Today while connecting up relatives on Find A Grave, I discovered a copy of my great grandfather‘s obituary. It’s probably from the Lake Preston Times, the paper serving the community where he lived and farmed. His son Everett, my great uncle, is still living, going strong at age 100. He looks just like him.
Unfortunately, his father George, as Everett explained to me a few years ago, had taken up a bad habit, passed on by his father Frank: chewing tobacco. Of course, today there are warning labels and such. But back then who knows how much they knew about the terrible consequences of tobacco. Sadly, the habit caught up with George Hay in 1941. It had taken his father Frank prematurely, too, in 1903.
In 1939, Everett had moved west, to Seattle. He was chasing after a girl, Grace, whose family had moved to Oregon. They were married the same year his father died. One day he got a call from his older sister Lois. She explained how sick there father was. So Everett packed up and returned home, taking over the family farm after his father had passed.
After learning about the untimely passing of a former fellow actor from the drama program at my alma mater, Douglas McKay High School in Salem, Oregon, I did a cursory search of his name and discovered the obituary of his father, Steven Hugh VanDewalker, who also died relatively young, in 2012 at the age of 61.
Steve VanDewalker was born in Ashland, Oregon, attending college there and marrying his high school sweetheart, Rebecca MacCollister, before eventually moving to Salem. He worked for Morton Salt for 24 years.
I didn’t know the family well, but we did attend the same church, Morning Star. His two children, Daren and Denise, and I also went to the same high school during that time.
Daren and I were active in the choir and drama. That’s where I got to know him. He had a major role in my first play, the terrific musical West Side Story. It was a great experience, for the most part. I’ve rarely seen so many incredibly talented people gathered together in a cast before.
I, however, was a shy, introverted, skinny, naïve nerd. Going on stage, slowly brought me out of my exile and into other worlds.
It was shocking to learn that Daren had died, through a Facebook post by one of his friends, Joe Litke. I got to know Joe via the youth group at Morning Star and various mission trips, including one to Modesto, California.
Life is, indeed, short. For most of us, way too short.
This July is replete with significant milestones in our family.
My great uncle celebrated his 99th birthday two weeks ago. He has led a remarkable life. His love of funny stories and anecdotes has entertained us for decades. Thankfully, I’ve been around to hear many of them, and I’ve even recorded some on video.
“ . . . the 167th Alabama assisted by the left flank of the 168th Iowa had stormed and captured the Croix Rouge Farm in a manner which for its gallantry I do not believe has been surpassed in military history. It was one of the few occasions on which the bayonet was decisively used.”
I should probably be there in person, in France, for the 100th anniversary in 2018.
1. Hun was a derogatory word used to describe the Germans during both world wars.
He grew up in the same city where I did: Salem, Oregon.
The family’s ties to Oregon go back a ways.
Drury’s nephew still owns the 100-acre ranch just south of Salem where James spent some of his youth.
His mother, maiden name Crawford, was born on her father’s vegetable farm on Browns Island in 1895. My friend Carl lived in an old farmhouse out there for awhile. I love that area. Most of it is now a large park and wildlife refuge. There are quite a few deer there.
“I patterned my Virginian character after my maternal grandfather, John Hezekiah Crawford, an Oregon dirt farmer and rancher who raised cattle. He came out to Oregon with a wagon train in 1880 or 1875,” Drury explained.
“He had a big team of Belgian draft horses. He put me on one and I stayed up there all day. I’ve been crazy about horses ever since.”
He also spent time in beautiful Newport, on the Oregon coast. The Drurys bought a beach house at Agate Beach before he was born. Then, they bought a blueberry farm near Newport’s south jetty.
Drury lives in Houston, Texas now.
I should probably revisit that show, see what I missed.
Some scenes, clearly improvised, are vulgar and crass. Some of it works, some doesn’t. When it does, it is funny stuff. Of course, my parents wouldn’t understand. They didn’t get Seinfeld. They won’t get this either.
I wonder what prompted the line about Salem. Maybe it is some elusive inside joke. Or some sort of marketing gimmick? Lord knows there’s been plenty.
Will Ferrell, as Ron Burgundy, has been everywhere, inundating the airwaves with advertising and promotional tie-ins. So much so that I was on the verge of getting turned off by it. Dodge car commercials, an ‘interview’ with Peyton Manning, crashing a news desk in North Dakota, an exhibit at the Newseum.
Getting so many legit operations to go along with it is quite an accomplishment. The crass commercialism was only masked, though quite well, by Ferrell’s comedic talent. Surely the campaign would have failed without him.
The situation is very fluid, with a lot of unanswered questions. Authorities, including US Marshals, continue to investigate.
What follows is how Jeffery viewed himself, as posted on his Couchsurfing profile.
“I describe myself as funny. I like to laugh. My mind goes wild in making anything into something funny, whether it was something that could have happened or ‘lets do this’.”
He did make me laugh.
“The things I cherish the most in my life is my favorite pillow, my dog, my best friend, and the relationship I have with my brother.”
I remember his dog, a pug I think, pee on his tent after he put it up in his parents’ backyard. Ramon bought one too and convinced me to get one. Columbia tents with double D-style doors on both sides.
