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July 2019 -- Vol. 113, No. 11
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Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


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Reed neighborhood, warehouse fire, fatal, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
Shortly after crews arrived, firefighters were pouring vast amounts of water into the blazing building in the industrial area of the Reed neighborhood. (Photo by David F. Ashton)
Transient dies in massive Reed industrial fire

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

While investigating inside the collapsed and partly-melted shell of a warehouse after an all-night three-alarm blaze on June 7, fire officials made a grisly discovery.

As the sun arose on June 8, firefighters were still hosing down the smoking remains of the building, its charred sign reading “R.J. Templeton Associates / Commercial Parts Warehouse” – located west of S.E. 28th Avenue, between Schiller and Long Streets in the Reed neighborhood.

That morning, a Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) spokesperson revealed, “Fire investigators received information that an adult male was in or near the warehouse at the time of the fire, which led investigators to focus their search for a body.” And they found one. Weeks later, PF&R still apparently hadn’t received the findings about the victim from the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office personnel who were called the scene.

“Fire Investigators received information that would indicate the individual was using an area just outside of the affected warehouse for temporary shelter,” the spokesperson said.

But the huge fire itself, which started at twilight on the evening of June 7, drew fire equipment and personnel from across the city. “We first saw a cloud of dark heavy smoke coming up from the building, and then lots of fire,” said Vasi of nearby Alpina Auto Body and Paint, as he watched all the firefighters pouring water on the blaze.

The initial alarm was dispatched at 9:25 p.m.; the PP&R radio channels crackled with reports from the first arriving of the eventual 30 crews, reporting “heavy smoke and fire venting through the roof” of the warehouse.

A third alarm was called approximately eight minutes into the incident, bringing additional crews and equipment to the area. To obtain sufficient water supply, firefighters hooked up their water lines to hydrants as far as three blocks away from the inferno.

Early on, a partial collapse of the warehouse’s roof shot a tower of fire high into the air.

“Several crews, first-in to the incident, made an aggressive attack on the east side of the building, and prevented the loss of several homes. However, there still was damage to surrounding homes, properties, and cars,” the Bureau’s spokesperson reported.

Some of the vehicles sprayed down by firefighters, just south of the blazing warehouse, belonged to Gearhead Production Rentals – the company at which a mysterious fire burned two movie-production-outfitted RVs last August 19, as reported at the time in THE BEE.

By keeping them drenched with water, fire crews successfully saved homes just east of the fire; however, those with doors and windows open appeared to have experienced internal smoke damage.

So far, Bureau officials haven’t commented on the cause of the fire, or given estimated damages, or have even been able to reveal the name of the man who perished in the fire.

For THE BEE

While investigating inside the collapsed and partly-melted shell of a warehouse after an all-night three-alarm blaze on June 7, fire officials made a grisly discovery.

As the sun arose on June 8, firefighters were still hosing down the smoking remains of the building, its charred sign reading “R.J. Templeton Associates / Commercial Parts Warehouse” – located west of S.E. 28th Avenue, between Schiller and Long Streets in the Reed neighborhood.

That morning, a Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) spokesperson revealed, “Fire investigators received information that an adult male was in or near the warehouse at the time of the fire, which led investigators to focus their search for a body.” And they found one. Weeks later, PF&R still apparently hadn’t received the findings about the victim from the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office personnel who were called the scene.

“Fire Investigators received information that would indicate the individual was using an area just outside of the affected warehouse for temporary shelter,” the spokesperson said.

But the huge fire itself, which started at twilight on the evening of June 7, drew fire equipment and personnel from across the city. “We first saw a cloud of dark heavy smoke coming up from the building, and then lots of fire,” said Vasi of nearby Alpina Auto Body and Paint, as he watched all the firefighters pouring water on the blaze.

The initial alarm was dispatched at 9:25 p.m.; the PP&R radio channels crackled with reports from the first arriving of the eventual 30 crews, reporting “heavy smoke and fire venting through the roof” of the warehouse.

A third alarm was called approximately eight minutes into the incident, bringing additional crews and equipment to the area. To obtain sufficient water supply, firefighters hooked up their water lines to hydrants as far as three blocks away from the inferno.

Early on, a partial collapse of the warehouse’s roof shot a tower of fire high into the air.

“Several crews, first-in to the incident, made an aggressive attack on the east side of the building, and prevented the loss of several homes. However, there still was damage to surrounding homes, properties, and cars,” the Bureau’s spokesperson reported.

Some of the vehicles sprayed down by firefighters, just south of the blazing warehouse, belonged to Gearhead Production Rentals – the company at which a mysterious fire burned two movie-production-outfitted RVs last August 19, as reported at the time in THE BEE.

By keeping them drenched with water, fire crews successfully saved homes just east of the fire; however, those with doors and windows open appeared to have experienced internal smoke damage.

