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Book celebration brought out West Linn’s history
By Cornelia Seigneur   - 02/19/2009

West Linn Tidings

It is the stories that intrigue me most as I reflect on last month’s celebration of my newly-published book at the West Linn Public Library.

Harold Gross, fresh from his 96th birthday party, who was wheel-chaired in by his daughter and caregiver, shared how he transported children to and from school after taking over his father’s West Linn public school bus service.

As Harold shared school bus stories, somebody spoke up from the crowd gathered during the program part of the evening where several special guests joined me near the framed photograph display set up to represent the eight chapters of my West Linn history book, Images of America: WEST LINN.

“I rode on Harold’s bus,” said Leroy Lundy, a Milwaukie resident, as all eyes turned to him. “And Harold ordered me get off his bus one day and walk home because I was throwing chestnuts on the bus.”

Lundy shared of his younger years as everyone gathered in the community room of the library broke out in laughter.

The West Linn Library, which co-sponsored the West Linn Book Publication Celebration held Jan. 26, invited the entire community to come share the evening.

And they came. And invited their friends and neighbors. And old friends were reunited and new friends were made. People from all walks of life came, and it felt like one big West Linn party. Celebrating what is good about our city.

The amazing giving people. And preserving our history.

Bill Hughes, grandson of Ellis Hughes who discovered West Linn’s famous rock – the Willamette Meteorite – in 1902, came from Eastern Oregon as did his granddaughter and other family members.

“I remember my grandfather, and the house we lived in. He lived in real poverty; in those days they did not have food stamps or social security,” Hughes noted. “It was like, when you get an idea and you try to generate some interest in it and you try to raise four kids and a wife. They were poor people in those days. My grandfather was trying to provide for his family.”

Everyone clapped for Hughes.

We invited Kernan Bagley and LaVerne Bagley Brown to come up to the front, as well as HJ Belton Hamilton and his wife, Midori. Part of my Famous People chapter.

HJ Belton Hamilton was Stanford’s first black graduate and Oregon’s first black assistant attorney general. Kernan Bagley was Oregon’s first African American U.S. Marshal under Ronald Reagan. And LaVerne Bagley Brown was West Linn High School’s first African American woman graduate.

The gathered crowd applauded. Hamilton has been slowed by several strokes, but his spirit and life and legacy live on.

We acknowledged others who have lived in West Linn for 80, 70, 50, 40 years. More stories were shared, old friendships rekindled and memories recalled.

As I recognized various folks and thanked the many who shared their photographs, stories and time, I felt a sense of overwhelming gratitude for the privilege of getting to meet so many wonderful people this past year while working on the book.

And as I thought about the variety of people who came, including those who attended the pre-event such as the mayor and former mayor, a city councilor and city staff and then as others who began streaming in such as the Clackamas County Historical Museum president, as well as West Linn neighborhood association presidents, historic board members, firefighters, chamber members, community leaders, students, teachers, long time West Linn families and new community members, and old friends of mine and my family, I mused on how amazing it was – over 200 people in an evening, connecting together to celebrate something we can agree upon.

Preserving our history and celebrating this amazing community. And its wonderful people.

The West Linn Book Publication Celebration exceeded my wildest expectations, and I am extremely grateful to community members for their support.

And for sharing their stories.

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