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Happening People

September 4, 2014

“I knew I wanted to work with animals,” says Ashley Olson, who grew up near Sacramento with only a cat and the occasional newt or frog, until she got her first dog on her 18th birthday.

August 20, 2014

In Greenville, Michigan, where Frank Gibson grew up, the major local employer was the Gibson Refrigerator Company. “My great-grandfather, my grandfather and my father ran the company,” Gibson says, but the factory was sold when he was a child. 

August 6, 2014

“I got tired of rain,” says Ron Buss, who grew up in the Seattle/Tacoma area, but spent high school summer vacations with his older brother in Modesto, California, moving furniture for Beacon Van Lines. “I started when I was 14.” After graduation, Buss moved south to work for his brother, then spent a decade at warehouse work. He eventually got a truck and a PUC license and returned to household moving. “I made  $100,000 a year,” says Buss, who was supporting a house, a wife and three kids.

July 23, 2014

“New York didn’t resonate with me,” says Nancy-Diane Mannelli Brewer, who grew up in Northport, on Long Island. “It’s too fast-paced and competitive. I left when I was 18.” Mannelli studied for a year at West Virginia University in Morgantown, where she discovered Transcendental Meditation, and spent three years of quiet spiritual practice at an ashram in the Catskills, where she met her husband-to-be Bill Brewer, an artist. She taught TM for a while in Annapolis and in Bermuda, until she and Brewer got married, moved to Seattle and had a daughter, Rhice.

July 10, 2014

The daughter of a military man, Amy Red Feather was born in California and “moved all over” prior to her high school years in Slidell, La. “I got interested in permaculture and gardening,” says Red Feather, who completed a degree in animal science and conservation at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla., then worked in ecotourism with conservation groups in Maui. “We showed them hidden waterfalls and talked environmental education.” On Maui, she met people from Eugene. “It’s like our sister city,” they told her.

June 26, 2014

The son of a natural science museum director, Glen Johnson taught natural science, archery and riflery at a summer camp while in high school in Angleton, Texas. “They loaned me out to other camps,” says Johnson, who became a traveling summer camp counselor while attending six colleges in eight years. He completed a science teaching degree at OSU in 1987, then spent 11 years in Eugene as a substitute teacher and a River House recreation guide. A photographer since age 6, he launched a new career in destination-wedding photography after his son Jade was born in 2000.

June 12, 2014

“I would like to be a useful person and bring a good change to people’s lives,” says Win Min, who grew up in Sin Tae, a farming village in western Myanmar. An avid learner in primary school, he was shocked, at age 11, when his parents told him they couldn’t afford tuition. A year of hard work on the family farm earned him permission to travel to Mandalay, where he learned that tuition was free at the Buddhist monastery’s high school. “I started learning English,” says Win Min, who memorized Myanmar history and became a tourist guide.

May 29, 2014

“My mom is white and my dad is black,” says Rena Dunbar, who learned about racism first-hand, growing up along with her twin sister Leah in Fort Wayne, Ind., a segregated steel mill industrial town. “Seeing discrimination made us activists.” The twins won scholarships to DePauw University in southern Indiana. They majored in English, started a chapter of Amnesty International and protested the first Gulf War. After graduation in 1994, Rena followed the Grateful Dead on tour as far as Autzen Stadium shows in June, and decided to stay on in Eugene.

May 15, 2014

A member of the Klamath Tribes, Rowena Jackson spent her early childhood in Klamath Falls and Chiloquin. “My dad passed away when I was 9,” she says. “He died of alcohol poisoning when he was 25. Then we moved to Portland.” Feeling that she didn’t fit in at school, Jackson dropped out at age 15, took GED classes at Portland’s Urban Indian Center and passed her exams at 16. “After that, I played,” says Jackson, who had $15,000 in an account derived from termination of her tribe’s treaty rights in 1954.

May 1, 2014

The daughter of parents who each became a teacher while she was growing up in Sacramento, Phyllis Haddox majored in education at Sacramento State and found work as a reading specialist at racially diverse Del Paso Heights Elementary, where she had gone to grade school. “The district had adopted the Direct Instruction model,” says Haddox, who came up to the UO in 1971 for training in DI, a highly scripted and fast-paced teaching method for young children, with its founder, Siegfried Engelmann.

April 10, 2014

After high school in Cleveland, Ohio, and a year at Case Western Reserve, Eric Schiff followed his older brother to Eugene and the UO. “We had done summer trips out here with the family,” says Schiff, who learned metalsmithing from Max Nixon, made jewelry, played fiddle in a few bands, studied computer science and worked as a pre-school teacher at the UO Child Care Center, on his way to a bachelor’s in sociology in 1977.

March 27, 2014

“I think of myself as a New Englander,” says Hope Crandall, who grew up in Connecticut and went to boarding school in Massachusetts. She moved west to Lake Forest College in Illinois for a degree in philosophy, then continued on to Woodburn, Ore., in 1970, for an Office of Economic Opportunity job in migrant child development. “I realized I wanted to pursue multilingual, multicultural education,” says Crandall, who enrolled in a grad program at UC Santa Barbara, earned a California teaching license, then returned to Oregon.