So far, Bureau officials haven’t commented on the cause of the fire, or given estimated damages, or have even been able to reveal the name of the man who perished in the fire.



Sellwood Community Center, SMILE, Parks Bureau, local operation, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
“Friends of Sellwood Community Center” Committee members, from left – Nancy Walsh, Julie Currin, Chair Gail Hoffnagle, and Jason Deignan – explored SMILE’s plans to continue operating the Community Center, independently of the Parks Bureau. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

SMILE seeks to run Sellwood Community Center

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

When the Portland City Council’s budget hearing ended on May 23, it was very clear that valiant efforts of volunteers to keep the Sellwood Community Center (SCC) open and funded had failed.

While City Commissioners didn’t specifically say they were shuttering the historic center, they did make it clear that staff funding through Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) was at an end. “PP&R will not provide staff or programming at the Center after August 31, which is considered to be the end of summer,” confirmed PP&R spokesperson Mark Ross.

“Summer programming at Sellwood Community Center will continue [until then], thanks to transition funding City Council dedicated in the budget for the coming Fiscal Year (which is July 1-June 30 annually),” Ross told THE BEE. “Sellwood neighbors have asked PP&R about the possibility of taking over operations at the Sellwood Community Center; we have met with them, and welcome them to submit a proposal.”

“The SMILE Friends of Sellwood Community Center Committee has met a couple of times with people from the city, trying to figure out how we can keep the Center open with the same type of programs, and the same quality of programs,” confirmed the committee’s Chair, Gail Hoffnagle, before a May 29 meeting held at the Center.

The Friends Committee does have resources, Hoffnagle reminded. “It’s the trust fund endowment by Brooklyn resident Helen Hiczun – she was horrified that the Center was regularly threatened with closure – and willed the proceeds from the sale of her house to SMILE [the Sellwood and Westmoreland neighborhood association], instead of the City of Portland, with the money specifically earmarked to keeping the Center open.”

Their hope is that the City will agree to sell them the Center for a nominal fee, much as Portland Fire & Rescue sold what became “SMILE Station” to SMILE – the “Sellwood Moreland Improvement League” – close to thirty years ago.

Some 30 people came to the May 29 meeting to discuss what could be done to keep the Community Center operational. Hoffnagle laid out the preliminary strategy – but stressed that, before any action could be taken or expenditures be made, the SMILE Board must approve, since SMILE is the entity to which the dedicated Hiczun funds were willed. After the meeting, she reported, “A group of people have volunteered to work on pieces of our puzzle.”

At a Special SMILE Board meeting at SMILE Station on June 12, Hoffnagle began by telling the Board, “[SMILE now] needs to establish how it intends to run the Center, and with whom to run it”.

The SMILE Board had already agreed that it has a moral and legal obligation to devote the dedicated funds to this effort – since the funds were bequeathed to SMILE specifically to assist in keeping the Sellwood Community Center open.

“We cannot use the funds for any another unrelated purpose,” as Pat Hainley observed at the meeting, “and now is clearly the time to use them.” Hainley further suggested that the Friends Committee could become a separate nonprofit corporation running the Center, overseen by SMILE.

At that point Hoffnagle introduced attorney Ashlee Espaillat, who had offered to provide to the project pro-bono legal services – limited, however, to incorporation of the committee, and negotiating with the City for the right to occupy and potentially buy the Community Center building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Goal one”, said Hoffnagle, “is the right to be in the building, and to acquire the building.”

SMILE Vice President Simon Fulford inquired about a business plan for the Center; Hoffnagle and Nancy Walsh, both retired PP&R Community Center employees, responded, “Much of the plan is already done, and we are making great progress on it.” There was then unanimous support by the Board for authorizing the Friends group a startup budget of $10,000.

Kim Borcherding, a former SMILE Board Member who is a member of the Friends of Sellwood Community Center Committee, said that the committee, if successful in negotiations with the city, is thinking of changing the name of the Center to “Sellwood Community House”, to better clarify its separation from the Parks Department, and its local operation.

“We have a lot to do, and a short time in which to do it; so, I’m encouraged by the many people, each bringing expertise and experience, who are volunteering to help us,” Hoffnagle remarked to THE BEE after the meeting.

The committee is now trying to identify the various people who signed up for fall classes at the Community Center before the city announced plans to close it, to bring them up to date and determine if they are still interested in enrolling in such classes.

To keep up to date with their progress, and to respond to the committee, visit its page on the SMILE website – https://tinyurl.com/y432h9as.



