Longtime volunteer Corky Lowen named Distinguished Citizen

Scott Swanson

Corky Lowen, a longtime local businesswoman and local historian, was named Distinguished Citizen at the Chamber of Commerce’s 68th Annual Awards Banquet Saturday night at the Community Center.

Bob Burford was named First Citizen, Michelle Knight was Junior First Citizen and Firiel Severns was named Patty Woods Woman of the Year. Sweet Home Choppers was named Business of the Year and the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District was named Organization of the Year.

VIP Awards, given to volunteers who, as presenter Mona Waibel put it, “gave much to our town,” went to: Vi Richards and Betty Postma, Bret Adams, Lela Danforth, Hailey Fisher, Terri Rice Lanini and Peggy Blair.

The event drew more than 300 people, many of them dressed in keeping with the “Fabulous Fifties” theme, and many of the tables sporting elaborate displays of Coca-Cola bottles, phonograph records and lots of hair grease, sweaters and poodle skirts.

Sweet Home Sanitation was judged the winner of the table decorations contest, among 16 contestants.

The Sweet Home High School Jazz Band provided music during the meal. The event was emceed by Mayor Craig Fentiman, with the invocation and benediction delivered by Rev. Joe Medley of Fir Lawn Lutheran Church.

Distinguished Service Honoree Corky Lowen

Last year’s winner, Sue Olsen, noted Lowen’s extensive involvement in and service to the community over the past decades, beginning with her involvement in teaching local residents to swim and, most recently, her role in producing a photo history book of Sweet Home with the Genealogical Society.

“Whether as a business owner or a community volunteer, (Lowen) was ready to lend a hand,” Olsen said.

Lowen came from a family of “water people” and “may have taught half the adults in Sweet Home to swim, giving lessons at the high school pool,” she said.

Over the years, Lowen has been heavily involved with the Sweet Home Squarenaders, the chamber, the Sweet Home Centennial Committee, the establishment of the Veterans Memorial near Hoy’s Hardware and the Genealogical Society.

Lowen, who once operated a gift shop in the Midway area, was particularly active in creating backdrops and decorations for parades and other events, and was heavily involved in the early efforts to paint murals on the sides of local buildings – “undoubtedly helping to paint them,” Olsen said.

Lowen also helped establish the Tourist Information Center in the 1980s and trained volunteers to staff it. She “worked tirelessly, providing knowledge about the Sweet Home area to those who stopped into that center,” Olsen said.

She also organized a community response to a Cycle Oregon ride that made a stop in the community, encouraging community members to line the streets as cyclists rode to Sweet Home High School, where they were to camp for the night, and planning a logging show to entertain them.

Olsen said one of Lowen’s sources of pride was the establishment of the Veterans Memorial.

“Much of the physical work done in clearing the property, arranging for the flag pole, and placement of the memorial bricks was done under her direction – if not by her.”

Her work with the Genealogical Society includes the organization of the Pioneer Getogether during the 2009 Sportsman’s Holiday, which brought descendants of the area’s early settlers together to celebrate the founders of the community. Lowen also spent most of the last two years helping to collect photos and organize them into the book “Sweet Home – A History in Pictures,” which was published late last year.

Lowen said her efforts would not have been successful without help.

“There isn’t anything you can do in this town unless you have help from the town,” she said.

Patti Woods Woman of the Year Firiel Severns

Last year’s winner, Gina Riley, led off by noting, with some degree of seriousness, that she and Severns have “many things in common: “an astonishing sense of humor, a passion for the success of our little town, she cares about the livelihood of area businesses and is committed to helping those in need, has a hard time saying “no,” wants to see the youth of Sweet Home succeed, puts God and family first, is the first person to volunteer for charity events – oh, and we’re both drop- dead gorgeous.”

She noted that Severns is a “tireless advocate for the advancement of Sweet Home,” volunteering as a committee member with the Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort (SHARE) since its inception in 2008 – they can’t get rid of her.”

Severns also has been involved in the SALEabration community-wide rummage sales, the winter Warm and Cozy Tour and Stepping into Fall business promotions, and “even less obvious are the efforts she makes to help local businesses succeed – far outside the scope of her job description” as an advertising representative for The New Era.