March 13, 2014

Born and raised in Eugene, Julia Harvey got interested in marine biology as a second-grader at Spring Creek School. “We did a unit on marine mammals,” she recalls. “In fourth and fifth grade, we went to see tide pools and the aquarium.” Harvey took every science course available at South Eugene High School, then enrolled at Occidental College in L.A. “We shared a boat with other small colleges,” she says.

February 27, 2014

After high school on Long Island and a year at Brooklyn College, Marc Friedman hitchhiked west in 1971. “When I was in Banff,” he says, “I was recruited to fight forest fires.” Inspired by the experience, Friedman left New York for Alaska the following summer. He worked at many jobs, from building log houses to the construction of the Alaska Pipeline. He also returned to school at University of Alaska Fairbanks, completed a degree in geography and regional development in 1978 and worked in land management for the university.

February 6, 2014

Raised on a farm in southern Oregon, Sherry Whitmore graduated from Eagle Point High School and worked at a Sizzler restaurant in Medford. “I came up here for management training and met Brian Whitmore,” she says. “Three months later, I moved to Eugene.” She got married, spent summers as a forest firefighter, then had three kids, Shelby, Maddie and Trevor, and became a stay-at-home mom. “I coached volleyball for 13 years, at Kidsports and at South Eugene,” she notes.

January 23, 2014

“I started work as a bus boy when I was 14,” says Mike Grudzien, then a Catholic-school kid in Northwest Chicago. “I’ve never not worked.” A straight-A student, he pumped gas during high school, put in a year at Wright College, then joined the Marines. “I was looking for adventure and college benefits,” says Grudzien, who served on embassy security duty in Bucharest, Romania. He made sergeant in 22 months, but he left active duty to return to college and earned a master’s degree in advertising from the University of Illinois.

January 9, 2014

“I’m on my ninth life,” says Jimmy Jennett, who grew up amid drugs and dysfunction at home in Sacramento. “I got addicted to hard drugs at 16.” Jennett was an all-city basketball player, but needed a second senior year at Cottage Grove High School in Oregon to get his diploma. After one year of school and hoops at Sierra College, he dropped out and into a life of drug dealing and aggressive behavior that landed him in Folsom Prison at 27.

December 26, 2013

“I was a professional girl scout,” says Lyn Gilman-Garrick, describing a childhood in Salisbury, N.C., devoted to hiking and camping. She studied biology at Guilford College in Greensboro, a Quaker school and hub of anti-war and environmental activism. “We celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970,” she recalls. After two years researching fish populations off Montauk Point on Long Island, she came west to continue at OSU.

December 12, 2013

“I was a troublemaker as a kid,” says Kemy Joseph, the seventh of 10 children of divorced parents in Miami. “I was kicked out of school in fourth grade.” He got arrested twice in eighth grade, but turned things around in high school, where he captained the cross-country team and produced videos that helped him win a scholarship to study film arts at the University of Miami. There, he joined a campus club called Random Acts of Kindness. “It was a big turning point,” says Joseph, who became club president in his senior year.

November 27, 2013

“Our family hobby was rock hunting,” says Ron Wold, who grew up in Beaverton and majored in geology at Amherst. He got a master’s degree at the University of Montana, then came to Eugene to pursue a Ph.D. “After two years, I got a job as a geologist with the Bureau of Land Management,” says Wold, who eventually became a realty specialist in the agency’s Eugene office. “I managed right-of-way agreements on 320,000 acres.” After 30 years of service, he retired in 2004 at age 56.

November 14, 2013

A 2003 graduate of Interlake High School in Bellevue, Wash., Kate Wheeler majored in astrophysics on a swimming scholarship at the University of Nebraska. Afterwards, she traveled to Micronesia as a volunteer teacher of high school physics and math. “I stayed three years,” she says. “After the first year, I taught part-time and worked on nutrition projects for the public health department.” On her return, Wheeler moved to Atlanta for grad school in public health at Emory University.

October 31, 2013

Shortly after graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 1963 with a bachelor’s in journalism, Bay Area native David Kayfes joined the Army National Guard. He had the good fortune to be stationed for two years in Italy, where he met Anneke, a young woman from Holland. “I got out in October of ’66,” he says, “and got married in December.” Back in the U.S., he worked for the Associated Press in Salt Lake City, then found a job back at Cal, in the Sports Information Department.

October 17, 2013

“I could see Manhattan from my roof,” says Alley Valkyrie, who grew up in suburban New Jersey. One of six girls in her class at school with the same trendy first name, she ran away from home at 17, changed her name, took up painting and sold art on the streets in New York. “I learned more about people than about artwork. It moved me to activism.” She protested globalization and the Iraq War, and she met a few Cascadia Forest Defenders from Oregon. On a visit to Eugene in 2004, she spent two weeks in the woods and then discovered Eugene’s Saturday Market.

October 3, 2013

Scott Burgwin and a small crew of volunteers set up the Coast Fork Farm Stand in Cottage Grove’s Coiner Park by 2 pm on Wednesdays. Burgwin volunteers as coordinator of the Cottage Grove Growers’ Market during its summer season, when it shares Wednesday evenings with a series of concerts in the park. “The music has given us a lift,” says Burgwin, who moved the market from Saturdays downtown to Wednesdays in the park six years ago.