Sellwood Rollover, car thieves, Subaru Outback, mother and daughter, Tenino Street, 15th Avenue, Southeast Portland, Oregon
After being struck by a stolen car running a stop sign, the victim Subaru Outback rolled on its side. The responsible blue car at left was abandoned by the car thieves, who fled before police arrived. (Reader photo)

Stolen car crashes into passing vehicle in Sellwood

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

The drivers of two stolen vehicles were careening through the streets of Sellwood on Thursday afternoon, June 6, when one of them smashed into a Subaru Outback in which a mom was driving her daughter. The Subaru overturned at the intersection of S.E. 15th Avenue and Tenino Street.

Arriving officers from Central Precinct at 6:03 p.m. found two smashed vehicles in the intersection.

“It appears that a stolen vehicle failed to stop at a stop sign, and struck a Subaru Outback, causing the Subaru to roll onto the side,” confirmed Portland Police spokesperson Lieutenant Tina Jones. “The suspect [in the crashed stolen car] got into the second stolen vehicle, and made an escape. Officers are attempting to identify the suspects.”

The good news is that both the victim driver and her daughter were able to get out of the Subaru and were not injured, Jones said – although they were certainly shaken up by the frightening experience.



Agatha Chan, Winterhaven School, spelling, national spelling bee, Southeast Portland, Oregon
Winterhaven School’s champion speller, Agatha Chan, nails the letters spelling “ratafia”, a type of almond-flavored cookie, to achieve entry into the third round of this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington DC – broadcast nationally in May by ESPN. (Courtesy of Elleanor Chin)

SE Portland’s spelling champ reaches third round of National Spelling Bee

By ZANE SPARLING
For THE BEE

Portland's spelling champ Agatha Chang is ready for a well-deserved break – after doing her best to beat the dictionary, and 564 other spellers, at the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

The seventh-grader at Winterhaven School in Brooklyn was eliminated in the third round of the Scripps Bee after missing letters in “putrescible”, which describes gunky matter that is likely to decay or undergo putrefaction.

“It was interesting. I met a lot of new people,” Chang said in a phone interview from the Capitol. “We’re not really focusing on the cameras. We’re focusing on the words.”

In early March, Chang took first place among 43 contestants from local middle and elementary schools during the Regional Spelling Bee at Portland’s Hollywood Theatre, as previously reported in THE BEE. The battle of words ended with Chang successfully spelling the word P-E-R-S-I-A-N.

The 12-year-old said her love of reading has been the key to her achievement. She aced the second round of the Scripps Bee after recognizing her word – ratafia – from a book she had read recently. (For those who don’t recognize the word, ratafia is a type of almond-flavored macaroon.)

“Other than brushing up on the roots and what not, you can’t do a lot to prepare,” Chang said. “It’s been a really fun time.”

The only other Oregon participant in the Scripps Bee, Nyssa School District student Arcadia Corn, was also eliminated in the third round after misspelling the word “meerkat”.

In the end, this year’s Spelling Bee ended in an unprecedented eight-way tie for first place after twenty rounds, and after all eight had correctly spelled the final 47 words in a row. This year’s contest ended when the clock reached midnight – with each of the eight winners receiving the full $50,000 cash first prize. They were six boys and two girls, aged 12 to 14.

The Pamplin Media Group, of which THE BEE is a part, has sponsored the Regional Spelling Bee for the past 16 years. The three-day Scripps National Spelling Bee, a lexicographical tradition since 1925, is broadcast live on Disney’s ESPN Sports cable/satellite network.

Firestone, auto service bay, car fire, Powell Boulevard, Southeast Portland, Oregon
Above the auto repair bays at the Powell Boulevard Firestone auto-care facility, considerable soot reflects the heavy smoke when a vehicle inside caught fire. It was quickly extinguished, and traffic resumed on Powell. (Photo by Eric Norberg)

Smoky car fire halts traffic on Powell Blvd

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Traffic backed up in both directions of S.E. Powell Boulevard for a short time after a fire broke out in the service bays of the Firestone Complete Auto Care store on Thursday morning, June 20.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews were dispatched to 4601 S.E. Powell Boulevard at 10:29 a.m. A Portland Police Bureau officer said there was an early report that the fire had started with a gas tank explosion, but that apparently was not the case.

Both Engine and Ladder Truck companies of Woodstock Fire Station 25 pulled up less than three minutes after the alarm was sounded. While one crew hooked up water supply lines and pulled hoses, other crew members made sure all of the shop’s occupants had left the fire area. Shortly afterward there were a total of 11 fire engines and trucks lining the north side of Powell.

The blaze was out quickly, but clearly there was some damage from the fire to be cleaned up.

“Prior to firefighters’ arrival, employees tried to extinguish a fire in the shop, and were unable to,” PF&R spokesperson Jesse Altig told THE BEE.

“Upon entry, firefighters found a vehicle on fire inside of the business, and extinguished it,” Altig said; adding, “This fire incident was recalled fairly quickly, with no injuries reported.” A loss figure has not yet been announced, nor has an official cause of the fire.



