June 25, 2002 11:00 pm

Police officers came through

To the Editor:

On Saturday, May 18, law enforcement officers from the various agencies within Union County (city, county and state) ran or biked 84 miles as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run which raised money for Special Olympics around the world.

Their biggest contributor for the event was our local Wal-Mart store. It was the first year this event has been held in Union County in support of Blue Mountain Special Olympics and it far exceeded their goals.

These officers and Wal-Mart had no ulterior motive other than to give back to the community in a positive way because they obviously didn't have to do it. Officers volunteered endless hours of time to plan, raise pledges and participate in the torch run entirely on their own time and Wal-Mart donated more than they had originally pledged.

Without dispute, this effort was from the heart, especially if you were at the end

of the run and saw everyone's genuine enthusiasm.

On behalf of the athletes and volunteers of Blue Mountain Special Olympics I would like to give our sincerest thanks to law enforcement within Union County, Wal-Mart, and everyone else who contributed to the torch run. Special Olympics is extremely proud of these community partners and look forward to the future of our partnership. Because of all of you, the torch burns brighter for the athletes of Special Olympics.

Brian Fischer, local coordinator

Special Olympics

La Grande

Bound to be collector's item

To the Editor:

Congratulations on a wonderful first edition of the "Tribute to American Heroes" that came out in our newspaper May 27. You should all be exceedingly proud of your work and what you have contributed to the honor and history of these persons involved in World War II and to the education of our younger citizens.

This publication is sure to become a collector's item. Perhaps, in time, an updated second printing could contain many others who served but were not included, along with more stories of those times. We appreciate, too, those who contributed the photos and information.

George and Dorothy (Swart) Fleshman

La Grande

Truck story told

To the Editor:

On Sunday, May 26, it was my privilege to attend the evening events of the Boise Fire Department's 100th year celebration of their paid fire department.

Over the years I have met many of the Boise firemen and was pleased when one of the main topics being talked about was La Grande's old fire truck (one of the "Magnificent Seven") and more specifically, the presentation by our volunteer fire department's own Don Keeling.

The story behind the "Magnificent Seven" is one worthy of being told. Don, thank you for your dedication to our community and your willingness to share La Grande with others.

Vernon Slippy

La Grande

Article good resource

To the Editor:

In recent weeks there has been much discussion about a Wal-Mart superstore coming to La Grande. Comments, including those of The Observer editorial board, correctly express concern about the overall impact such a store will have upon local merchants.

Some might argue that local arguments pro or con are of necessity not without some bias. I recommend an article published in the October 1992 "Smithsonian Magazine" that is precisely on point.

It describes the impact when Wal-Mart came to town in rural Wisconsin and the ensuing struggle by local businesses within the community to cope with the economic earthquake that resulted. La Grande already knows this in part. One recently published letter suggested that the way for local business to deal with the incursion is to market products that Wal-Mart does not sell and thereby avoid direct competition. That is precisely the idea expressed to me by the owner of long-gone Coast to Coast Hardware. It is naive to believe that such a strategy can succeed.

The magazine article is available at the desk at the La Grande Public Library for anyone who may be interested to read it.

What the article makes clear is that the economic impact is pervasive and devastating within the entire community in many aspects.

Bruce Ferguson

La Grande

Add WWII names

To the Editor:

I have just finished reading the Tribute to American Heroes that was included with the Memorial Day paper. The Observer really outdid itself on this special section; it will remain a collector's item for years.

Somehow I missed the request for names of local World War II veterans. I have three family members who were not listed. If your data base is used again, I would like to get the names added to it.

This is something that the community can be proud of and will cherish for years to come.

Edwyn J. Wilson

La Grande

Better on Veterans Day

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter to express my opinion on The Observer's Tribute to American Heroes, published on Memorial Day.

I feel The Observer missed the purpose of Memorial Day. I was raised to believe Memorial Day was a day to remember our war dead and honor their families for their loss. This tribute would have been better served on Veterans Day with veterans from all wars and conflicts honored. I would pay extra for the history of our servicemen and women from Union and Wallowa counties.

I was a Marine in Vietnam and feel my comrades that were killed in combat were dishonored for not being remembered on this day by your paper. My other question is, why is only the Army symbol on the top of pages 51-63, which provided short histories on several who served? Why weren't the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Army Air Forces represented too?

Frank Taggart

La Grande

Editor's note: The symbol atop the pages was the U.S. seal from a letter President Harry Truman had sent to a family whose son was killed in the war.

Even mare knew importance

To the Editor:

To all those who produced the Memorial Day World War II section, thank you.

What a wonderful tribute you have provided for the people who served in the war. I enjoyed every aspect of it.

We all need to be reminded of the sacrifices the men and women made during their service. It was such a different time with so little communication from our family members who were serving.

Bernard McElroy was a young man who had been living with us and was a prisoner of war in Europe. I recall the day the letter came telling us he had been released and would be coming home.

I told my mother the old mare I had ridden to the mail box even knew it was important to gallop all the way to the house with that letter. He had health problems all the rest of his life from the starvation during his confinement.

My mother spent so many days and nights worrying about my brother, James McCrae, while he was gone. There are so many of these men who had serious problems due to their service and most of us didn't even realize why.

Thank you for helping us understand and appreciate their sacrifice.

Mary Burrows


WWII heroes often soft-spoken

To the Editor:

Thank you for your Memorial Day tribute to American heroes. That was one of the most profound and moving works I've seen in 30 years of reading The Observer.

Some of your outspoken readers have naively compared these greatest of Americans with modern-day terrorists. Hopefully these misguided apologists will eventually grow to appreciate the bloodshed to protect their freedoms.

Heroes of World War II are, more often than not, modest and soft-spoken. Sadly, they won't be with us too much longer. Their voices will all eventually be silent, but their stories will resonate forever.

Lyle Schwarz

La Grande

Who gave them right to purchase?

To the Editor:

Where did the three people that took it upon themselves to purchase the railroad for all the citizens of Wallowa and Union counties get all that power?

Some of us don't want the railroad but now we have it shoved down our throats. Why wasn't it put to the voters?

When that $7 million runs out, then what? It will be up to the taxpayers to foot the bill. They may tell you it won't come to that right now, but we all know different.There won't be enough business on the railroad to make it pay and then it could go broke. Where will the counties stand then?

The three persons that made the purchase were all elected by the voters. When they come up for re-election the voters will remember what they did and their political careers might be over.

Even if a dinner tour comes to pass, very few in this area could afford the price and tourists would find it would bite into their budget. Even if they did ride it, would they be able to get back to their vehicles at the other end? After riding it once they may not want to go again. What happens in the winter? What do our officials have planned for the off months?

I think the best thing was to give the right of way back to the former owners where they can let the livestock in to take down the weeds along the tracks. It would bring more taxes for the counties.

Maybe these three people don't care how trashy the right of way looks from the road when the weeds and grass are 5 to 6 feet high and tinder-dry. Some of us do care.When election time comes around, and it will, we will remember.

Gwen Storer