Category: Personal Profiles

I’ve written mini-biographies of some of the people I’ve known. These are their stories

Scarves of Many Colors: A Tribute to Tom Page

(Originally written on February 25, 2008)

Tom PageDuring the course of our lifetimes, most of us have encountered people who leave indelible marks upon our lives – marks that begin small but gradually deepen until we suddenly realize how important they have become to us. Tom Page has left such a mark on countless families in the West Lane area over the years. He filled the scrapbooks of hundreds of teenagers during the almost 21 years he covered high school athletics for the West Lane News and Tri-County News. He not only wrote about the “stars” of each game, but the supporting cast, as well, and he became an icon whose footprints can never be filled. As Mike Thoele, current owner/publisher of both newspapers, said “There will never be another Tom Page!” During those 21 years, Tom wrote much about others for the readers of our local newspapers, but little has been written about Tom himself or his contribution to the communities he served.

When asked to choose what came first – his love for sports or his love for writing, Tom didn’t hesitate. “Sports!” was his immediate answer. During his childhood, his family regularly attended University of Oregon football, basketball and baseball games. As a young boy, he and his friends became members of the Knothole Club where they rooted for the “Green and Yellow” from the end zones at Hayward Field. They shagged foul balls at baseball games and could usually be found at Mac Court watching UO basketball games and 4A tournaments.

Tom was an observer, never a player, during school. “I was one of those kids who was always the last one chosen for a team. If there were an odd number of us, I would be designated the referee.”

After graduating from South Eugene High School, Tom enrolled at his beloved University of Oregon and in 1969, earned a B.S. in Business Administration. With diploma in hand, he began to wonder what in the world he was going to do with it. He decided that advertising might be a good career to get into, but he would need to continue his education if he was to succeed. Unfortunately, about that time, the UO closed the enrollment in its School of Journalism, so he began work on a master’s degree at Portland State University.

While at Portland State, as part of his studies, Tom was required to take a reporting class that  immediately caught his interest. Soon he joined the school newspaper and began covering women’s sports. He later returned to the University of Oregon where he completed his master’s degree in journalism in 1971. Unfortunately, there were more diplomas in hand than jobs available locally, so Tom took a position at a newspaper in Lakewood, Washington.

His beginning assignment in Lakewood was to cover news and to help with sports. Soon, when an opening became available in the sports department, he was covering all of the athletics in eight suburban high schools in the Tacoma area, Pacific Lutheran University, Pierce County recreation programs, Fort Lewis Army and McChord Air Force bases, and the meetings for two city councils, multiple school boards and the county commission. It was a Herculean task that called for diplomacy and tact. The military families in the area were transient and were hard to connect with and the rivalries and jealousies between schools sometimes involved coaches measuring the number of inches he wrote about their program, comparing them to those he wrote about their rivals. The pressures finally took their toll. After seven years, Tom reached his burn-out point and headed home to Oregon.

Upon arriving back home, he took a job with Fred Meyer in Springfield where he worked in the paint department. Four years later, while reading the soap opera previews in the West Lane News, he noticed an opening for a sports writer. He sent in his resume and one day while he was at work at Fred Meyer, he looked up to see Joe Cannon, owner and publisher of the West Lane News, standing before him. Joe said that the editor was going on vacation and he wanted Tom to fill in for him so that Joe could see him in action. A few months later, he was offered a job as freelance sports writer at $40 per week –  his almost 21-year reign began in January 1983.

