Unsung heroes

My Thoughts

Dr. Bill AtwoodJanuary 31, 2013 

As I was riding through our community last week, it dawned on me that we have so many activities and events that take place which allow us to be entertained as well as raising many dollars for charitable purposes.

When somebody moves into this part of the world, they quickly learn of our community desire to help one another and our generous nature. This little community raises more than a million dollars every year to help underwrite causes such as Scouting, sports, Boys & Girls Club, scholarships, dance troops, rodeos, and a host of other worthy causes. It is just a part of our local traditions.

We often just join in on the fun and don't often think about how such a tradition got started. Who was the first one in the Oakhurst Kiwanis to conjure up the annual Pancake Breakfast? Which lady at the Catholic Church suggested selling See's Candy every year? Who decided that we should have a river parkway cleanup? The fact is that it really doesn't matter who that individual was, what really matters is that they thought it up and got it going.

Sometimes the idea comes along and other folks just jump on board and help get the job done. Those unsung heroes have really helped make this area a better place for all of us to live.

If you have visited the Oakhurst Community Center in the last 25 years, you have walked by a little statue dedicated to a wonderful lady by the name of Jo Arfwedson. Jo and her husband did much for this community and were certainly not even close to being wealthy financially.

After her husband had died, Jo, who had worked for years for the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce, heard -- as the other residents had -- about the deteriorating condition of the Oakhurst Community Center. Leaky roof, no heat, floors in a mess and no prospects for raising the dollars to improve the place. It seemed doomed.

When Jo died we cried and attended the service and then heard the surprise. The Arfwedsons had left their estate to the Oakhurst Community Center, and those dollars rebuilt and revitalized our center. She never heard the thank yous, but she was an unsung hero to be sure.

Marjorie Jackson down in Coarsegold helped to start the Coarsegold Historical Society in 1981 and with her dedicated spirit was able to get people to write down local histories of families, get a museum going, and begin such popular events as the "Stage Route Tour." She was to be honored in November as an "Angel Amongst Us" but she became a heavenly angel with her passing before she could hear the thank yous from the rest of us.

Jean Eaton was involved in so many different activities that raised dollars for various groups in our area. Jean was one of those people who joined a few organizations officially as a member, or in the case of the local Mountain Bear Fan Club, a "membear." But she also showed up to help other groups when they had an event.

Her willingness to take tickets, move tables, unload or load boxes, or sell items helped when staffing was really short in supply. She helped a great deal at the Oakhurst Library, and they will be creating a program that honors her.

She also helped at the "Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library" Sale, and made sure to load a number of books into boxes at each sale that were appropriate for the school library on my campus. Hundreds of books reached the hands of Mariposa school kids because a sweet lady with a great smile, a love of reading, and a loving heart bought those books. They will never know her name when they read one of those books, but she will have touched each life of each reader -- another example of an unsung hero.

When we lost Jean this past holiday season, it seemed fitting that she was here at Thanksgiving so that we could express our thanks for her activities and that she was gone by Christmas so that she could be "home for the holidays" with her husband, Bruce.

There are so many others who have been a part of that band of unsung heroes in this area who have passed through and left the place better, and there are many still around here.

It is interesting that visitors to our area will never hear of these ladies names, but those who visit here, and those who move here, can look around and tell themselves that thankfully folks like Jo, Marjorie, Jean, and others have decided to quietly improve the part of the world where they lived.

Boy, did they live.

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