About the series

Real People stories are about people volunteering, doing good deeds, achieving, performing, enjoying the outdoors ... making the most of life in Union and Wallowa counties. Do you have a story idea or photo for this feature? Email acutler@lagrandeobserver.com .

A roomful of workers from Union County Public Works, the Imbler Fire Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office, the local post office and other organizations were recognized Saturday for their hard work during the harsh winter.

The Pleasant Grove Grange held an appreciation dinner for those who had to work even harder than usual fighting the elements this winter in Union County.

The area residents, who were especially hard hit by the extreme snow and winds, expressed their gratitude for the workers’ dedication. That was particularly true for the public works department employees in attendance, who worked around the clock to clear the roads, according to event organizers.

“We like to support the community,” said Vicki Correll, one of the grange members. “That’s one of our mission statements. The people who were out working had a hard time. This community is great and we like to support it.”

Theresa Butts, another grange member, said the grange hall held a similar appreciation dinner about nine years ago at the end of a bad winter — and this year was even worse.

“The road group worked double shifts this winter,” Butts said. “They didn’t have a life during that time. Then we had people in the community who were going out and looking for people to save.”

A highlight of Saturday’s event were the stories told of surviving the coldest winter in 24 years. Local residents told personal stories of when they were stuck in the snow and a neighbor helped them out, and the workers in attendance had stories of their own.

Pam Hardy, who lives in Elgin and works at the Imbler Post Office, said there were times during the winter when she stayed at a friend’s house because she wouldn’t have been able to get out of her own home. She recalled one day when she was the only worker who showed up to deliver the mail because everyone else was snowed in.

Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen said he wasn’t immune to getting stuck in the snow. He recalled a morning when he got stuck in a snowdrift, but luckily a Union County Public Works department employee came past and was able to get him out.

Public Works Director Doug Wright said his employees worked 49 days straight over the winter.

“There was always someone out there working,” Wright said. “Mostly everyone (in the community) was
understanding (about the time it took to plow roads). It was definitely a
winter to be had.”

Rex Harden and Rick Croghan, both public works employees, said it was an “extremely busy” winter. Their shifts were generally 12 hours, if not longer, during the whole of the season.

Wright said the grueling schedule was made easier at times, like when the Imbler School District made a card for his department and all the students signed their names.

“There were so many good people,” Wright said. “It goes a long way.”