Tom Page in scarfTom’s assignments included coverage of athletics at Elmira, Crow and Triangle Lake high schools for the West Lane News and at Junction City, Harrisburg, Monroe and later Christ Center high schools for its sister-publication, the Tri-County News. He was the photographer, as well. He attended each game respectfully dressed in a sports jacket, tie and slacks. During the cold months, he wore, wrapped around his neck, a long scarf bearing the school colors of the team he was covering at the time. These scarves became his trademark and when asked about where he got them, he proudly declared, “My mother knitted them for me.” On the occasions when two of “his teams” were playing each other, he wore both scarves at once. When Crow played Harrisburg or Monroe, Tom carefully wrote two stories – one for the West Lane News, slanting it towards Crow and another similar story written from the Harrisburg/Monroe angle for the Tri-County News. The same occurred when Elmira and Junction City met in the 3A ranks. When Triangle Lake and Monroe, for instance, played other teams in different locations, the logistics became more difficult – but Tom proved up to the challenge. He simply went to the first game for the first half wearing the proper scarf and jumped in his car and headed to the other game for its 2nd half, changing scarves before he arrived. Each week, he spent a good deal of time figuring out the strategies that would get him to as many games as possible and he logged hundreds of miles in his faithful car.

When one of “his” basketball teams went to the state tournament in Pendleton, as they frequently did, he was sometimes unable to take the time off from his job at Fred Meyer to attend. Instead, he borrowed a videotape from the coach so he could write his articles. Tom always made sure that he was “there” for his teams whether it be in person or electronically.

Some of his teams struggled. Elmira was in the beginning stages of an eventual 36-game losing streak in football when Tom came on board. He covered the last 27 of those games until they had their first win. Junction City had a 22-game losing streak. “It was difficult to write positive stories during those times, but I knew that I needed to. It was a challenge to stay upbeat. As a writer, you have to do the best that you can and hope that it comes across to the readers.” At one point, a member of one struggling team exclaimed, “Hey! You made it sound as though we were good!”

Tom Page vs Betty Pellham Tom Page 1990Tom enjoyed challenging some of the tall post players from the girls’ basketball teams to one-on-one exhibition scrimmages. At Elmira, these events were referred to as the“Tom Page Challenges” and were held in conjunction with its winter sports “desserts.” Crow and Monroe girls participated at their respective schools, too. He won some and lost some and once went on a 10-game losing streak.

Tom had a very strict credo: “I tried to include a picture of every team in action every week and feature as many of the players as possible.” He not only wrote about the high scorers in each game, but about the key rebound or good pass that a non-starter made. Whether a team won or lost, he always strove to present it and its players in a positive light.

When asked what his favorite sport was, Tom was quick to respond, “Football.” He qualified it by saying that from a reporter’s standpoint, the once-a-week games and shorter seasons allowed him to be more creative in his coverage than the more frequent and longer basketball seasons. He also loves the excitement of the game and the color of bands and cheerleaders. Track runs a close second on his favorites list. He grew up with it and respects the fact that the participants are competing against their own abilities and constantly are trying to improve their own personal bests.

Tom Page at awards banquetTom’s personal life revolves around his mother. They travel to most of the University of Oregon bowl games and, being huge fans of the U.S. Navy football team, they have attended six of the last seven Army-Navy football games. “The pageantry and patriotism of the pre-game entrance of the West Point and Naval Academy cadets into the stadium is better than the actual game,” according to Tom. While traveling, Tom and his mother hunt out every college bookstore they can find where they search for pennants to add to Tom’s collection of college pennants. He has collected 180 of them so far.

Tom has never married. “Besides my mother, the athletes, their parents, the coaches and my readers in the West Lane community are my family.” Tom lives in a house in the University district that he inherited from his grandmother in 1979. “If my grandmother could visit me today, she would feel right at home. It hasn’t changed much over the years. I’m still using her rotary-dial phone and I’ve never owned a computer.”

Even though he is no longer writing for the West Lane News or Tri-County News, he still attends games whenever possible and the love and feeling for family still remains. But, towards the end, his job became “a monster that devoured me.” People were wanting more coverage of the Territorial Sports Program (TSP) and junior varsity games. He had to cut back his days at Fred Meyer and negotiate vacations in order to try and cover everything he felt he needed to do.

Following a game in 2001, Tom drove himself to the hospital where he was admitted with a heart condition that required immediate by-pass surgery. Since then, he works out four days a week at a fitness center and has brought his weight and his health back in line. He turned in his resignation to the newspapers in July 2003.

