Couples gather for 50 years
People often remark about the friendliness of small towns, and a group of Madras friends, who mostly have moved away but continued to meet for over 50 years, are a witness to that.
Calling themselves the "Madras Five," the group includes five couples who were all friends in Madras in the 1960s. They include Dr. Carlos and Peggy Kemper, Dr. George and Marilou Waldmann, Dick and Jean Vanberg, Ron and Kathie Olson, and John and Marge Mooney.
"We all met in the early to mid-'60s when the Kempers and Waldmanns started Madras Medical Group," recalled Kathie Olson. "Then later, Vanbergs came when Dick was the administrator at Mountain View Hospital," she added.
Originally, the Kempers, Waldmanns and Vanbergs had all met while working together in Browning, Mont., on the Indian reservation.
The Olsons moved to Madras in 1961 as newlyweds. "Ron came to farm and I to teach on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation," Kathie Olson said, noting they soon joined the couples group.
When John Mooney was hired as the head of the local Pacific Power and Light office, he and his wife were introduced to the group through mutual friends.
"We all had kids about the same age and did a lot together in those early days. We especially remember dances at the gun club and Sonny's Cafe," Kathie Olson said.
Eventually members of the group started moving away and they only saw each other at their kids' weddings. The Olsons moved to Eagle Crest a few years ago, so the only ones left remaining in Madras were the Kempers.
After the kids were all married off, Olson said, "We decided we should make a point of gathering once a year, and started doing that each fall in a different place in the Northwest."
The couples took turns making arrangements at a bed and breakfast and planning a few days of activities.
From 1998 to 2012, their reunions have taken them to: Dundee, Victoria, B.C., Orcas Island, Joseph, Yachats, Whistler, B.C., Gig Harbor, Rogue River, Glacier, Mont., Walla Walla, Wash., Arch Cape, Diamond, Ashland, Hayden Lake, Idaho, and Ferndale, Calif.
"It was especially fun to go to Glacier, and then on to Browning, Mont., to see where the three medical couples had first lived and met," Olson said.
"The Rogue River time included a rafting trip, and the Diamond adventure saw us taking a tour of the Steens Mountains, with a lovely luncheon served at the summit, complete with linen tablecloths and napkins," she said, adding, "We lucked out by being in Joseph during the annual Polka Festival.
"It's mostly just a visiting time because everybody's scattered," said Peggy Kemper. "We're maintaining our friendships and keeping track of children and grandchildren -- everybody brings pictures."
They never had to cancel a reunion, but did shift plans to Gig Harbor one year, where the Vanbergs live, when Dick Vanberg had heart surgery that prevented him from leaving town.
"So far, everyone's in reasonably good health and this year we represented 256 years of marriage to the same spouses," Olson observed.
"We've shared a lot of highs and lows in our lives and those of our children, and have always come together for each other in those times," she said, noting the benefits of long friendships.