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Kasner honored for Vista work

Corbett resident wins national award for her dedication to landmark
by: John Klicker, Teresa Kasner was the first executive director of the Friends of Vista House. The Daughters of the American Revolution recognized the longtime volunteer recently.

Back in 1981, getting the keys to Vista House was not exactly an honor.

It was more like a 15-year sentence to hard labor.

But the reward came recently when Corbett resident Teresa Kasner, first executive director of Friends of Vista House, won a National Historic Preservation award from the Daughters of the American Revolution for her early work at the visitor center at Crown Point.

The president-general of the national D.A.R. came to Oregon's state conference to make the presentation. At the party was Kasner's husband, Dayle, who helped jackhammer the cement that plugged the tunnel in those first years of restoration.

At the state convention, Kasner, who became interested in Vista House because she wanted to promote local art, also took four awards, including a national first place, for artwork submitted to the D.A.R.'s national arts, crafts and literature competition.

The Daughters of the American Revolution, a patriotic organization of members whose ancestors furthered the efforts of the American Revolution, is a relatively new interest for Kasner. She is vice-regent of the Portland chapter and will be regent next year.

In the early 1980s, Kasner was part of the Vista House Project, a handful of local citizens who saw an opportunity when Oregon State Parks terminated the lease of a gift shop concessionaire who had occupied the Crown Point building for years.

The seeds of the current program were sowed by Kasner, Nev Scott, Roger Mackaness, Ted Davenport and others who envisioned a folk art program and a corps of trained volunteers to greet visitors. Ultimately, the group formed a partnership with Oregon Parks and Recreation. Kasner organized folk-art demonstrators, a practice which continues today.

To bring attention to their project, the group threw a pioneer party near Portland Women's Forum State Park. As the organization grew, it became a non-profit corporation, emerging as Friends of Vista House.

As the first executive director, Kasner remembers, 'I was given the keys to Vista House and not one dime as seed money.'

The first job was cleaning the grimy building. Scrubbing what they thought was concrete flooring, the volunteers discovered terrazzo. Dayle Kasner, a train engineer, used the jackhammer to reopen the tunnel that led out to the highway in front of the building. A small gift shop was started, and bits and pieces of restoration were done as the friends made profits in their gift shop.

Realizing that Vista House needed a total overhaul, the friends decided to call for and fund a study on what it would take to bring it back.

'Long before Vista House received the designation, Teresa Kasner recognized its state and national significance,' said Jack Wiles of Oregon Parks and Recreation.

In 1997, Kasner retired from Vista House to pursue her interest in Web sites and computers. Then, in what she calls a mid-life crisis, she jumped ship, left her husband and ran away from Corbett to live on a boat. A water person all her life, she longed to sail around the world. She bought a houseboat. Five years later she woke one morning on a sailboat in Friday Harbor saying to herself that family is the most important thing, and she decided to come home.

She and Dayle remarried two years ago, in greater appreciation of each other than ever before.

'But it sure ruins your anniversary numbers,' she said.

Always a community volunteer, Kasner has resumed some activities and added others. She is editor of three newsletters and a member of Friends of Multnomah Falls, and recently she joined the Portland Women's Forum, longtime supporters of the Columbia River Gorge.

In 2004 after rescuing the Vista House Web site when it was accidentally deleted, she renewed her interest in the building and was named a board member of Friends of Vista House.

She and Jordis Yost are the longtime members of the board and, she hopes, the institutional memory of the outfit.

It pleases her to see so much of what she started still in place.

'There have been changes, and there should be,' she said, 'but I like to think I was there long enough to provide some continuity.'