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Our John, their John


Readers share more stories about man who lives outdoors in Forest Grove and Astoria

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove icon John Wedell flashes a peace sign as he walks with his carts along Pacific Avenue. Wedell, 66, also spends time in the coastal community of Astoria, where his brother Steve lives. A single story in a newspaper can, indeed, open minds — and in at least one case, connect two cities separated by 70 miles.

Reporter Stephanie Haugen’s profile of Forest Grove icon John Wedell has engendered dozens of comments on Facebook and on the News-Times' website. The story has been shared on the Internet or “liked” on social media more than 2,500 times since it was published in this paper July 17.

People have added their own observations and anecdotes to what we reported in our story, and a pair of communities — Forest Grove and Astoria, because Wedell spends time in each city — have been joined together by a sharing of stories about this unique and eccentric man.

Below are some of our favorites.

Terri Kramer (works at Fred Meyer): I met John through a good friend of mine (who has since passed), and found out that he is an extremely nice and intelligent man. I get to talk to him when I go to the Forest Grove library. He loves peanut butter and grapes, so when I go to Costco I try to pick up some extra for him. I feel honored to know him.

Shannon Holscher: I loved when he would walk by the window and wave and smile at the toddlers during the service at Sonrise (church). His expression was priceless. He even bent down to their level.

Kimberly Comstock: I see him around a lot. He seems like a very nice guy. I do worry with the hot weather, then winter. People shouldn’t judge him or anyone, because someday we could be that guy.

Tiffany Butler, Astoria: I am always happy to see John when he’s in Astoria, and never knew much of his story. Now I appreciate him even more.

Eddie Glenn, Forest Grove: Our kids often ask about John … now we can explain who he is and where he came from.

Wanda Marie: I have only exchanged greetings with John myself. I wave and he sometimes shouts a kind word or two of encouragement to brighten up my commute (via bike and trailer): “That’s the way it’s done, babe!”

Zeb Larson, Forest Grove: The writer did a great job of approaching John as a human being, without stigma. This is an example of community mental health working, in a sense, because he’s actually part of a community.

Ruth A. Pereira-Bardy, Astoria: John IS Astoria. I worried about him when I didn’t see him around town. [I] feel better knowing he is in Forest Grove, where people care about him as much as they do here.

Peggy Doner Avignone, Forest Grove: We love John here. We worried about him when he was gone until we found out he was in Astoria. This article lets us know you care as much about him as we do. Thank you.

Debbie Twombly, Astoria: Yay, John! Great to hear about you from the Forest Grove side of your life. It’s great to hear your story and to think that everyone out there in our often-dysfunctional society has a story as well. Keep on truckin’!

Amy Fisher: It’s our John! What an amazing story! It is so nice to know more about him. This is a wonderful read.

Tabitha Brown: What a wonderful, surprisingly intelligent and sweet man he is. I have never seen him without his helmet before. He’s a good looking gentleman. I hope he is able to get back to his old career if that’s what he truly wants to do.

Lori Thurman Lester, Forest Grove: Thank you for educating us and clearing up all the crazy rumors out there. I just said “hi” to John on my morning run today and, as always, he was friendly! I love that many of our local businesses honor him and are good to him.

Meeri Nauha: John surprised me once by commenting to me that he likes his cappuccinos served with a soft foam that pours into the cup like they serve in Italy. He always tipped me a dollar when he ordered a cappuccino. The house coffee was a quarter for John, though.

Melinda Zschoche, Astoria: I met his brother once and he told me John’s story. So very interesting. We always welcome John at the Urban Café … and he always tips.

Lynette Kelly Searle: I owned a coffee shop in Astoria and [John and I] would talk from time to time. A very interesting man … a good soul.

Shannon Baird: We love seeing him around town. Now I know why we go months without seeing him, too.

Katie Murray: I had no idea about John’s two hometowns. But I have noticed his absences. I remember the day he came into our toy store and bought the biggest and most expensive dinosaur we had.

Elyse Evans: We finally hear the truth about John. I always wondered where he goes when he’s not here for a while. He seems content with his life, different as it is from mine.

Brenda Bowes, Forest Grove: Thank you for clearing up some misconceptions. John seems [like] a very interesting man.

Valerie Cleary: Thank you for honoring John with his story. I look forward to sharing it with my children.

Kathie Schuler Hobbs: [The story about John] fills in the gaps as well as dispelling some of the unfounded stories. I now know where he disappears to, which makes me feel better.

Dawn Marie Bisceglia: I finally know something about [John]. He is so misunderstood. I knew he was very intelligent. Don’t judge a book by its cover. He is one of the many things I miss about Astoria.

Tonya Walters: Now I not only know the whole story, but the true one.

Michelle Martinez: I knew [John] was a learned man, but not to what extent. I hope he is able to follow his desire to play piano again and get back into a work environment if this is what he truly wants. Bless the businesses that honor this man by treating him with dignity and compassion. They will get more of my business.

Peggy Doner Avignone: I am so amazed at how many people love and care for John. There are still a lot of really good people in the world. What a special guy. He walks his own walk and is still a proud, wonderful person.

Jori Richards, Forest Grove: I walk my dog daily and sometimes she waits outside at BJ's Coffee while I get a coffee. One day I came out to bring her water and John was feeding her. She didn't need the extra meal, but she sure enjoyed it. He was very gentle and caring.

Sara Green, Forest Grove: We used to go to that little ice cream/hotdog place on the corner with the black and white checkered floor. He would sit up at the counter. We played music on the jukebox for Zachary, who was just toddling at the time, and he danced. John would smile and laugh ... he loved to see Zachary dance.

Denise Moore, Astoria: When John first came to Astoria, I worked for a local community mental health agency. He was encouraged to take medication but all he really needed was to be accepted and fed at times. John would stop by the community store to buy tinctures, have his pants mended and smile and laugh ... he was accepted. It's reassuring to know that he has another community that cares for him like Astoria does.