“I loved my job, but after almost 21 years, I was tired. I felt the quality of my work slipping a little and mentally, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was time to get out.”

Tom’s dedication and the care he took to portray each athlete in a positive light did not go unnoticed. Although his by-line quietly slipped away from the pages of the West Lane News and the Tri-County News, he hasn’t slipped from the hearts of his readers. He sold a lot of newspapers in those 21 years. Parents and grandparents of every athlete eagerly awaited each issue where they knew there would be a memory waiting to be clipped and pasted into the pages of their scrapbooks. He deserves recognition for the very special service that he gave to his “community family” over the years.

As our interview wound its way to the end, I asked Tom one final question: “Do you plan to take on another sportswriting job?” His response was immediate, “No. I wouldn’t want to start all over in a new place with new schools. There is only one coverage area I’d consider writing for again. That’s where I already have family. It’s a special community with special people.”

ADDENDUM: Tom is once again the local sports reporter… this time with the Fern Ridge Review in Veneta. He’s still covering Crow High School sports as well as other teams in the area.

Family Portrait – Lincoln and May Diess

By Marna and Bob Hing

(From The Lorane Historian, Volume 1 Issue 6, May 9, 1994)

May and Lincoln DiessYesterday, March 21, 1994, Bob and I went over to May and Lincoln Diess’ home to interview them for an article in The Lorane Historian.  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and we heard a lot of stories of years gone by.  We have known May and Lincoln since we moved to Lorane, and we had interviewed them when we wrote Sawdust and Cider, but every time you talk with them, you find out something you didn’t know before.  As I sit at my computer going over my notes from yesterday’s interview, it is snowing like crazy outside, and the ground is white.  All my bright yellow daffodils are covered with snow.  Oh well, maybe next week we will have spring!

Lincoln Diess was born in the community called Hadleyville.  The Hadleyville School was off Territorial Road on Briggs Hill Road (between Lorane and Crow). Lincoln was born on the property on Territorial Road located on the north side of Territorial Road, south of Briggs Hill Road.  Lincoln’s sister, Opal McDaniel , still lives in the house that is now on it.  Lincoln’s father, Benjamin Franklin Diess, was also born in Hadleyville in about 1879 in a house that was on the ridge behind and between the Ellis “Hap” Rackleff home near Gillespie Corners and the Mike Atkinson home located across Territorial Road from Powell Road. Lincoln’s grandfather came to the United States from Germany, and Lincoln is not sure when the family originally settled in the Hadleyville area.  Lincoln remembers as a young boy that there were a lot of jack rabbits but not many deer in the area.

Lincoln graduated from Crow High School in 1931.  He went to the University of Oregon and graduated in 1937 with a degree in accounting.  He was also the 1934 Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion while at the University of Oregon.  At one point during the “hungry 30’s”, tuition dropped to $21.50 a term, with an optional $5.00 student body fee if you wanted to attend any athletic events.  While in college, Lincoln and two other Crow boys “batched” together. His first job was working for Weyerhaeuser in Washington where he worked for one year.  He came back to the Eugene-Lorane area and worked as a farmer and logger.  He never used his accounting degree after the first year.

May moved to Lorane with her parents, Rose (Streiff) and Charles Schaffer when May was nine years old.  After May’s grandfather, Louis Schaffer, died in 1920, her father bought the family’s original 600-acre farm near Lorane in 1921 (see Sawdust & Cider).  The farm had been in the family since 1905.  May attended the Green Door School and graduated from Lorane High School in 1929. She went to the University of Oregon for two years and then went to work cleaning houses for some wealthy families in Eugene.  May and her sister, Pearl, drove a 1929 Model A back and forth to Eugene for a year while they were going to college.  The two girls raised pigs to earn enough money for their college tuition which was, at that time, $25.75 per term with an added $10.00 lab fee.  With all of the traveling and tending of the animals, it did not leave much time for studying.  After one year of traveling back and forth they rented a room and stayed in town.