“She is not a business owner, but she genuinely cares for her town’s success,” Riley said.

Severns was a primary organizer of two benefit concerts in recent years, for leukemia victim Cooper Miller and burn victims Lynn Damewood and Courtney Lake. She has been active at the junior high and at the high school, particularly as founder of the Band Boosters.

“Oh, and if you need to know what is going on with the OSU marching band, just ask her,” Riley joked.

Severns has also helped organize and promote concerts for the band Today is Now, in which one of her sons plays.

“She is always thinking up ways for kids to get involved in positive, constructive activities,” Riley said.

Severns has also been heavily involved in Community Chapel, where she started an AWANA scripture memory program 12 years ago and has led it ever since, even after her sons graduated from it.

“It is a wonderful outreach to area kids and their families,” Riley said, adding, “What you might not know is she is a well-known actress . That’s right. She and I were members of The Kings Players at the Chapel and we were in several major productions – including her as a cockroach and I as a stinkbug.

“Yes, Broadway wanted her, but she chose to put her talents to work here in Sweet Home instead.”

First Citizen Bob Burford

Wendy Smith, last year’s First Citizen, introduced Burford as someone who “likes to read suspense novels, do remodeling projects, go camping and ride ATV’s. With all the meetings and committees (Burford) has served on over the years, you would think there wouldn’t be time to enjoy such activities.”

Smith noted how Burford volunteers for efforts ranging from church work days at Hillside Fellowship to dish duty for the annual Christmas Dinner. She said Burford has also been involved in the Boy Scouts annual Pancake Supper for the past 20 years – noting that this year’s event will be Friday night, March 9, at Foster School, serving three years on the Oak Heights Elementary Site Council, volunteering nearly 20 years at the Oregon Jamboree, and serving as president of the Sweet Home Community Foundation since 2004.

Smith traced Burford’s history, beginning as a volunteer firefighter and deputy chief and as a reserve police officer in the Boardman and North Morrow County areas in the 1970s before coming to Sweet Home in 1986.

A homicide in Boardman brought Burford and his wife Cynde, a local Spanish teacher, together after students called her to translate for him at a crime scene one night – after he had turned down a blind date with her earlier in the day. They will celebrate 30 years of marriage this year, Smith said.

Burford, who was appointed Sweet Home Police Chief in 1994, has also been involved in the Shop with a Cop, DARE, the Josai exchange student program, and planning the Police Department’s 100th Anniversary celebration.

Jr. First Citizen Michelle Knight

Beth Shook, the 2005 honoree, presented the award, saying that when she nominated last year’s winner, Kim Wilson, Wilson made it clear she’d accept the award on condition that she didn’t have to do any public speaking.

Shook described Knight as “one of those people who is always there to pitch in, no matter what the occasion. You can always count on her to help out. She is the type that is always first to arrive and last to leave.”

She noted that Knight has been active in coaching volleyball, basketball and track at the Boys and Girls Club and as a volunteer in local schools.

Knight “has a great love for kids and strives to make a difference in the lives of those she meets,” Shook said.

She helped organize the benefit for Cooper Miller and is currently one of the planners of a benefit 5K run for Nikky Long, a local boy who is struggling with serious health issues (see page 6.).

Knight has also been a Sunday school teacher and youth group assistant, and has worked on the concert and decorating teams. She also decorates a tree each year for the Trees for Scholarships auction.

Business of the Year Sweet Home Choppers

Michael Hall of The Point Restaurant said, in introducing Manny and Leann Victor of Sweet Home Choppers, that “being extremely involved in the community would be an understatement.”

He noted that the Victors have worked hard to cross-promote with other businesses from their custom motorcycle shop.

“They bring an outstanding amount of business to Sweet Home as one of our leading destination businesses which, in turn, is benefiting other businesses,” Hall said.

“Most every motorcycle you see coming through Sweet Home is usually coming to stop in at this particular local business, which means they, more than likely, will be fueling up their bikes at our gas stations, possibly staying at our motels, shopping at our grocery stores, or – yes, ever so important – eating at our many local restaurants.”