“I used to be very materialistic growing up. But now I know what I want and it doesn’t have to be the newest thing out there in the market. I have the few things I enjoy in life and I am happy with just having those. Which does put a cramp on things because I love to shop.”
He will be missed by his many friends, including those from the Couchsurfing community.
My sister-in-law recently has been uploading a bunch of wedding photos. She married my younger brother last September in a very nice ceremony overlooking the beautiful Willamette Valley. She sent me a very thankful note afterwords, too. We had a good crew of gentlemen and ladies helping out with setting up and taking down. It was quite an operation. (I have a nice tan, too. I’m the one in the very back with a hat.)
I probably first met Senator Mark Hatfield during an elementary school field trip to the Peace Plaza at city hall. The plaza is a big open area of concrete with benches and a few trees with a large, ugly modernist sculpture serving as a fountain, though I haven’t seen the thing spouting any water this summer.
He was there as a dignitary. I was there because some teachers thought it would be good to attend some peacenik event. I think the Peace Plaza was being rededicated.1 He and others had signed a sheet a paper, which was copied and given to all attendees. I vaguely remember his signature adorning it. For years I had it among my mementos from school.
His most heated moment was probably in 1995 when he single-handedly shot down the Balanced Budget Amendment. The U.S. Senate was one vote shy of referring it to the state legislatures. And Majority Leader Bob Dole didn’t seem to do a damn thing about it, put some pressure on him or anything.2 The collegiately of the Senate can be a true hindrance to good policy.
I called his office, perhaps in Portland, and railed against him and his vote. I didn’t let the man on the other end get much in. I was not in a good mood and let the man know it. He tried to explain Hatfield’s vote, but I’d said everything I had wanted and hung up on him, putting an exclamation point on my attitude, to further register just how upsetting his vote was. Of course, constituents didn’t have much leverage because he wasn’t standing for re-election.
I am still mad at him for voting against it. There ain’t nothing wrong with amending the Constitution. It’s been changed quite a bit through the years, mostly for the good. I’d hate to see the United States without the Bill of Rights. It’s not a perfect document, although it is often treated as such, venerated and holy.
As a younger man he may have been better, more populist. Hanging just outside the ceremonial entrance to the House of Representatives in the Oregon State Capitol is a magnificently large photograph of him as governor signing a civil rights bill surrounded by a group of leading black citizens. It’s a terrific photo documenting a great day in Oregon history.
Another one of my favorite pictures of Hatfield is during Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration. Hatfield was the inauguration chairman. They were both governors, of states with a common border. Serving together during the same time, I am assuming this is when they became friends.
I last saw Hatfield in 2005 during the ceremony honoring him at the state capitol. I was snapping photos of him and the festivities as a member of the press.
This is where I ran into an old school photographer from the Statesman, the same man who nearly got me on film skipping the entire day of school on Good Friday of 1993. I was downtown and popped into First United Methodist Church for a noon service. Little did I know a reporter was there doing a story for the front page of the local section, with a photographer in tow.
Former Governor Barbara Roberts was there to honor Hatfield and I was surprised to see them hug as if old, lifelong friends. She mentioned something about him being one of the last decent Republicans, a breed that was pretty much extinct. She wondered why there couldn’t be more bipartisanship.
I worked as an intern in her office and wasn’t impressed by her staff or the stupid, mudane tasks they assigned me. Mostly I typed up her old speeches on a slow, outdated computer tucked away in an obscure corner of the governor’s office.
The fact is that Mark Hatfield was merely a man, a decent and good one, but only a man. And like any man, he was wrong about a few things. His voting record shows this quite clearly.
I’ve never heard of anyone lying in state in the capitol rotunda, but I do think this is a prime opportunity for doing so. Hatfield was a giant in Oregon politics. A remarkable, honorable man. Wrong at times, but not a typical politician.
I am sure he had no idea who the heck I was.
1. The Peace Plaza was organized by a bunch of longtime Salem residents of leftist and liberal political persuasions. I met a few of them when I ran for mayor in 1994, although I didn’t know many of their backgrounds. A United Nations flag flies from a pole on the eastern side. Because of soverignty issues, it’s quite controversial in some circles. The issue has been brought before the city council, but the latest attempt was rejected. Personally, I’d like to see it removed.
2. This is contrary to some press reports, including from The Oregonian. I still doubt that Dole put much, if any, pressure on him, but I am only human and could be wrong. I’d have to see some real evidence to convince me though.
Wu’s Klingon stunt a few years ago, recorded by C-SPAN, reminded me a lot of Jim Traficant, a larger-than-life Congressman who often said “Beam me, up!” on the House floor when flabbergasted by something. At the time The Oregonian printed a funny photo of someone in Klingon grab and makeup with its story on the front page, which I’ll always remember.
Wu may have been referencing the book Rise of the Vulcans, which refers to a group within the Bush White House, but this was lost on most, perhaps even Wu himself. There was, and apparently still is, a serious disconnect.
1. Sadly, the photos have disappeared and, since I don’t remember the ones I used, I doubt this blog post will be updated again. The two photos I linked to, posted to Facebook servers, are missing for some reason. I may try tracking them down again.