Thursday, November 17, 2016
The following is one of my writing class members remembering another classmate for her coming memorial. Jeanne died of cancer earlier this month.
A building in Portland (Oregon) was named after her for the work she did for others. It is unusual for a a person to be living and have an ediface named in their honor. She was very modest about it, and after another class member and I spotted her name emblazed upon the multi-story building, we pressed her for the story behind the naming. She complied and admited that she was indeed the same Jeanne Rivers.
It is unusal for me to post this type of writing, but she was very special to our community and to our class. Anne has captured a wonderful view of this grand lady. Thank you Anne.
REMEMBERING JEANNE RIVERS
I didn’t know Jeanne well, but I remember chatting with her briefly as we pulled out our car keys after Emily Aulicino’s writing class at the Woodstock Community Center. When she mentioned having worked on Skid Row we discovered an acquaintance in common. Jeanne had been on the Hooper Detox team scooping up the inebriated who were out of control or comatose on the streets of Portland’s inner city. Sister Kate St. Martin had practiced her nursing skills among the hotel dwellers around West Burnside. Among that idiosyncratic community their paths often crossed. Jeanne offered to lend me her copy of the book* that Kate and Ron Talarico collaborated to write about Kate’s Burnside encounters. I appreciated the insight it gave me into a unique ministry that was Kate’s, but also Jeanne’s.
Jeanne wrote with the same ironic and clear-eyed wit that characterized her conversation. Her tangible descriptions allowed her listeners to accompany her in walking back into her memories. Two of her childhood stories stand out in my recollection. In one she recreated her family’s camping out in the hop fields around Mt. Angel, Oregon as they brought in the harvest as migrant laborers. As a little girl she tagged along wherever her family could find work. The second chronicle was of her wading into the swampy waters of Lake Oswego on a hot summer day (that just happened to be the day World War II ended) under the indiscriminate supervision of her older sister. Only the inner tubes to which three of them clung had any experience with floating or swimming.
I have already missed Jeanne’s vibrant presence amidst our writing group. She has left a bright legacy of relationships behind her.
*Fire in the Dark: Making a Difference in the World by Ron Talarico