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Happening People

November 10, 2016

“I grew up on the creek,” says Lane County native Corrina Welding, “out past Pleasant Hill on Lost Creek Road, a mile from the dead end.” Her father, Alfie Welding, was a welder. He had a structural steel construction business and managed a crew of employees, working mostly in Eugene and Springfield. He was also a Vietnam veteran who had been exposed to the insecticide Agent Orange. He developed cancer years later and died in 2010 at age 59. Following graduation from Pleasant Hill High School, Welding studied at the Cascade Institute of Massage and Body Therapies.

October 27, 2016

Born in Sonora, California, to a Native American mother and a European-American dad, Sara Billdt grew up in several small towns in the Sierra foothills. After her parents divorced, she and her father, Luther Billdt, moved to Phoenix, Oregon, near Medford. “My father sold cars,” she says. “We were poor, but we had everything we needed.” After high school graduation in 2003, she and her father moved to Eugene, where he has retired. She held a series of food service jobs and began to sing and play guitar on open mic nights at Cafe Paradiso.

October 13, 2016

Though he was born in Eugene, Charles Denson moved to Silver City, Nevada, with his parents when he was 6. “We came back to visit family in the summer and for weddings,” he says. “I moved back in 2006 after high school and got started at Lane Community College.” He began to volunteer with campus groups addressing environmental and social justice issues, and he traveled to Copenhagen in 2009 with a group of young people to lobby U.S. delegates to the United Nations negotiations on climate change.

September 29, 2016

“I’ve been an artist my whole life,” says Mija Andrade, who made national news in 1986 at Salinas High School in California, when she went to the senior prom with her best friend, another girl. “We had boy friends at different schools. When we were denied permission, we took it to court and won the case.” Andrade studied graphic arts at University of California, Santa Cruz and worked for a decade as a graphic artist in Monterey. She began to study massage therapy in 1994, a year before moving to Eugene with her then husband.

September 15, 2016

 “My parents both taught piano,” says Amy van der Linde, whose father also taught math at Bennington College in Vermont. “When I was 6, they opened a summer piano camp in our house. I started teaching at age 9.” The camp, called Summer Sonatina, became so popular that the family moved, seven years later, into a 42-room mansion, previously a convent. “We had 26 pianos for 50 students,” she says.

September 1, 2016

  At age 15, Serena Orsinger has spent 10 years in French immersion classrooms, from kindergarten at Fox Hollow/Charlemagne through middle school at Roosevelt, to South Eugene’s International High School. She’s front row center in the photo. As a freshman last year, she was looking for a way to get involved in the community beyond school. “I wanted to volunteer at the hospital,” she says, “but they said I was too young.” 

August 18, 2016

“I started guitar lessons in third grade,” says Linda Burden-Williams, who grew up in Marysville, Washington, and played bass guitar for 15 years in Puget Sound-area rock bands. “Shady Lady, She, Ship of Fools, City Slicker,” she enumerates. “We changed names regularly. We played music on the road, six months at a time. We traveled with eight people, two dogs and a monkey in a school bus with a VW van on top.” 

August 4, 2016

A physician, a psychiatrist and a Jungian analyst, Dr. David Rosen spent 25 years in College Station, Texas, where he held the McMillan Professorship in Analytical Psychology at Texas A&M University. When he retired in 2011, Rosen moved to Eugene, a city he had first visited six years earlier. “I house sat for someone on Crest Drive and worked on a book,” he explains. “I enjoyed Eugene.” 

July 21, 2016

 When Lauren Moore was 6 years old, her mother, Anne Marie, suggested that she try a class at the U.S. TaeKwonDo College. “I liked it,” Lauren reports. “We were totally sedentary,” says her father, Michael Moore, who spends his working days on a computer. He decided to enroll as well and also recruited his mother Bonnie Moore, a Eugene native and a pharmacist. She calls it “a great family activity.” 

June 30, 2016

Ever since 1999, when the Rooster Man, aka Gavin Fox, long-time host of KLCC’s Saturday afternoon Blues Power program, was struck down by ALS, Skip Jones has kept the weekly Rooster’s Blues Jam alive. “Rooster hired me to be the house drummer in 1990,” says Jones, a regular at the Monday night jams at Taylor’s Bar. After years of hopscotching from club to club, the jam has enjoyed a stable venue for the past six years, Tuesday nights at Mac’s at the Vet’s Club, 1626 Willamette Street. Admission is free. 

June 16, 2016

In the spring of 2015, Samantha Wise took a job delivering The Register-Guard newspaper. She had a 5-mile route that took four hours to walk in the early morning. “I had painful knees from jogging,” she says. “I learned about barefooting, and I went without shoes around the house and doing errands.” 

June 2, 2016

Growing up in Nevada City in Northern California, Lisa Shea-Blanchard got her start in community theater at age 9 with the Foothill Theatre Company. “It was a big part of my childhood,” she says. “My sister and my parents were involved.” Shea studied for a degree in theater at UC Davis and an MFA at the University of Wisconsin, then moved to Seattle and took a job at the Museum of Flight, where she met exhibit manager Ken Blanchard. They got married and moved to Eugene in 1995. 

