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

Back, and Forth: Past and present cross paths, wipe away the dust of time

This marks the first column in my second year working for this newspaper.

“Back, and Forth” started in early April 2021 as a weekly-or-so chronicle of my observations of returning to live in a town where I’d gone to college 40-plus years ago.

These columns, as long as my fellow team members allow them to appear, won’t always deal with parallel universes of time. Gradually, as I become more of a resident and less of a newcomer, the scope will broaden.

A book excerpt I recently encountered provides a sense of this transition. In “Look Homeward, Angel,” Thomas Wolfe writes of “that dark miracle of chance that makes new magic in a dusty world.”

Last week, on a deadline morning, I took one of my impromptu walks around the block in order to stretch my legs and clear my head. I’d almost left at 10:45, but a phone call delayed me and it was nearly 11 when I zipped up my coat and headed across Third Street.

I was hailed by a woman who called my name. It was my friend, Ali Taylor, who lives in Salem, but had taught for years in McMinnville schools, was in town for the day and happened to be at the same corner.

Thanks to the sort of pandemic-era life-suspensions we all know about, I had not seen Ali in several years. Had I gone on my leg-stretcher 10 minutes earlier, there would have been no such encounter.

The “miracle of chance” was definitely bright, the world thus a little less dusty. 

The past crosses paths with the present all the time for me.

My work and past times bring me into contact with folks I either once knew or who know someone I know. Call them coincidences, though in McMinnville, running into old friends such as Ali is nothing new.

Weeks after moving here in April 2021, I saw an old friend, Robin Cushman. She worked with me at Nick’s Italian Café in 1980 and later lived in my neighborhood in Hood River, where she taught school for years.

A year ago I had spoken with Robin and her husband Rich, as they took a walk past our home in Hood River. The next week, Robin and I spotted each other in the aisles of Harvest Fresh in downtown McMinnville.

Watching a high school meet at Linfield’s Maxwell Stadium a few weeks ago, two friends from Hood River came up to say hello.

Their son, a Lane Community College student, was competing. DeLona and Martin caught sight of Lorre and me in the stands.

Brewer and malter rep Charlie Van Meter and I met over beers last week. He asked if I might be seeing my brother Joel, who owns Corvallis Brewing Supply, any time soon, explaining, “I have a bag of peated malt I want to give him.”

It turns out Charlie was going to be in Corvallis sooner than I was, but of course, I’d have been happy to make the delivery.

That beer we were drinking was the new ESB collaboration between Charlie, Joe D’Aboy of Grain Station Brewing and Ben Acord of McMinnville. And my being there to check it out was a product of bright chance, too.

I knew Ben was moving to Hawaii sometime this spring so I happened to call him up that Friday morning, just to check in. He mentioned that the brewing trio would be tapping the ESB that afternoon and asked if I would like to join them.

That’s further reminder of the value of calling a friend at the time you think to do so, and not putting it off.

Ben treated me to a beer and I got to connect with Charlie and Joe at the same time.

Years ago, I was visiting town and stopped at the Grain Station. I happened to recognize Garry Kilgore, director of athletics at Linfield, who was a year behind me at South Albany High School.

We’d not talked since high school, but recognized each other. As a result, I got to meet Wildcat men’s basketball coach Shanan Rosenberg.

Paths between past and present meet in McMinnville, as they do everywhere. And I could cite many other examples.

I met Raw Cidery owner Levi Danielson last week and learned we had mutual friends in Hood River.

Lorre and I went to Pacific Frame one day a few months ago, on a whim, to see about framing a print. We happened to get acquainted with a McMinnville couple who formerly lived in Corvallis, and learned they’ve known my brother Joel for a quarter-century.

Jon Lloyd of McMinnville, formerly of Sedona, Arizona, e-mailed me in early 2021 after learning from Arizona friend Larry, whom I knew from age 6 in Kirkland, Wash., that I was moving to McMinnville.

We’ve been friends ever since. And Larry paid us both a visit a few months ago.

Reader Marilyn Fishwick called me after a recent column I wrote about Linfield. She realized from my name that her father, Allen Horn, and my father, Don Rea, had lived together while studying at Linfield in the late 1940s.

As a bonus, she was born in Hood River and lived there as a child.

We pored over yearbooks where she showed me photos I had never seen of my father, as well as loose photos she had of that house somewhere near campus where my father and Allen had lived with three other guys.

They were Delta Psi Delta fraternity mates. And while I knew my dad had lived off campus, I hadn’t seen the place until Marilyn showed me the photo.

Precisely where that house is (or was) remains unknown. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s mystery solved, clearing a bit of the dusty world.

In that same paragraph, after all, Thomas Wolfe went on to note that “every moment is a window on all time.”

Contact Kirby Neumann- Rea at or 503-687-1291.



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