He also noted that Sweet Home Choppers has donated either time or money “for just about every worthy cause,” participated in the Sportsman’s Holiday parade with a “very unique” float, put together numerous poker runs to raise funds for the Volunteer Firefighters Association’s annual fireworks show over Foster Lake, organized an annual coat drive for needy children, played a “key” part in and contributed extensively to the the Sweet Home Sweet Ride Car Show, “not to mention all the helmets and gloves they donate to local kids in need.”

“Many of us know that if you have a need and they can help, they will,” Hall said.

Organization of the Year Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District

Chamber President Brandi Hawkins, who presented the award, noted SHFAD’s involvement in many community events, including escorting returning National Guard troops, putting on the annual fireworks show during Sportsman’s Holiday, participating in community parades, providing medical services to the Oregon Jamboree, hosting the Jim Bean Safety Fair, running a Sharing Tree program each Christmas and providing rides for Make a Wish recipients.

Fire Chief Mike Beaver, who accepted the award, thanked the community.

“Without your continued support for the department, we couldn’t function,” he said.

VIP Award winners are, from left, Peggy Blair, Terry Rice Lanini, Betty Postma, Lela Danforth, Vi Richards, Hailey Fisher and Bret Adams.

VIP Awards

VIP awards were presented by Waibel, a former chamber manager, and local attorney Bob Snyder with help from Bob Waibel and Ben Dahlenburg.

Mona Waible described Postma and Richards as “two lovely widow ladies who have given their time and energy to Sweet Home” and “have also given their all to the Sweet Home Senior Center.”

Both have volunteered waiting on tables at the Senior Center every Wednesday for 11 years. Richards also has worked in the kitchen at the center as well, and Postma “has long been a volunteer in our town and is well known in the educator’s world.”

Adams was honored for his volunteer work as a police Explorer for three years, helping with traffic control during parades; at the Sweet Home Health and Safety Fair; on security patrol at the Oregon Jamboree and helping with the alumni Christmas Tree Auction, “doing the dirty work of cleaning up,” Snyder said.

Danforth, who has lived in Sweet Home for nine years, was honored for helping local youths, particularly in athletics. She founded the junior high soccer club program and coached the girls team for several years, and also was a major organizer of local high school Portland to Coast Relay teams. She also founded a summer track and field club.

“To finance the sports, she did fund-raisers – car washes, fruit sales, rummage sales, can and bottle drives and anything possible,” Waibel said.

When she first arrived in Sweet Home, she created a soup kitchen for local underprivileged youth, due to needs she saw around her. She also founded and has led the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at Sweet Home High School.

Danforth is currently the junior high track coach – the only paid position she has had.

“Thank you, Lela, for caring about our youth,” Waibel concluded.

Fisher was honored for her work as an Oregon Jamboree volunteer for three years, participation in the Josai Exchange Program and the Youth Watershed Council, service as a volleyball coach for the Boys and Girls Club, Outdoor School counselor, work on the Sweet Home High School Web site, the school newspaper staff and as editor of the Yearbook.

Lanini, whose roots go back to the Holley Rice family, has made significant contributions to both the East Linn Museum and the Sweet Home Genealogical Society, Waibel said.

“This hardworking gal volunteers at both the Genealogy and at East Linn Museum – building a bridge for both to communicate,” she said, noting that Lanini serves as treasurer for the Genealogical Society.

Lanini also was a major contributor to the Genealogical Society’s book “Sweet Home – A History in Pictures,” scanning 1,000 photos and typing captions and organizing the search for photos, Waibel said.

“Our VIP never complained or quit – she just persevered.”

She said Lanini is spearheading the effort to get the museum’s roof fixed.

“We hope people will donate money to keep our museum dry,” Waibel said.

Blair was honored for her work at Sweet Home Emergency Ministries, as office manager, treasurer, secretary, writing grants and as a board member.

Waibel said Blair coordinates volunteers who unpack and stock supplies, provides receipts to those who donate, assists more than 11,000 clients each year with emergency food boxes and mediates to avoid home evictions or termination of utility services for clients.

“This unassuming, soft-spoken, caring and compassionate woman goes on unnoticed, but her influence on this community is a testimony of strength of character,” she said.

“Today this lady has health problems and she needs another good helper to continue on as she takes time off to recoup. “