Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gary Cooper - Class of 1960

Wow, can you believe it’s been 50 years!

Betty and I are enjoying retirement in Beaverton, Oregon and recently celebrated our 46th anniversary. I retired in 1998 after 34 years with the U.S. Forest Service. Our two daughters, son-in laws and six grandchildren live in Tigard, OR, only about 10 miles from us. It is a real blessing to have them so close.

We keep busy with our grandchildren(our oldest is 6), gardening, traveling, hunting, fishing, crabbing, sewing (Betty), church, reading, wood cutting (We still heat with wood), and all of our miscellaneous hobbies. We recently enjoyed a trip to Israel and have a trip scheduled in September to Rome and northern Italy (sorry to miss the reunion).

After graduating from PAUHS in 1960, I worked the summer of ’60 on my uncle’s rice farm in Maxwell, CA, where I decided that I did not want to be a farmer! In the fall, I enrolled at Humboldt State College along with Mike Combs and Gary Phelps. I worked the summer of ’61 as a firefighter with the California Div. of Forestry at Clearlake and the summers of ’62-‘64 with the Forest Service. While at Humboldt, I met the girl of my dreams, Betty Covington from Trinity County. We were married in 1964. I graduated with a BS in Forest Management and accepted a forester/silviculturist position with the U.S. Forest Service at Coffee Creek Ranger District (RD) on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (NF).

In 1967, I was promoted to District Lands Officer on the Big Bear RD on the San Bernardino NF. I was responsible for land adjustments, land use, minerals and resource management. Some highlights at Big Bear were administering movie and TV use permits and overseeing a landmark Supreme Court decision involving a minerals case. Betty worked at the Big Bear Lake Sears Catalog store.

In 1971, I accepted the Land Exchange Officer position on the Tahoe NF at Nevada City, CA (we lived at Grass Valley). In addition to completing land exchanges, I became certified as a paraprofessional archaeologist and a qualified land and timber appraiser. Betty worked at the Grass Valley Credit Bureau until 1973 when our first daughter (Kelley) was born. She then worked even harder as a stay-at-home mom!

We moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1976 where I became the Forest Lands Staff Officer on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit with primary responsibility for a multi-million dollar land acquisition program. Some major acquisitions included Zephyr Cove Resort, Jennings’ Casino Site, Whittell Estate, Fibreboard and Harrah’s Beach Front. Our youngest daughter Megan was born at Lake Tahoe. While at Tahoe, I realized that something was missing in my life. I began attending church and became a born again Christian by accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. What a change in my life!

As with all Forest Service employees, there are “other duties as assigned” with a primary one being fire fighting. I have fought fires throughout the west, beginning as a “grunt” firefighter and then in other positions as crew boss, sector boss, intelligence officer, maps and records officer and plans chief.

In 1980, I accepted a position as Group Leader-Land Adjustments for the Pacific Northwest Region in Portland, OR. On May 18, I was driving our 1968 Cougar (which we still have) from Tahoe to Portland to report for work when I saw an unbelievable sight, the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. What a grand welcome to the Northwest!

In my new job, I immediately became involved in drafting legislation and land acquisition for the new National Volcanic Monument. In managing the land adjustment program for Oregon and Washington, I was responsible for land purchases, donations, exchanges and land status. I assisted Congressional staff in drafting legislation for nationally designated areas including Columbia Gorge, Mt. St. Helens, Hell’s Canyon, Wild and Scenic Rivers and Wildernesses. I also served on the Regional Planning Team, National Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management Interagency Team, and was unit leader on the National Lands Training Cadre. Other duties as assigned were several detail assignments to Washington DC.

When our daughters left the nest, Betty worked in interior decorating, Census Bureau, Post Office, and managed a booth at an antique mall on the Oregon coast. She has been active with the Machine Embroiderers of Oregon and Washington (MEOW) serving as area director and president.

Since retirement in 1998, we have been busier then when I worked full time!! But we are enjoying every minute! In 2004, my left hip finally gave out from a childhood disease and I had a titanium hip replacement, but it hasn’t slowed me down. Have a great reunion and sorry to miss lt.

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