By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Back, and Forth: Angles, parallels of crossed paths add shape to life

The angles and parallels of personal interaction continue to crop up.

I’ve experienced continued crossing of paths between McMinnville associations and past ones from Hood River and other places.

This thread is probably about spooled out, but who knows? It’s a big part of why this column is called Back, and Forth.

In the 19 months I’ve been in McMinnville, a few dozen of these unexpected encounters have emerged to connect past and present. Indeed, I had forgotten about the first of its kind until it had a recent sequel of sorts.

McMinnville native Julie Wilcox and I knew each other professionally for a few years in Hood River before we connected circa 2010 as parents of Hood River Valley High School classmates.

Julie and I got to know each other minimally, as happens with most acquaintances developing among adults. You know little about each other’s personal histories, matters such as where you lived, or what you might have done before your current job.

This is now. You never learn each other’s then.

Julie has since retired, but when we met, she was working as a trooper with the Oregon State Police, and I was working at the newspaper in Hood River. Julie and I either saw each other at crime scenes or spoke on the phone as I wrote up details about accidents or crimes.

We lived in the same Hood River neighborhood, so she’d walk by from time to time, never talking police or newspaper.

In April 2021, I was in my front yard packing up to move when she stopped by. When I told her we were heading to McMinnville, she told me she grew up there, still had extended family there and often visited.

She said she remained in contact with high school friends, including a guy she said I had to meet — Mike “The King of McMinnville” Morris. She also mentioned that her niece, Andrea, worked at Community Plate.

I would in time meet Mike. Early on, Lorre and I had lunch at Community Plate, where we met Andrea, and I’d seen her on passing a few times in the intervening months.

I was walking down Third a few weeks ago when I spotted Andrea ahead of me on the sidewalk, talking with two other women. I thought to interrupt and say hello, but was a little short on time and they looked like they were in a serious conversation.

I did one of those wide step-arounds, and was about 15 feet beyond when I heard, “Is that Kirby?”

It was Julie, whom I had not seen since leaving Hood River 18 months earlier, and we had a truly pleasant crossing of paths.

While I don’t see Mike that often, I ran into him two days later as he was having coffee at a sidewalk table outside Union Block. He asked, “Oh, Julie was in town? How’s she doing?”

There are others, including Beth Karecki of Yamhill Mediation Services, who I’ve gotten to know in the past year or so. I knew her sister Ellen, whom I last saw in 1980, through another close friend at Linfield.

Call it a current connection:

In the beer tent at a recent Linfield University football game, I got acquainted with a Spokane woman whose son plays for the Wildcats. She is a close friend of a recent Linfield communications grad I got to know last year.

Small-world things arise and regenerate all the time.

Dave Rucklos of the McMinnville Downtown Association recently brought to my office Oregon Main Street Program Coordinator Shari Stuart, a friend from my time in Port Townsend, Wash., in the 1990s. Shari knows a guy I recently spoke to on the phone, Erik Andersson of SEDCOR, which Yamhill County contracts with for economic development services.

Erik and I knew each other in Port Townsend, then in the Columbia Gorge, places where he also worked in economic development. Our 2022 connection is so far limited to LinkedIn, but I am pretty sure it is my first crossing of paths involving three ports of call.

Three others are examples of the classic “old co-worker connection.” Three such associates live or work nearby, with long years intervening in two of them. The first one’s a little complicated, but here goes:

A reporter I hired in Hood River circa 2005 now has a job at city hall in one of Yamhill County’s outlying communities. I choose not to name the person or place because our only contact has been via e-mail, and it’s been strictly one way.

This person failed to respond either to a social “hey, remember me?” e-mail or to later e-mails on business matters, sent in my news capacity. The lack of response surprised me, but I’m determined to keep the door open. It’s the one, shall we say, unrequited example of these connections I have experienced.

The only similar experience I’ve had involved a Linfield classmate from 1977-78 with whom I reconnected briefly a little over a year ago. This was someone who had been a close friend and saw on and off over the years, so I followed up with a personal visit.

We’ve had no contact since, even though we work in the same town. It happens and life goes on. But I remain open to renewed contact.

Another former co-worker, Sean Patterson, works in media at George Fox University. I hired Sean as sports guy at the Itemizer-Observer in Dallas in 1986.

I’ve received press releases from him, and we spoke on the phone not long after I joined the News-Register, so I finally took it upon myself to go see him in Newberg on a cold-call basis. It was the first time we had seen each other since he moved to a newspaper in Canby 34 years ago.

It was a real pleasure to see Sean again. He reminded me of our playing hoops together back in 1987-88 and engaging in spirited debates over U2 albums. When we have coffee some time, I will have to ask his opinion of “Achtung Baby” and “How to Dismantle An Atom Bomb.”

A “Save the Date” card arrived last week for the April wedding of another former co-worker, Caleb Lundquist. I also knew his father, Bruce, for a brief time at Linfield.

The family has settled in McMinnville, and Caleb and I get a beer from time to time. Both of us enjoy the angles and parallels that blend between friendship and work association.

Caleb and I worked in the same newsroom at Hood River back in 2018-19, and two other members of that staff also boast McMinnville connections. Lisa Kawachi, still in Hood River, is a Linfield grad, and Emily Fitzgerald, now newspapering in Centralia, had a grandfather on the Linfield faculty.

Here at the N-R, three others boast Linfield connections: Starla Pointer, Rusty Rae and Publisher Jeb Bladine, who was a Wildcat for a time. These are parallels that add shape to a life.

Kirby Neumann-Rea, the N-R’s managing editor, enjoys books, craft beer, Celtic music and basketball. He can be reached at kirby@newsregister.com.

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