By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Hillside go brah

Karl Klooster/News-RegisterChester, Hillside’s always smiling greeter, is wearin’ the green for the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
Karl Klooster/News-Register
Chester, Hillside’s always smiling greeter, is wearin’ the green for the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

More than 50 of the community’s residents, almost one-third, are from McMinnville. So they qualify for the local label themselves.

The event was upbeat, in that all present seemed to be thorougly enjoying themselves during a very nice dinner with a menu appropriate to the occasion.

It was low-key in that it was devoid of loud music and mugs of frothy brew being swung haphazardly about. Classic corned beef was the featured entrée and dessert was accompanied by a chaser of Irish coffee.

I’ll get back to the specifics of this particular occasion in a minute, but let me first digress to reflect on St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland in the late 400s.

Honoring America’s favorite Irish saint is the ostensible reason for all this hoopla. In reality, it’s just a good excuse to have a good time and blame Ireland for any excesses and indiscretions.

Patrick, an ordained bishop, is said to have ministered to and served the needs of an extended flock of the faithful during the latter half of the fifth century. But the fact is, history is rather vague when it comes to a man elevated to sainthood beause of good deeds done on behalf of the Irish people.

Though records from that far back are hard to come by, the generally accepted story is that he was brought to Ireland as a slave while still in his teens. He escaped, fled and became a cleric, then returned to Ireland to spread the word of God.

He focused his work among the common people, to the point where it became the stuff of legend.

He has been credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, which is simply not true. He’s also been credited with ridding the Emerald Isle of snakes, which any Irish gardener will tell you isn’t worth a cauldron of overcooked colcannon. He is thought of as a mysterious and perhaps somewhat mischievous rogue, but was nothing of the sort.

Here on the other side of the pond, it’s more Ireland and its beer-drinking, fun-loving nature that we celebrate than an elusive cleric from 1,600 years ago and his blessedness.

So, what is it that inspires people to heartily imbibe on this date, even sometimes overindulge, in that hefty brew known round the globe as Guinness?

Finding the answer is only incidental to the situation at hand, as the staff at Hillside will fall back on almost any reason to stage a themed dinner for its residents.

This is just one example of the fact that Hillside isn’t a place where only Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July are deemed worthy of recognition. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mardi Gras and Halloween are all fair game for a flurry of creative activity in the Hillside kitchen as well.

But St. Patrick’s Day has proved one of the best. And this year, members of Linfield College’s Kappa Sigma Fraternity and Alpha Phi Sorority stopped by to embellish the dinner with a bit of youthful cheer.

 What about UFOs, the arrival of spring, the annual Rose Parade or the silver screen? Debby Finn, marketing manager at Hillside, said they’ve all taken their turns as dinner themes.

“Probably my all-time favorite costume winner dressed up like the survivor of an airline crash for Halloween,” Finn said. “A breathing mask, flotation device and mini-liquor bottles were hanging from her tattered clothes.

“The best staff costume award was a head-to-toe bunny rabbit suit. For the Hollywood movie star dinners, residents dress up as their favorite stars.”

Whatever’s happening, dependable Chester can always be counted on to greet guests at the entrance to the Manor dining room, decked out in impeccably appropriate attire for the particular occasion.

Who is Chester? A photo of him accompanies this article. He’s the one with the perpetually friendly smile, looking leprechaun-like in honor of St. Paddy’s Day in a green, bebuckled hat.

Chester doesn’t say much, but there’s no mistaking his always welcoming ways. And the tray he proudly presents to passersby invariably contains something enticing.

According to Finn, Chester just showed up one day several years back, when the dining room was being remodeled, and stayed right there at the entrance. You could call Chester a real stand-up guy.

His ethnic origin is unknown, but it appears likely he’s from somewhere in the British Isles. Rumor has it that he has a twin brother in Portland, also a greeter.

Finn doesn’t know about that, but she does know Chester’s “mini-me” has shown up at Traditions, a full-service restaurant for residents, located in a complex facing out on Northwest Second Street.

“He’s a dead ringer for Chester, just a lot smaller,” Finn said. “I don’t know his real name, but everyone calls him ‘mini-me.’”

Li’l Chester would work well, too. But any new monicker would likely require an affirmative nod directly from the diminutive doorman himself.

That could prove challenging. Like his bigger brother, the pint-sized guy with king-sized character is known to keep his opinions to himself.

Residents are, of course, the biggest beneficiaries of all this fun-filled foolishness. There can be no doubt that Chester and his small scale clone lend a lighthearted lift to living at Hillside.

The roots of those residents make a fascinating story.

As alluded to earlier, 54 Hillsiders hail from McMinnville. Another 58 come from elsewhere in Oregon, 32 from California, 15 from Washington and nine from Arizona, largest of the single-digit contributors.

They count 36 states and five foreign countries as places of birth, but only 13 states and one foreign country as immediately preceding places of residence.

Prior to retirement, 57 were in education, ranging from a piano teacher to a librarian. Another 38 were in business, 22 in medicine or dentistry and seven in engineering.

There were 19 homemakers. A smattering had farmed, served in the military, worked in government or served as a minister, machinist, factory worker or legal secretary,

And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — interacting with wonderful folks who may no longer be young in years but have definitely remained young at heart.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 503-687-1227.

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