May and Lincoln started going together in 1933 when May was working in Eugene.  May told us that she would not marry Lincoln until he graduated from college because she figured if they got married before he received his degree, he would not continue with his education.  They were married on June 8, 1937. They moved back to Lorane in 1944, renting the original Schaffer place located on the west side of Territorial Road about a mile south of Marlow-Jackson Road from her parents.  They eventually purchased the 500+ acre farm.  Lincoln and May again moved from the area for a time and returned in the early 1950’s, buying another 500+ acres on which they built their present home in 1953.  They raised two boys, Frank and Floyd who attended Lorane Elementary School and graduated from Lorane High School.  Floyd lives in the Salem area and is retired from his job with the city of Salem.  He and his wife, Clare, have two children and no grandchildren, as yet.  Frank lives in the Eugene area and works for Eugene Sand & Gravel and is thinking about retiring soon.  He and his wife, Judy, have three children and no grandchildren.

Lincoln is an avid hunter and fisherman.  May is one of the best cooks in Lorane and is seen almost every day during the spring and summer, working in her garden.  They have always been involved in community affairs.  May has been a volunteer for the Lane County Blood Mobile program when it used to come to Crow on a regular basis.  They have been active members of the Lorane Grange #54 for 43 years.  Lincoln served on the Lorane School Board for several years and was a substitute school bus driver for the district.

I asked Lincoln and May what has been the biggest changes in the Lorane area and they both agreed that it is the way people make a living.  When they were growing up, everyone made a living by farming.  The more land you had, the more farming you could do.  May remembers what a big event it was for the threshing machine to come to their place to do their fields.  Everyone knew when it was time for their fields to be done.  Elmer Crowe did the work for the Lorane area people.  His crew would go from one farm to another until all of the fields were done.  Lincoln remembers it as being a lot of hard work, but the food was great.  He never ate so much fried chicken in his life as he did during the time he worked on the threshing crew.  There were always plenty of pies and cakes, too.  He remembers that May was considered one of the best cooks by the threshing crews.  Any time that they would hitch a wagon to go the considerable distance to Eugene for supplies, they would take something to the market to sell to make the trip worth their while.  That could mean vegetables or livestock of some kind.

May and Lincoln have had some rough times over the years, but are enjoying their retirement in Lorane with all of their good friends.  May told me, “If we had our life to live over, we would want it to be the same.”

I have been very encouraged by the recent number of submissions that I have been getting, and I want those people to know that everything that I receive will be included in future issues. Thank you for your participation.

Family Portrait – Mike and Linda Jenks

Mike and Linda Jenks with headerBy Pat Edwards (from The Lorane Historian; Volume 1 Issue 2; November 1993)

Mike and Linda Jenks have some advice for new people moving into the community who want to meet their neighbors but don’t quite know how…invite them to a field fire! About 2 days after moving to Lorane 23 years ago, a horse knocked over their electric fence, starting a grass field fire. A telephone installer spotted the fire and called it in. Their neighbor, Mark Annett, arrived to help, followed closely by a Western Lane truck being driven by Jim Rothauge. Joe Brewer soon arrived to disk a fire break around the fire, and others pitched in to extinguish it before it got out of control. The Jenks took some good-natured teasing from people in the community who claimed that they probably started the fire in order to get to know their neighbors. Linda is quick to point out that “we learned quickly how the neighbors in Lorane pitch in to help each other in times of need. This hasn’t changed.”

Mike and Linda (Bartgis) Jenks were both born in California…he in Long Beach and she in Los Angeles. They were married in 1962 in Downey, California. Mike had just been discharged from the U.S. Navy when he was offered training and a job with IBM. They lived in California for the first seven years of their marriage while being transferred for several months at a time to a variety of locations during Mike’s training period. He attended IBM schooling in San Jose, California, Rochester, Minnesota, and Poughkeepsie and Kingston, New York while they lived in Saugerties and Wappingers Falls, New York, respectively.

