-ray diffraction and a lot of math.” Weaver got his Ph.D. in 1978, did three years of research in Switzerland, then returned to work in the Matthews lab until he retired in 2005.

October 16, 2014

“I always loved drawing,” says Ken O’Connell, a San Francisco Bay Area kid who arrived in Eugene in the 1950s to attend Woodrow Wilson Junior High School and South Eugene High School. “I had an amazing art teacher, Larry Goldade. He got me on a pathway to study art.” After graduating from the UO, O’Connell served two years in the Navy off Vietnam, married Gwyneth, a fellow South Eugene grad, and spent a year in Eastern Oregon, teaching art at five different high schools. He returned to Eugene for an MFA and got a job at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario.