On the cusp of 2019, Coast Weekend asked locals about their journey — the setbacks, blessings and unexpected turns that have defined their life — and what they hope the coming year holds for them.
Denny Holmes, a lifelong Clatsop County resident and son of Oregon Gov. Robert D. Holmes, was a timber feller for 30 years, until “I was driving farther to cut fewer, smaller trees and making less money.”
So he took a job with the county as the one employee of the fairgrounds when the fair was held in downtown Astoria. Eventually he was named manager — just before the city sold the property, giving him two years to find somewhere else for the fair.
Holmes, who lives in Warrenton, considers it his greatest accomplishment to weather two failed bond issues until the fair was located where it is today. The new location was a hit, helped along by the opening act: Willie Nelson. Holmes recalls that the following Christmas morning he was awakened by a long distance call: “Willie wanted to tell me what a nice place the fairground was.”
As to what’s next in his life, Holmes said, “I’ll be doing some gardening, fishing, clam digging, and I love to cook, just like my father did.” Holmes and his wife, Arlene, grow a lot of their own food (and 200 to 300 pumpkins for Head Start kids). “I’m a James Beard fanatic,” he said. “I knew him, and most of what I do is based on what he taught.”
In the immediate future he’ll take a trip to Alaska, then cook a meal at the request of an ex-editor of Gourmet Magazine. It’s not all roses, though. “I’ve slowed down,” Holmes said. “I am 83.”
Astoria’s favorite violinist says, “I have been blessed with a wonderful career.” Classically trained, both as a composer and performer, Angelis has played everything from bluegrass to gypsy music. “The real high point was having my music used in the Olympics,” she said.
Angelis, a Naselle, Wash., resident, is the epitome of a healthy lifestyle, but she was recently diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. “Because of my relationship with the Lord, I never felt despair,” she said. “I always had hope.”
After extensive treatment that often left her weak and unable to practice her violin, she was declared cancer-free late in 2018. “I’m in a place of restoration,” she announced. “I have a new beginning.”
How has that changed her life? Two days after the good news she bought seven acres with a Victorian farmhouse and a chapel. She loves her tractor, she may soon raise a few sheep to keep her three collies busy, and her music will change, too.
“After years of guitar accompaniment, I really enjoy being accompanied by a piano.” She’s also doing more composing, but “my music will be less secular and more liturgical, because of the gifts of my trials and tribulations.”
In December of 2018 Angelis gave her first concert in more than two years, drawing a capacity crowd at a Pioneer Church concert, and she will be recording a new CD in March.
And one more thing: “As a big gift to myself I want to hike the Inca Trail.”
“It’s been a long and winding trail,” Arline LaMear reminisced as her time as Astoria mayor drew to a close. As a child her family moved every five months — her father worked for the U.S. Geological Survey — a childhood that made LaMear adaptable and tolerant.
After graduating from Occidental College, she taught English in Thailand, and returned to the U.S. to teach and to raise her two sons. Then it was back to school to learn library science, after which she was a school librarian for 21 years. It was this career and her dedication to Volkswalk (“America’s Walking Club”) that brought her to Astoria.
She first came to Oregon as a summer volunteer at Oregon Dunes, then took a series of Volkswalks on the Oregon Coast. “I fell in love with Astoria,” she said.
She took a six-month job at the Columbia River Maritime Museum cataloging their library. “I decided this is where I wanted to stay,” she said, and six months turned into 17 years. She volunteered a lot, which led to a spot on the planning commission, and the rest is history.
Now that she is leaving politics, how will she spend her time? She’s on the Library Foundation Board, engaged in an ambitious effort to rebuild the library, “and I’ll stay involved in two issues that concern me, homelessness and affordable housing.”
And, of course, she’ll be doing a lot of Volkswalking. “I’ve walked in all 50 states and all the Canadian Provinces,” she said, and this summer she’ll walk in eight states when she goes to the Volkswalking Convention.
It is inadequate to describe Eddie Park as a realtor with Greystone Realty Group. The Seaside resident is also a carpenter and an artist, often simultaneously. At 16 he was running a framing crew, then spent three years as a Special Forces medic before attending Texas Tech University. He moved to Oregon, worked as a carpenter until he graduated from Portland State University, and began selling real estate in 1993.
Park had always been interested in art, and on a trip to Paris, he recalls, “I was stricken by the fact that artists lived on for 1,000 years through the art they produced.” When he got back home to Seaside he enrolled in the first ceramics class Richard Rowland taught at Clatsop Community College. Park said, “My connection with art, and the confidence to go further into art, is 100 percent due to Richard.”
What comes next is more of the same. Park is getting back into ceramics and, “at my age I want to continue to do any carpentry that I am physically able to do.” He also continues to love selling real estate: “I see it more as a service than a job; there are not too many jobs where you can help people the way I can.”
His biggest challenge for the near future, Park said, is “finding the right steward for Big Red, the net shed. “I have a personal connection to it. I had my studio there, as did Royal Nebeker, and I share his vision for the building.”
“I’ve been alive for 60 years,” Rhonda Grudenic said, “and I have to smile at how over-seriously I took myself. With the perspective of time I see how little I knew.”
Looking back, she said, “I was unaware of how young my husband and I were at his death. He was only 38, after almost six years of an illness that required heavy-duty care.”
After her husband’s death, Grudenic went back to school, and received a bachelor’s degree in art on her 40th birthday. Her greatest influences were Clatsop Community College instructors Royal Nebeker, who arranged the first show of her work, and Jeff Wyman, who insisted she get her first studio.
Grudenic became a successful artist, until the economic crash of 2008. She looked for a profession that would both allow time for art and support her when sales were down. She became a dental hygienist in 2018.
Grudenic, an Astoria resident, is now back in her studio. “I’m looking forward to how recent influences and my awareness of the passage of time come out in my work,” she said. People often comment on how dark her paintings are, but there is always light in them. “I think light among the darkness is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Full disclosure: The writer first interviewed Grudenic for Coast Weekend in 2008. This led to a joint art show and book, and eventually to our marriage in 2017. We’re looking forward to a wonderful new year, and wish you the same.