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The Observer paper 12/26/14

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They've been there for our children. They've questioned, encouraged, sparked the interest and sometimes even cajoled our kids into learning.

They've been there for them — through tough times, through happy times, through inspiring times, through stressful times.

And now this group of educators — 30 of them in Union and Wallowa county schools — are stepping back from the classrooms, school offices, cafeterias and libraries that have been such a huge part of their lives. They are retiring.

Many of these retirees, such as La Grande Middle School Principal Doug Hislop, Elgin schools' technology coordinator Mike Hanson, La Grande High School choir teacher J. Michael Frasier, Wallowa physics and math teacher Doug Steele and La Grande elementary teacher Linda Whittemore have had careers in education spanning 30 years or so.

Some of them completed teacher training when they were in their early 20s and will not reach the standard retirement age for another 10 years. Some are motivated by the uncertainty of PERS (Oregon's Public Employees Retirement System) and are getting out now. A few will seek job opportunities in other fields.

Some will want to travel. Others will want to spend time with their grandchildren. Still others will want to pursue a hobby or a home occupation.

The Observer salutes the men and women of our area who have given faithfully of their energy and time to help educate our young people. The wisdom, knowledge, experience and core values they have shared both in and out of the classroom will impact our children for a lifetime. We wish these educators well as they move on to the next chapters of their lives.


Something needed to be done to remember those Grayback Forestry firefighters who were killed in a van accident in Colorado a year ago.

And that something will be a memorial service Saturday along with a monument to the firefighters presented by Grayback. The service is planned for 11 a.m. at the Blue Mountain Conference Center on the anniversary date of when the firefighters died. The monument can be seen at the service.

The five firefighters were killed when they were traveling from La Grande to the Hayman fire near Denver, and their 15-passenger van went off the road near Parachute, Colo.

Some of the family members of those who died — Retha Shirley, Batholomew Bailey, Daniel Rama, Jacob Martindale and Zach Zigich — will speak at the service. Eventually the monument will be placed in La Grande, possibly at a memorial park near the fire station.

Many area residents should plan to attend Saturday's service to honor those who died and welcome their families and friends to our city.


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