During that time, two children were born to them. Colleen, age 30, was born in Downey. She is now in her 9th year of teaching high school English after graduating from Oregon State University. She is currently at Wahtonka High School in The Dalles.

Mark, age 27, was born in Kingston, New York. He is presently a Captain in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. He also graduated from Oregon State University where he had an ROTC scholarship.

They eventually moved from California to Longmont, Colorado where Mike was transferred. They lived there for a year. According to Linda, “we were in Colorado when IBM was ready to send us back to the Los Angeles area. We had always wanted to live in a small rural community.” Mike and Mark travelled to Oregon to check out a position that was open with IBM in Salem. What they saw, they liked. When Mike applied for a transfer to Oregon, he was awarded a position in Eugene where he worked until his retirement in 1991.

“We arrived in Eugene on the 6th day of July, 1970, and started looking for a house with some acreage. We looked at about four farms around the area, and after eight days, put our earnest money on the Brewer’s 65-acre farm on south Territorial Road, says Mike.” (The house that they chose for their future home was built by the Addison family over 100 years ago. More of its history can be found in Sawdust & Cider; A History of Lorane, Oregon and the Siuslaw Valley.) “We didn’t really know anything about the area or the people, but we did like the house and land. After looking back on the 23 years that we have lived here, we don’t think there is any place in Oregon that we would rather live than Lorane.”

Mike laughs when he tells of the day that he and Linda placed their earnest money down on the farm. After leaving, they talked of how beautiful the house was and that the white picket fence around the front yard really set it off. When they went back to see it the next day, they discovered that there never was a white picket fence at all. “Oh, how the mind can play tricks on you!”

After they settled in Lorane, another child arrived. Ewing was born in the Cottage Grove Hospital almost 22 years ago. He is presently attending his 4th year of college classes at Oregon State University. (The Jenks raised a family of Beavers!) All three of their children graduated from Crow High School where Colleen was valedictorian and Mark the salutatorian of their classes.

Mike is now retired from IBM and is a full-time farmer. (Neither he or Linda believe that “retired” is an appropriate word to describe him.) He had a variety of jobs before his stint in the Navy including newspaper boy and working in the oil fields. He’s presently a volunteer fireman and enjoys such hobbies as metal working, computers (naturally), photography, electronics, woodworking, and farming.

Linda has been a homemaker since Colleen was born. Before that, she was a registered nurse. Linda loves teaching “Bible Club” Release-Time to Grades K-3, and has been teaching it for over 15 years. She says, “It isn’t long compared to the many years that Lorena Mitchell, who teaches the upper grades, has been teaching!” Another thing that Linda loves is doing all kinds of handwork. Her specialty is tatting and she has adorned some beautiful pieces with it. Linda also headed the Lorane Centennial quilt project, and it was mainly through her efforts and supervision that the community quilt became a reality. She also loves to garden and has a large vegetable and flower garden to tend.

Both Mike and Linda are long-time members of the Lorane Grange. In the past, they have been actively involved in Lorane P.T.C., Lorane 4-H, Crow High School Booster Club, and the Lorane Centennial Committee, as well.

Linda said, “As you can see by where we have lived, we have traveled across the U.S.A. a few times! The most fun that we have had was on vacation one summer in a houseboat with my parents on the Sacramento River. Michael was always doing things to keep it lively–like throwing mops overboard and almost getting us run down by a freighter.” Their last family vacation consisted of camping out in tents for 3 weeks while visiting friends on a dairy farm in Wisconsin.

The Jenks are the type of family that represent the backbone of the Lorane community. Whenever there is an activity that requires community participation, they are always there. Whenever there is a community need, they are willing to contribute. They are always busy, but never too busy to give of themselves. It’s that willingness on the part of families like the Jenks that make Lorane the special place that it is.