Senior Feature: Barney and Patricia Ahern
Growing up in Oklahoma they were high school sweethearts, but even their courtship took determination. Noting he lived in town, while she lived on a farm, Barney said, "She was hard to court. She lived 23 miles away and I had to ride a bicycle out there."
They were engaged when he served in the U.S. Marines from 1943-45. While in Saipan he was wounded and spent one year recovering in the hospital. After the war they married and Barney began trying different business ventures including working in a tire shop, selling cars, and owning a sporting goods store and a drive-in restaurant. "I was trying to get enough money to get out here," he said, noting he had a relative in Oregon.
In 1949 the Aherns and their two children made the move to Portland, where a Deschutes River fisherman told them about a job opening in Warm Springs. Barney took the job as a clerk at See's Mercantile, and moved his family to Warm Springs, since housing was provided with the job. He worked at See's until hiring on at the Madras Safeway Store in 1955. That job required them to move frequently and they subsequently lived in Pendleton, Goldendale and Baker before he returned to manage the Madras Safeway in 1961. By then their family had grown to eight children. Because Safeway had a policy that manager's children couldn't work at their store, in 1968 the Ahern's opened Ahern's Stop and Shop, the first convenience store in the area. "I'm really glad the kids worked when they were little. They all had paper routes or worked in the store. They learned work ethic and were happy to do their part," said Pat, who also pitched in as the store's bookkeeper.
The store kept them busy, but the Aherns still found time to attend their children's sporting events, camp and take summer trips to visit relatives in Oklahoma, and at one time owned two race horses and enjoyed traveling to different tracks to watch them run.
Now grown with jobs of their own, their children are: flight attendant Linda Selto of Boulder, Colo., businessman Bob Ahern of Redmond, book and game store owner Shannon Ahern of Spokane, teacher Laura Fuentes of Madras, County Commissioner Mike Ahern of Madras, Circuit Court Judge Dan Ahern of Madras, teacher JoAnn Berning of Mt. Angel, and Pioneer Publisher Tony Ahern of Madras. They also have 20 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Mike became a partner in 1981, then bought the store from his parents when they retired in 1987. Pat and Barney owned a place in Black Butte for eight years and moved there for one year until their new home on Dussault Lane was completed in 1993. At Black Butte they enjoyed cross country skiing, bicycling, swimming, and playing tennis. Every fall they travel to Marine Corps reunions in different states, and have taken trips to Guam, Saipan, Tokyo, Tanzania, Italy, Ireland, England and Scotland.
Today, both Ahern's are busy playing weekly bridge games, and attending grandkids sports, while Pat also is a SMART volunteer, and member of a reading club and Bible study group. She has kept diaries since age 14 and is in the process of condensing them into a book for the family. Reflecting on raising eight children, Pat said, "I liked the kids to be independent and make their own decisions." To accomplish that she advised parents to, "Be understanding and allow them to make their own mistakes, and dish out a lot of love and understanding." As for business advice, Barney said a good location is important and you need to know the customer is always right. But it also takes determination. "I never was afraid to go into a business. If I didn't like one I was in, I'd try another," he said.