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Happening People

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.

November 25, 2015

February 2008: After graduating from the University of Michigan in economics, Jennifer Frenzer-Knowlton spent three years on Wall Street. “I saw the avarice of capitalism,” she says, so she returned to her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, for a law degree. “I felt that a woman needed teeth in her credentials.” She also got married, and when her physician husband took a job on the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay, Washington, she was hired by the tribe. “I worked on economic development,” she says.

November 5, 2015

“I grew up playing in the woods and creeks,” says Laurie Trieger, who lived in Philadelphia with her mom, but attended the Miquon School out in the country, where her mother worked in administration. “It was very ’70s, a radical creative education. I learned critical thinking and never had a letter grade.” After high school, Trieger waited tables and also volunteered at the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women, then was hired there full-time. In 1982, she met Larry Coxe in Philly. Two years later, they sold everything and departed.

October 22, 2015

“I can go to places where trees are still standing because I was there to make it happen,” Shannon Wilson says. “I’ve been involved in stopping 20 to 30 timber sales, mostly in western Oregon.” When he was 8, Wilson’s parents moved from Santa Rosa, California, where his three older brothers were getting into parties and fights, to rural southern Oregon, four miles from Selma in the Siskiyou Mountains. He learned to identify birds and trees. At 14, he joined an environmental group fighting a proposed nickel strip mine on nearby Eight Dollar Mountain.

October 8, 2015

Raised on a farm outside Cincinnati, Ohio, Rose Elder rode public school buses to Guardian Angel Catholic Grammar School, 3 miles away, and to high school at St. Joseph’s Academy in the city. Later the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, for her father’s health. “He died when I was 20,” says Elder, who had six months of college in Phoenix before she began working for California Water and Telephone. “We called it California Drip and Tinkle.

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.