2011: For better or worse, here are some of the highs and lows of the last 12 months
Editor's note: Some newspapers dedicate the last edition of the year to a review of the top-10 stories of the year. But we wanted to do something a little different. In today's edition, we asked our news staff to bring us up to date on some of the more interesting events and people who were on our pages in 2011. Some of those stories were heartwarming, some sad and some maddening. So, for better or worse, here's a quick look back - in no particular order of importance - before we launch into 2012. Happy New Year!
'Man on a Mission' says this was a one-time shot
In early May, Fairview resident Jeff Anderson packed a Paris-Roubaix bicycle named Ruby Jean, his clothes and gear and took an Amtrak train bound for Southern California.
On May 8, he set off from the Pacific Ocean at Manhattan Beach, Calif., on a 3,415-mile journey on his bicycle to Boston.
Anderson said he undertook the ambitious journey as a 50th birthday present to himself and to raise awareness of Big Brothers Big Sisters, a nonprofit agency that connects foster and low-income children with positive mentors and role models. Anderson said his 'Ride for Kids' Sake' fundraiser raised a couple thousand dollars for the organization.
The route had 147,350 feet of elevation gain and involved crossing 15 state lines and climbing four mountain ranges. Anderson rode with 13 other cyclists from around the United States and Europe - members of the Denver-based Crossroads Cycling Adventures, which handled the logistics.
Anderson reached Boston's Revere Beach 48 days later on June 24, when he met up with his wife, Stephanie, and a friend from New York. A swim in the Atlantic Ocean made the journey worthwhile, he said.
Of the original group of 14, only four other cyclists - a couple from England and a couple from Vermont - made it to Boston with him, Anderson said.
'It was trying, but it's probably the greatest achievement I've ever had,' he said of the journey, adding, 'It was something I would do only once.'
Anderson said he averaged 85 miles over seven to nine hours of riding each day, carrying a maximum of 35 pounds. However, he underestimated how long it would take to prepare for the ride in the morning and to clean his bike when he finished riding, which added about an extra three hours of work to his day, he said.
Anderson took a laptop along so he could check in with his business, Proforma Prosource Marketing Group. He also kept a blog at rideforkidssake.blogspot.com to keep people updated on his journey.
Anderson said it was fun to ride into small towns and tell the locals he was on a cross-country bike ride, which got him 'some funny looks.'
Anderson said he enjoyed visiting a few places such as Sedona, Ariz., and the Finger Lakes in New York but found that much of the route was not nearly as beautiful or interesting as he hoped.
'I told people on the ride that I could take off from my house in four directions and have a prettier view than 99 percent of the route' from Los Angeles to Boston, Anderson said.
In Missouri, one stretch of the route contained 148 'rollers,' or rolling hills, and felt like going up and down a roller coaster, Anderson said. He also found that several days of riding past endless corn and soybean fields in Kansas 'gets old after a while.'
During the journey, the riders struggled with heatstroke, altitude sickness, potholed roads, exhaustion, broken bones, equipment breakdowns and numerous flat tires.
Anderson said Mother Nature did not make the journey any easier. In the Midwest, there was the threat of tornadoes and so the riders had to learn what to do in case one struck, he said.
In Oklahoma and Texas, Anderson said the bicyclists rode through heat and 35-mph headwinds with dust and debris blowing into their faces. Strong winds and heavy rain made other parts of the journey difficult.
For food and sleeping, Anderson said he lived in 'motel hell.' Since he was burning about 6,400 calories a day, he ate as much as he could and did not lose or gain any weight during the journey.
Despite the hardships, Anderson said there were only two days that made him question whether he could make it. The constant theme of his journey, he said, was 'Dream big.'
Back home in Fairview, Ruby Jean now sits in his office, and Anderson said he's looking forward to starting his regular bicycle rides again.
He has kept in touch with a few of the bicyclists from the trip, including the four he completed the trip with, and is thinking of doing a mountain biking tour in England.
