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  • 22 Oct 2014

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Sing the song of Unsung Heroes

Lake Oswego honors 14 of its finest citizens at city hall ceremony


by: JAIME VALDEZ - Lake Oswego's Unsung Heroes for 2013 were awarded certificates of recognition on Tuesday night from the Lake Oswego City Council. Twelve of the honorees were on hand for an event that recognized their outstanding contributions to this community. Missing were Sally Mahedy and Denise Miller.Lake Oswego is one city that gives a lot of credit to its unsung heroes, and on Tuesday night they were honored again in a special recognition ceremony at city hall.

In the past, the annual Unsung Hero awards have honored a varying number of outstanding citizens, sometimes as few as three. But this year a record number 14 were given recognition with certificates of honor from the Lake Oswego City Council.

The fabulous 14 are:

  • Bette Barber (Lake Oswego Farmer’s Market volunteer)

  • Karen Mela (farmers market volunteer)

  • Roni Sidman (farmers market volunteer)

  • Judy Brokaw (Lake Oswego Adult Community Center day respite program volunteer)

  • Suzie Lee (ACC respite program volunteer)

  • Catherine Lu (ACC respite program volunteer)

  • Sally Mahedy (ACC respite program volunteer)

  • Denise Miller (ACC respite program volunteer)

  • Jody Nossler (ACC respite program volunteer)

  • Ellen Rabow (ACC respite program volunteer)

  • Mark Shepard (ACC respite program volunteer)

  • John Fowlks (Meals on Wheels volunteer)

  • Brigitte Howley (community volunteer)

  • Nancy Sergeant (Luscher Farm volunteer)

    Besides doing so much work that benefits the Lake Oswego community, what the 2013 Unsung Heroes have in common is humility. They all expressed surprise and joy at receiving their awards.

    “Getting this honor makes me want to do even more,” said Fowlks, who has hardly missed a day of service over the past seven years. “All of a sudden I’m in good company.”

    Kudos for Fowlks come from Meals on Wheels board members Andrew Harris and Elaine Dickson. They praised him for going way beyond the call of duty. For example, for the 2009 Meals on Wheels fundraiser there was overwhelming demand for cookies. Fowlks answered the bugle call by helping to prepare 10,000 cookies.

    Fowlks’ all-around competence at Meals on Wheels is attributed to his lifelong career in the food industry.

    Many heroes have one specific area where they concentrate. But Howley does a bit of everything, often in jobs that do not receive wide recognition but are nonetheless essential, like returning books to the library. She has also been active in school elections, organizing potluck dinners for families in crisis and campaigning for athletic fields at Lakeridge High School. As she said, “Everything I do is behind the scenes.” A native of Belgium and a former resident of Hong Kong, Howley has made it a lifelong point to serve in her community.

    “For me it’s normal to serve in your community,” Howley said.

    Normal but extraordinary. Former Lake Oswego School Board member Deborah Lopardo, who nominated Howley for the award, said, “For all of her 15 years in our town, Brigitte has contributed countless hours and limitless energy to make a difference in the lives of so many of her fellow Lake Oswegans. She is a smart, savvy and diligent volunteer. Brigitte gives 100 percent.”

    “I am very honored and very humbled by this award,” Howley said. “When I was nominated I was very surprised, and when I won I was even more surprised.”

    Luscher Farm has perhaps the greatest bunch of scarecrows ever gathered in one place thanks to Sergeant. She has led the way for the Oswego Garden Club in making an amazing number of scarecrows that are not only colorful but also laugh-out-loud funny. Sergeant has spent her own money to have frames made, painted faces and provided clothes, hats and accessories for the scarecrows. They have entertained people from all over this area. Especially children.

    “I am very honored and thrilled that the city would consider scarecrows for this honor,” Sergeant said. “I started with Karen Davis (garden coordinator at Luscher Farm) on this and it just kind of developed. Before I knew it I was shopping for clothes for scarecrows.”

    Sergeant gets a lot of firsthand feedback on her creations. As she works on her own garden plot at Luscher Farm, she watches as children react with delight to the scarecrows.

    “It is very special for me to be recognized by a community in which I’ve lived for 37 years,” Sergeant said.

    The farmers market is truly one of the community jewels of Lake Oswego, and market Manager Jamie Inglis was delighted to give credit to three women who have helped make it happen — Barber, Mela and Sideman. In fact, Inglis calls them “The Dream Team.”

    Inglis said, “They put up canopies, place event signage, organize the information booths, set up hydration stations, assist with sound equipment” and more, including setting up Doggy Daycare.

    “Their determination, dedication and hard work make them an irreplaceable asset,” Inglis said.

    For the past 20 years the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center day respite program has had a huge impact on the senior community of Lake Oswego and their families. That is why eight of its volunteers were honored this year, including Lee, Lu, Mahedy, Miller, Nossler, Rabow, Shepard and Brokaw, who at nearly 11 years has had the longest term of service.

    One woman, whose husband has Alzheimer’s disease, praised this group as embodying the spirit of unselfishly and generously making a positive impact in the lives of their neighbors and their community. The respite program is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and during the four hours the elite eight interact with all participants, keep them laughing and attend to all of their needs.

    The woman added, “I can’t thank them enough for all they do twice a week to give my husband the social interaction he needs and for the gift of four worry-free hours a week to me.”

    Cliff Newell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.