May 19, 2016

A third-generation Oregonian, Kay Holbo grew up in Grants Pass. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the UO in 1963, married history professor Paul Holbo and became a faculty wife with two kids. “I love to garden,” says Holbo, whose green thumb encompassed the pioneer Mulkey Cemetery, adjacent to the family home in West Eugene. “I saw in the old cemetery a beautiful landscape.” 

May 5, 2016

“I got started on gender issues in eighth grade, when I took an elective class on ‘The ’60s,’” says Maya Corral, now a sophomore at South Eugene’s International High School. “My friend and I did a project on the second wave of feminism and the controversy around birth control and gender roles.” Afterwards, she took a course on activism, including feminism.

April 21, 2016

 With a degree in marketing from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, Deron Fort returned to his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania, for a sales job at a titanium manufacturing plant. “It was not inspiring work,” he says. “We wore badges to measure radiation from the electron beam furnaces.” Fort quit two years later to study for a master’s in education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, then taught middle school for two years. 

April 7, 2016

“I started my study of anthropology at home,” says Stephen Wooten, the youngest of nine children in an Irish Catholic family in Weymouth, Massachusetts. “My dad was on the police force. He was a beat cop, on his feet, building relationships with people.” Wooten continued his study at UMass Amherst and got his masters and Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Illinois. He’s been a professor at the UO since 2001. 

March 24, 2016

“Someone told me Oregon was beautiful,” says Chris Veloon, who grew up in Grafton, Wisconsin, and studied occupational therapy (OT) at the University of Wisconsin, “and that Eugene was a lot like Madison.” Since she arrived at age 27, Veloon has worked for PeaceHealth and McKenzie-Willamette hospitals, and, for the past 10 years, for Cascade Health Solutions, a nonprofit community health agency. “I’m an OT in home health,” she says. “Two of us cover the county. We mostly see elderly people with health issues.

March 9, 2016

After college at Jacksonville University in Florida and a four-year enlistment in the Air Force, Kathy Ford headed west in 1976 to Los Angeles where she worked for AT&T, the phone company, and where she met her partner, Jill Winans. The pair escaped the Southern California heat in 1985 when Ford took a job with US West in Seattle, and left the big-city rat race in 1992, when she transferred to US West Wireless in Eugene. Two years later, Winans opened the CatSpa, a boarding kennel for cats. In 10 years of operation, the CatSpa became increasingly involved in animal rescue.

February 25, 2016

A native of Rockville, Maryland, with a degree in music education from George Mason University, Anya Dobrowolski came to Eugene in 2006 for grad school in landscape architecture. She finished a master’s degree in 2011 and was hired as assistant director of the school’s newly minted one-year graduate certificate program, Oregon Leadership in Sustainability (OLIS). That’s where she met Beth Sweeney, an OLIS student who had worked six years for the EPA in Dallas, Texas, and in her hometown of Seattle.

February 11, 2016

“I have worked as a caregiver, a CNA or home health aide since age 18,” says Troi, who grew up in Issaquah, Washington, and moved to Seattle in her early 20s. “I’ve specialized in hospice and developmental disabilities.” When her brother committed suicide early in 2004, Troi, who goes only by the one name, took a year off from work to intern at the Lost Valley Educational Center near Dexter, Oregon. “I was an entrenched urbanite, transplanted to a rustic rural environment,” she says. “It was lifesaving. I realized how much tension I was carrying, living in the city.

January 28, 2016

The daughter of an Alaskan Native airline pilot, who flew back and forth to Alaska, and a Norwegian mother from Minnesota, Sigvanna Topkok endured family fights at home and racist comments at school, as she grew up in several towns across Oregon, from Baker City to the coast. She spent childhood summers in her grandparents’ home village of Ambler, Alaska, where tribal traditions were suppressed in previous generations. “My grandmother was adopted out of the tribe,” she notes. “My dad passed away in a car crash when I was 11.

January 14, 2016

The son of an active-duty Marine, Jon Labrousse grew up in several West Coast cities, then went to high school in Hawaii. “Most of the kids were Asians and Pacific Islanders,” he says. “It was a huge growth experience.” He enrolled at Oregon State University to study engineering, but after a required reading class with John Campbell he began writing poetry and changed his major to English. He spent two years teaching in Japan and South Korea before settling in Eugene in 1996 with his wife, Tasha Katsuda. “We met at OSU,” he says.

December 24, 2015

Back in the 1980s, University of Florida student Jim Evangelista and his roommates had a sign that read “Welcome to Reality Kitchen.” Later, when he started painting murals, Evangelista adopted the name for his Gainesville storefront studio, and Reality Kitchen evolved into a 24/7 coffee house and community center. “We had music every night,” he says. After three years, he got back to murals and began building scenery for film and TV. He got married, had a son, Diego, and, in 1992, took a cross-country trip in a converted school bus.

December 10, 2015

“The prison experience was a blessing for me,” says Garvar Brummett, who left his San Fernando Valley home at age 17 to escape an abusive stepdad and an alcoholic mother. He fell into a cycle of addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, bank robbery and incarceration that lasted 20 years. He served five years in prison, part of it in Illinois, the rest at the Sheridan federal prison in Oregon. “I read a lot of self-help books and religious texts,” he says. “I started going to AA meetings.