- Calvin Hall
View Point Inn still stands in near ruin
More than five months after a Sunday afternoon rooftop fire damaged the roof and the upper floors of the historic View Point Inn in Corbett, the once-renowned building still stands near ruin.
The protective tarp on the damaged rooftop has been removed, exposing the interior of the inn to the rain and wind. Locals and visitors occasionally stop by to take photographs and peer through the windows of the 1924 building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and once hosted actor Charlie Chaplin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and actors from the movie 'Twilight,' which had a major scene filmed there.
The large poster depicting former owner Geoff Thompson - naked and in a Jesus Christ-like pose with arms outstretched, covered only by a message criticizing the Obama administration for not helping small businesses - has been removed from the side of the inn.
The inn is still listed in Thompson's name. His Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is ongoing.
Trustee Ken Eiler, appointed to oversee Thompson's Chapter 7 bankruptcy, filed a notice to abandon the inn in late August, which gives mortgage holder JP Morgan Chase Bank the option to foreclose on the property. Eiler also filed to abandon Thompson's 2004 Ford Focus, half his interest in a reality television show and several pieces of inn property including the furniture.
The trustee also filed a notice to abandon Thompson's legal claim alleging his insurance agencies failed to notify him that the inn's insurance had lapsed just before the fire, noting that Thompson does not have the resources to pursue the claim.
As of Dec. 8, Thompson still owes more than $3.2 million to his creditors, which include banks, construction companies, the government, former employees and couples who had paid deposits to have their weddings at the inn.
On Oct. 31, Thompson completed an online financial management course as one requirement to get a bankruptcy discharge, which would make all his debts go away.
The trustee has until Jan. 24, 2012, to file an objection to Thompson's bankruptcy discharge. The court may deny the discharge if it finds the debtor failed to keep or produce all the necessary financial and business information, among other charges.
The trustee already has asked Thompson and General Manager Calvin Myers to turn over more financial documents.
Few claims have been settled.
Matt Wand, a Gresham attorney and state representative, represented his uncle Dick Wand, who was owed thousands of dollars for unpaid construction work at the inn, and Steve Serafini, who owned the inn's adjacent parking lot.
Wand said JP Morgan Chase paid his uncle's construction lien in full. He said Serafini also was able to foreclose on the adjoining lot, which is now roped off from the inn.
- Calvin Hall
Thank you, Mr. Malcom
During a year of international economic turmoil, nine local organizations saw an unexpected windfall - and from a most unlikely source.
Thanks to a life of frugality, longtime Gresham florist John 'Jack' Malcom left an estate valued at more than $1 million when he died at the age of 85 in 2009.
This May, with the estate officially settled, an executor for the Malcom Living Trust handed out checks to churches, foundations and museums near and dear to Malcom's heart.
Gifts of $200,000 benefited the Mount Hood Medical Center Foundation and four local churches: Gresham United Methodist Church, St. Aidan's Episcopal Church, St. Luke the Physician Episcopal Church and Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church.
The Gresham-Barlow Education Foundation and the Oregon Maritime Museum in Portland will each receive $75,000; $27,000 is earmarked for the Gresham Historical Society; with $20,000 going to the Community Music Center in Portland.
The Outlook caught up with a few of the organizations to see how they've spent the money.
• Gresham United Methodist Church used some of the money to refurbish its musty old basement, which is being used as a secondary sanctuary, while using some more of the money to offset some of the cost of a major $800,000 remodel of the main sanctuary. The church's organ is being rewired and will be elevated 10 feet as part of the remodel. Pastor Jim Fellers hopes to have the remodel done in time for Easter.
• St. Aidan's Episcopal Church has invested the bulk of its money to use strategically and to enhance the church's presence in the neighborhood. 'We don't want to fritter it away,' said Gloria Trunk, a member of the church's legacy committee. 'We haven't spent very much of it.' The church has splurged on altar flowers and updating its music program to make it 'a little bit more jazzed up,' Trunk said.
• Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church has not made any decisions yet about how to spend its money, said Pastor Cynthia O'Brien. 'In December we asked everyone in the church to answer three questions: What do you like best about Smith Memorial? What new thing would you like to see us do? What do you see for us in five years?' wrote O'Brien in an email. 'We had a very large number of people respond. Those comments are being compiled by an independent ministry consultant, and we will take these comments into consideration when setting direction for the next few years. The use of the Malcom gift is part of that larger vision.'
• The Gresham-Barlow Education Foundation used its money to buy new lighting, sound system and drapes for the Gresham High School auditorium, said Victoria Alley, foundation director.
• Oregon Maritime Museum used its money to move its library off a steam sternwheeler - yes, a library on a boat might not be the wisest placement - and into an expanded office on dry land. With three new workstations and a new computer program to catalog library materials, 'we're now attracting more volunteers,' said Susan Spitzer, first vice president of the museum board.
• Portland Parks and Recreation's Community Music Center Inc. bought eight digital pianos and other musical instruments. More than 100 students a week as well as senior citizens use the center's piano lab. A group of 6 to 9 year olds will be the first to use the new pianos Tuesday, Jan. 10.
- Mara Stine
Irish-Japanese flutist helped organize relief for Japan
Back in March, The Outlook profiled Hanz Araki, a Portland flutist whose mother is Irish and whose father is Japanese. Araki played Edgefield in Troutdale one week after Japan was rocked by an earthquake and flooded by a tsunami that left thousands dead.
Over the past year, his father's homeland has been close to Araki's heart.
'My family lives in Tokyo and Nagano, so they were pretty much unscathed, beyond the initial shock of the magnitude,' Araki said. 'In the weeks and months following, and to this day, to a lesser extent, Tokyo ran at dramatically reduced power to accommodate the shortage. Everyone commented on it, but no one complained.
'I went in May to help my recently retired father move to the United States, so I can say firsthand that seeing one of the largest cities in the world that dark was a little unsettling,' he adds.
Araki helped organize concerts in Portland and Seattle to raise more than $16,000 for disaster relief, and also played in more than a dozen other concerts to help Japan.
'The support for these concerts was incredible,' Araki says. 'I contacted artists all with connections to Japan - Casey Neill, who toured Japan with me in 2006, James Low, Portland Taiko and Bryan Free.'
Meanwhile, Araki and violinist Kathryn Claire recently played in Austin, Texas, as well as Japan. He also put on Celtic music concerts throughout this year in Portland.
For more information, visit hanzaraki.com.
- Rob Cullivan
Centennial graduate a scholar at Santa Clara
In June, Centennial High graduate Kevin Krautscheid was profiled as one of a number of East County students who had obtained college scholarships.
Krautscheid earned $41,425 in scholarships from such groups as the Gresham Elks and the Knights of Columbus. He also won $77,600 from Santa Clara University in California, which named him a dean's scholar. He just finished his first quarter at Santa Clara, where he's pursuing a bachelor's degree in accounting and economics with a minor in political science.
'Because so many of my scholarships were front-loaded for my freshman year, I have almost 80 percent of my freshman-year costs covered through scholarships,' he says. 'I think that not having to worry so much about financing my education by working on-campus from the outset has been extremely helpful in transitioning from high school to college.
'It has also allowed me to seek out and apply for on-campus jobs that are of interest and applicable to my career goals, as opposed to seeking out the first available job just to pay for my tuition/room and board/books.'
Krautscheid adds that he's grateful to all the groups that helped him go to college.
'So many people don't have the opportunity to attend college, let alone an expensive private college such as Santa Clara University, for which I am extremely grateful,' he says. 'I think that when it comes down to it, without all the scholarships I earned, Santa Clara University would not have been a viable option for me.'
