West Linn neighbors are brought together after Gert Boyle incident

by: VERN UYETAKE - Some of the Women of Cottonwood Court include, from left, Karen Monahan, Christine Shebley, Jan Rimerman, Carrie O'Bryan, Julie Pipkin and Joan Sappington.The residents on Cottonwood Court in West Linn used to be friendly, but now they are proud to say they are true friends.

The neighbors on the cul-de-sac just off of Hidden Springs Road have held an annual Christmas party for the last four years. However, it wasn’t until two years ago that the street really bonded. It was just weeks after the horrific home invasion of Gert Boyle, chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear, in 2010.

During that year’s Christmas party’s icebreaker, the residents took turns recounting that evening and series of events.

Boyle’s former home is just above Cottonwood Court. When the attempted kidnapping happened, a suspect ran through Cottonwood Court, scaring residents and causing alarm up and down the street. Each neighbor had a different story to tell.

“One neighbor was hosting her sorority bridge club. Another neighbor had a large gun drawn on her when she stepped unsuspectingly onto her porch,” recalled Jan Rimerman, an artist well known in both West Linn and Lake Oswego.

The typically quiet street was barricaded off and crawling with armed officers.

“There were numerous police running around the neighborhood with drawn guns and flashlights, bulletproof vests and several police dogs,” Rimerman said. “The neighborhood had no idea what was happening during the event and everyone was pretty upset.”

Rimerman said everyone had a different story to share and perspective about that memorable evening.

“By the end of the evening, we just had a strong bond,” she said.

The partygoers left that night with a list of each other’s phone numbers and a renewed sense of community.

“We decided we would like to get together more,” Rimerman said.

Since that time, a core group of women meets monthly. They call themselves the Women of Cottonwood Court, or WOCCs. The men on the block are MOCCs, the Men of Cottonwood Court, who are known to come to the meetings late.

“They come and join us because they think we’re funny,” Rimerman said.

The group, ranging from 12 to 18 women, talks about a variety of subjects, including sharing the services of contractors and other work that needs to be done to their homes. They also laugh — a lot.

“We share our resources, we share our experiences and we share our lives,” Rimerman said. “It’s like having an extended family.”

They all also look out for one another. When someone goes on vacation, they rally together to feed the cats, make trips to the airport and look after the homes. And, when something or someone seems shifty, they alert each other using a phone tree.

When Joan Sappington — a longtime Lake Oswego resident before moving to West Linn — sprained her ankle, the WOCC were there to bring her meals and take care of her.

When it is icy outside, Christine Shebley puts on her golf cleats and picks up the newspapers and delivers them.

“It’s an anchor. You know you have a good home to come to,” Julie Pipkin said of Cottonwood Court.

Ranging in age from their 40s to their 80s, these women most likely would never have been friends unless they were neighbors, some of which date back to Cottonwood Court since 1978. The newest WOCC, Carrie O’Bryan, moved in just a month ago with a warm welcome.

The women are as diverse as any neighborhood, with backgrounds ranging from working in a motorcycle shop to artist, to teacher, to CEO. Thus, they each bring a unique talent and background to the group. One member can make emergency sewing alterations and another can teach PowerPoint.

“It’s a very resourceful group,” Pipkin said.

“Every single one of us is different. I love the diversity. We’re just women living life,” said Karen Monahan, who called herself the administrative executive of Cottonwood Court.

Rimerman, who is an artist, said her neighbors are now her groupies at her art shows.

“It’s nice to have a group of people support you,” she said.

Since their first meeting, the group has worked to map our their street with who lives in each house, including phone numbers and email addresses.

But they don’t just wait for their monthly meetings to gather — impromptu events happen all the time, whether it’s someone working on a yard, finishing a project or lighting a fire in a fire pit.

The WOCC’s next joint effort is a garage sale this weekend. By dividing the tasks of advertising, making signs, posting signs and organizing the event, the burden of holding a garage sale is much easier. The sale is Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in West Linn.

Though the residents on Cottonwood Court are quick to say what happened to Boyle was horrible, a wonderful thing happened because of it — it brought one neighborhood together.

“It’s just nice to have neighbors you love,” Rimerman said.

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