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Gen. Ghiglieri lends helping hand to local troops

Lake Oswego woman is popular with the military
by: Cliff Newell, 
When Jerri Ghiglieri calls, National Guardsmen at the Lake Oswego National Guard Armory come running. From the left, SFC Greg Jones, SPC Jacob Cooper, Jerri Ghiglieri, Major Ricardo Gloria, SFC Jeffery Lopez, Major Eric Wunderlich.

By CLIFF NEWELL

Staff Reporter

If people helping American troops overseas had military titles, there is no question what rank Jerri Ghiglieri would hold.

General.

The Lake Oswego woman has been remarkable in her efforts to assist U.S. servicemen serving in the Middle East and their families, and what's more she has been highly effective in motivating many other people to help.

'All people need is a line leader,' Ghiglieri said. 'When I make calls people are so willing and eager to help. I have never been denied or refused help.'

To Ghiglieri, this is no surprise.

'American character is the very best,' she said. 'It's totally different. When I talk to young people they really want to know how they can help, and I tell them, 'There's something you can do.''

Ghiglieri hasn't received any medals for her outstanding conduct and valor, but she has received a big hug from Gov. Ted Kulongoski, got a ride in a Blackhawk Helicopter, and, best of all, she receives effusive praise from the soldiers she has helped.

'We love her!' said Lt. Col. Robert Mouw, deputy commander of the 82nd Brigade of the Oregon Army National Guard, whose armory is in Lake Oswego. 'She's over here all the time. She has given us huge support, and she has a lot of ideas, mostly for fundraisers.'

For Ghiglieri, helping out the soldiers of the 82nd was a case of helping those closest to home. As a member of the Aviation Breakfast Club, she had been having a great time preparing packages for veterans of World War II and the Korean War. Then a thought occurred to her a couple years ago.

'Everyone needs to look in their own backyard, and the 82nd is in my backyard,' Ghiglieri said. 'I thought I'd better step up to the table.'

Ghiglieri not only stepped up to the table, she made sure more than 20 tables in the armory's gymnasium were filled with items much-needed by troops in the Middle East: Gatorade, socks, cameras, phone cards, candy, jerky, pens, tablets, etc.

'The whole place was filled with tables,' Ghiglieri said. 'Lake Oswego really turned out for this. I went to banks, stores, hotels. I even got playing cards from Spirit Mountain Casino.

'The day of the event was very exciting. Just having the business community participate, it was very honorable for them to do that. There were great big yellow balloons outside and inside, and I brought my own flags and pictures of soldiers. Every day the tables were stacked until we had an assembly.'

Some of the items were truly special, like the yellow roses and balloons from a young woman who worked in the Safeway florist shop.

'She told me, 'My brother is in Iraq,' ' Ghiglieri said.

Actually, there does not seem to be a whole lot of time when Ghiglieri is not helping American military personnel and their families.

Her career as an aviation artist is largely devoted to honoring the men and women in uniform, and places her art hangs includes the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, the Air and Space Museum in Eugene, and the Portland Air National Guard Base. Sometimes her paintings and prints are auctioned off at charitable fundraisers.

Ghiglieri's generosity is amazing. So is her expertise.

'I started out as a maritime artist,' Ghiglieri said. 'Then one time a client asked me to do a painting of a fighter jet. I told him it would be a piece of cake.'

As Dizzy Dean said, 'It ain't braggin' if you can do it.' When Ghiglieri does a painting of a jet or airplane, she makes sure she is totally acquainted with every single aspect of it.

'It's a labor of love,' she said. 'I find out everything there is to know. I have fun. Especially when they think, 'This grandmother doesn't know very much.' '

That opinion changes as soon as one gets a load of Ghiglieri's work, like the P-51 Mustang, the P-38, the B-17 Bomber, and, a true rarity, a World War I Sopwith Camel. That painting went into the nursery of the baby of former Miss America Katie Harmon and Capt. Tim Ebner, who by the way were introduced by Ghiglieri (matchmaking is one of her many talents) a couple of years previously.

Yankee Doodle had nothing on Ghiglieri when it comes to patriotism. Her family roots go back to a grandfather who served in World War I. She has friendships with some of the outstanding female pilots in American history, including Roberta Levaie. All four of her children are fine artists and, like mom, are devoted to military people and their families.

Betsy Ross, move over.

But the events of Sept. 11, 2001 lent an extra fire to Ghiglieri's patriotism. On that day of infamy, only a late start that morning kept her daughter Rebecca from making an appointment near the Twin Towers just before the terrorists' planes struck.

'She was one half hour from being next to the Twin Towers,' said Ghiglieri. 'I didn't know if she was alive or not until I got a call on my cell phone.

'I was so relieved when I found that Rebecca was OK. Then I felt anger. That anger never left me.

'I wanted to do something. I wanted to do something for the people fighting the terrorists.'

Since then, Ghiglieri has been on the front line of those assisting Americans fighting for freedom, and her efforts have drawn the gratitude of Oregon's most outstanding political leaders.

On one special occasion - the demobilization ceremony of the Delta 113th in Pendleton - Ghiglieri was invited to attend because her painting of a Chinook Helicopter was to be unveiled. Oregon's political elite was there, too, including Gov. Ted Kulongoski, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, and Congressman Greg Walden.

When Kulongoski, a politician of liberal persuasion, received a print of the painting, he was so impressed and grateful that he gave Ghiglieri a bearhug of an embrace.

Ghiglieri informed him: 'Governor, you just kissed the most conservative Republican woman you've ever met!'

Kulongoski responded with a booming, appreciative laugh.

But it really doesn't matter if you are a Republican or Democrat. You can salute Jerri Ghiglieri.

Jerri Ghiglieri wants you! She invites all readers of the Lake Oswego Review and the West Linn Tidings to join the Coalition of Troop Support by calling Linda Christie at 503-997-7352. 'Anybody can help,' Ghiglieri said. 'There's always something to do.'