He also says he enjoys higher education.
'My favorite aspect of college is the immense level of freedom and the innumerable opportunities available,' he says. 'It is a truly remarkable feeling to know that the sky is the limit with the right attitude and the right amount of hard work, dedication and persistence.'
And he still plans to chase even more scholarships.
'I have already compiled a list of about a dozen scholarships that I am looking to apply for over the next couple of years,' he says. 'I have found that most scholarships for college students are available in the sophomore and junior years, so I look forward to starting the scholarship hunt once again in the coming new year.'
- Rob Cullivan
East County's new courthouse taking shape
It was a groundbreaking like so many others: dignitaries armed with shovels churning up soil. But the Jan. 7 groundbreaking for the East County Courthouse in Gresham's Rockwood neighborhood marked the culmination of four decades of work to replace the city's obsolete one-courtroom structure with a much-needed larger one.
Since then, the community has watched as the three-story, $19.6 million structure takes shape at Southeast 185th and Stark Street. A web cam even allows people to view construction live at mds.multivista.com/webcam.18287/index-html.
The new courthouse will include three courtrooms, space for district attorney staff and judges' offices. It will house hearings for violations occurring east of 122nd Avenue, in addition to misdemeanors, small claims, landlord and tenant actions, ex parte hearings and document filing for civil and domestic relations actions - all of which now are typically filed in downtown Portland.
A grand opening is scheduled for Monday, April 2, 2012.
- Mara Stine
Shocking attack, stunning recovery
The elderly woman who survived a brutal beating at a Gresham MAX station this summer is recovering nicely and moving on with her life.
Muriel Morgan, a lifelong Gresham resident, has turned 85 in the months since Cordarius DeShaun Jeffreys allegedly attacked her on July 27 as she waited for a bus at the Cleveland Avenue MAX Station. Jeffreys reportedly punched the woman in the face with both fists approximately 20 times before he walked off the platform. Gresham police arrested him nearby a few minutes later.
Morgan has since recovered from her concussion. Both black eyes have healed, but she still has some issues with her broken nose. 'But I'm getting on just fine,' she says. 'There's lots of things wrong, but at my age there always will be.'
What has not been broken is her spirit. 'I just made up my mind to move past it,' she says of the attack. 'To me, every day is a bonus day.'
Jeffreys, 19, a transient from Tennessee, has since been moved from the Multnomah County Detention Center to the Oregon State Hospital.
Morgan said the state hospital, where mentally ill inmates receive treatment, is a good place for him. 'I know I don't want to run into him again. … I feel very bad about him. I'm sorry he's having such a bad time in life… because he isn't all right.'
Jeffreys is scheduled to appear at a Jan. 12 hearing to determine whether he can aid and assist in his defense. His trial on charges of second- and fourth-degree assault and interfering with public transportation has yet to be scheduled.
- Mara Stine
Classical music still soothing MAX riders
The strains of Mozart still rise above the MAX station at 162nd Avenue and East Burnside Street.
In late 2010, TriMet began using loaner equipment to pipe in classical music and opera to see if it calms riders and lowers crime. Initially, the music seemed to be a soothing success.
During the first two months of the pilot program, 40 calls for services came in within 250 feet of the station - a 45 percent drop compared to the same time period the year before, according to Portland and Gresham police reports.
But crime often drops in the chilly winter months when there also tend to be fewer people waiting on the platforms, so TriMet expanded the pilot program through the spring and summer months.
Portland police Lt. John Scruggs has tracked police calls associated with the MAX station since the program began in November 2010. He's also collecting data on police calls at two stations to the east and two stations to the west for comparison purposes. But he's still crunching the numbers, he said.
Mary Fetsch, TriMet's spokeswoman, said a total of nine crimes were reported at the station in 2010. Nine crimes also were reported at the station during the first six months of 2011, but TriMet's year-end annual report for 2011 won't be complete until spring 2012, she said.