Joe Galati, buzz lightyear, retirement, Llewellyn Elementary School, Westmoreland, Portland, Oregon
Dressed in a “Buzz Lightyear” suit, Llewellyn Elementary Principal Joe Galati relaxes with the students before his last student assembly at the school. (Photo by David F. Ashton)
Joe Galati, knighting tie, Llewellyn School, Holy Family School, retirement, Westmoreland, Portland, Oregon
Before his last student assembly at Llewellyn Elementary, Principal Joe Galati demonstrates how to tie a “knighting tie” for a student. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Llewellyn School Principal Galati retires – but not for long

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

In recognition of the six years he’s led Westmoreland’s Llewellyn Elementary School, it was clear that the Sellwood-Westmoreland community esteemed Principal Joe Galati, at his last school assembly there, on Thursday afternoon, June 6.

Before he headed down the hall to the gymnasium, Galati talked with THE BEE about his time at Llewellyn, and his surprising future plans.

“I’ll be Principal here until June 27, when I’ll be retiring from Portland Public Schools (PPS) after 33 years,” Galati said, looking wistful. “I started my educational career with Portland Public when I was 22 years old, and I have truly enjoyed my 33 years with the school district. And, I’ve really, really, enjoyed my last six years so much being part of the Llewellyn community.”

Asked what, specifically, he enjoyed, Galati thought for a moment, and then explained, “It’s like pyramid: First is the kids; these kids are fabulous, incredible kids and bring me a lift; I’m excited every day when I arrive at school because I get to see these kids.

“The second side of the pyramid is our magnificent teachers, and what they do for our students, preparing them for their future education and for life.

“The third side is our parents; all of the books, technology, and staff can’t make up for having wonderful parents,” Galati remarked.

The solid base on which that pyramid sits: “It’s the community; our community has supported what we’ve done here so much, and together, we’ve done some incredible things.”

Galati referenced how THE BEE covered his first actions at the school: Getting parents and to help put up the playground; and later, installing a track around the school yard. “And, we created the mural in this building, so kids have current art being shown; and we published our newsletter, the Star Flyer – it’s wonderful, because our kids have written most of the stories that appear in there.”

Galati’s two-mile move
Galati observed that, while he’s at retirement age at PPS, he is only 55 years old, and he’s enthusiastic about remaining an educational leader.

“Over the summer, I’ll become the new Principal at Holy Family Catholic Church School in Eastmoreland; and, I’m really excited to start a new chapter in my life,” revealed Galati. “As one chapter of my life closes, another one has opened up, and I begin my next career, following the exceptional leadership that Principal Loretta Wiltgen has built at Holy Family.

“I will take with me the experiences that I’ve had in Portland Public, while I learn new skills. As a Catholic, I will practice my faith in a totally different way – one that would be inappropriate in a public school.”

As the Llewellyn students were being seated for Galati’s farewell assembly there, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero slipped into the building.

“As another school year closes, it’s an exciting time; often with leadership transitions,” Guerrero told THE BEE. “This is a special one, here at Llewellyn Elementary.”

Guerrero lauded Galati: “He is beloved; one of our most energetic, empathetic, inspiring school leaders. I’m pleased to be here at the year-end student assembly to surprise him by honoring him for his tenure here.”

During the assembly, Guerrero remarked that Galati’s career at PPS started as a teacher at Franklin High School, and subsequently took him to Whitaker Middle School, Harriet Tubman, and Robert Gray Middle School, before bringing him to Llewellyn.

“He’s been a stalwart here at Portland Public Schools, and I’m pleased to be here to honor him,” Guerrero said.

It came as a surprise
Going into the assembly, Principal Galati believed it would just consist of the usual end-of-the-year awards presentations – not knowing that the staff had secretly prepared a program in his honor, including the surprise visit by Superintendent Guerrero.

As in past years, the top student fundraisers were selected to spray Galati with cans of “Silly String” spray streamers (while he shot back at them).

But after that, leaders of the school’s fifth grade class presented their Principal a framed picture of the entire student body, with their fingerprints appearing on the matting surrounding the photo.

When students next brought out a professionally-made outdoor sign, featuring the school’s big blue star, to dedicate the school track in his honor, Galati struggled to keep his composure.

The final presentation was a “Tie Quilt” – a gift from the staff, quilted by music teacher Lavonna Zeller-Williams Bratschi.

“Seeing all of you here wearing your ‘knighting’ ties touches my heart,” Galati said, fighting back tears.

“I hope you know how special all of you are to me; you touched my heart more than you can imagine for the last six years. Thank you for giving me the honor of getting to know you. I love you guys, and thank you,” were Galati’s parting words.





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