Even so, TriMet has purchased the loaner music equipment and even invested in a second supply to install at another, yet-to-be-determined MAX station in the future. Each platform costs about $3,600 to equip between gear and installation.
'The jury is still out on whether they deter crime, but we felt it worthwhile to pilot another station and see what happens,' Fetsch said.
- Mara Stine
Troutdale family sues over food poisoning
In June, a 10-month-old Troutdale girl reportedly became ill with severe diarrhea and a high fever after she consumed ground turkey in spaghetti and meatballs prepared by her father.
The girl, Ruby Jane Lee, was hospitalized at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where it was discovered that the turkey was contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg, a strain resistant to most antibiotics.
Ruby's parents, Melissa Lee and Brandon Mullen-Bagby, filed a lawsuit against the ground turkey's producer, Cargill Meat Solutions, and related businesses on Aug. 15 in Oregon's U.S. District Court. They are seeking an unspecified amount in damages to cover the expenses related to Ruby's illness.
The family's attorney, Bill Marler of Seattle-based Marler Clark, said the lawsuit is still moving forward. The pre-trial order is due March 13, 2012, and he expects the trial will be set shortly thereafter. Marler said he is also representing clients in six other lawsuits that have been filed against Cargill.
As for 1-year-old Ruby, 'she's doing fine. She made a good recovery,' Marler said.
Ruby was one of 136 people with confirmed cases of Salmonella Heidelberg from the contaminated turkey, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ruby is still the only confirmed case in Oregon.
Cargill Meat Solutions recalled 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey, produced between Feb. 20 and Aug. 2, after it was linked to the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak. It was the U.S. Department of Agriculture's largest Class 1 recall to date.
Cargill recalled an additional 185,000 pounds of ground turkey that may have been contaminated with a strain of Salmonella Heidelberg on Sept. 11, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Given the number of people who were affected by the contaminated turkey across the country, Marler said Ruby's case and the other cases could influence the debate between food processors, public health officials and food scientists on the use of antibiotics for animals.
Four strains of salmonella, including Salmonella Heidelberg, have become resistant to multiple antibiotics as they evolved to survive, food scientists believe.
Cargill suspended production of ground turkey products at its Springdale, Ark., plant after the recalls in August and September.
Cargill resumed production of ground turkey at the Springdale plant in December after the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a new safety plan, according to a company news release.
The food safety plan includes the use of high pressure processing to reduce Salmonella; the creation of a rigorous, three-phase ground turkey sampling and monitoring program; and working with researchers to accelerate the development of new technology. Agriculture department food safety inspectors will be present during all ground turkey production.
'No stone has been left unturned as we searched for answers to help us improve food safety,' said Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill Value Added Meats Retail, in a news release.
- Calvin Hall
Black Swan to expand programs at center
The New Year is already shaping up to be a banner one for Black Swan Youth Theatre, which was the subject of an Outlook article in late November as it prepared to stage 'A Christmas Carol.'
The group recently made an agreement with the owners of GSI Community Center, 1493 N.E. Cleveland Ave., and will now oversee all rentals at the building, says Susan Scott, Black Swan's director.
Scott says the building will be renamed the Black Swan Youth Theatre, and the troupe will expand its programs significantly.
'We can turn Black Swan Youth Theatre into a true youth arts program, offering a variety of classes and events, all under the umbrella of BSYT,' she says. 'We would like to find teachers to teach voice, dance, painting, set and light design, costuming, sewing classes, and are open to music classes as well. And we can store our stuff upstairs.'
Between 50 and 60 children and teenagers participate in Black Swan programs, she says.
Black Swan will host a meeting for community members interested in learning more about the program at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the Cleveland Avenue facility.
Meanwhile, auditions for 'The Importance of Being Earnest' will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, at the theater. Theater classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 3, and there are still openings.
For more information, visit blackswanyouththeatre.com.
- Rob Cullivan