Parkrose celebrates its 100th birthday in grand style

See the unveiling of the “Portland Immigrant Statue” and all of the associated festivities, including the parade and reception – and learn what this means to folks with deep roots in the community. It’s told in words and 23 colorful photos …

Parkrose High Broncos Cheerleaders are colorful part of the Parkrose Centennial Celebration.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although the Parkrose area was originally settled by three families in the 1840s, it wasn’t until 1911 that developers announced they planned to turn part of this rich farming area into a community.

On October 1, 2011, the Parkrose Centennial Celebration culminated with a dedication service, at which speakers honored immigrants – past and present.

  • See our “Making of the Portland Immigrant Statue” story: CLICK HERE.
  • See our Parkrose Centennial Barn Bash story: CLICK HERE.
  • See our Parkrose Centennial Family “Wild West Show & Movie” story: CLICK HERE.

Although the weather was grey and overcast and the crowds were threatened with rain, not a drop fell as more than 100 folks gathered under a large tent pitched in the circle where NE 99th Avenue dead-ends near NE Sandy Boulevard, just east of the Columbia Masonic Cemetery.

Just before the morning’s program begins, Joe Rossi, President of the Parkrose Community Foundation, shares a light moment with a member of the organization, Jason Zwick.

After warming up with coffee and baked treats, dignitaries, neighbors, and friends of the Portland Immigrant Statue project settled down, as Joe Rossi set the tone for the day’s activities.

“We wanted to do something nice for Parkrose’s birthday,” Rossi began. “Instead of buying ourselves a birthday present, we decided to do something nice for our City of Portland, to commemorate all the immigrants who came here all different countries.  We’re all here because somebody came from another place – bringing us rich cultural diversity in our city.”

Sculptor James Gion [wearing a brown hat] smiles, as he accepts recognition for the work he’s done on the Portland Immigrant Statue project over the past three years.

Rossi said the project he began several years ago – creation of the Portland Immigrant Statue – “really connects everybody. Typically, a statue commemorates a place, a time, a war – a person, and maybe a nationality. But this statue [is intended to] represent everybody. If you’re an immigrant here now, and it’s a symbol that welcomes you; if you’re visiting from another country, it says that we’re a welcoming people; and, to all of our residents in Portland, it represents how diversity is honored by our citizens.”

Introducing key individuals involved in the project, Rossi told how Parkrose-based sculptor James Gion patiently worked with him for three years. He praised the work of the bronze foundry that cast and installed the statue – operated by “a Parkrose guy, Jim Calcagno, whose family were farmers here.”

One of Parkrose’s most recognizable personalities, KATU’s Anna Canzano, tells how her family settled in Parkrose after immigrating from Taiwan.

Introducing the first speaker, Rossi observed that KATU-2 television news reporter Anna Canzano immigrated to Parkrose from Taiwan with her family when she was two years old.

“It’s a great morning,” Canzano reflected. “And, we’re all gathered here, next to a cemetery, and nobody has died! That’s remarkable!” Canzano quipped. “We’re here to celebrate 100 years of Parkrose.  You’ve got to wonder if Joe Rossi’s grandfather could have ever pictured a scene like this – dignitaries, neighbors, and friends, all here to celebrate 100 years – with a big statue!”

Next to speak, Anna Canzano told of her “interesting life” growing up in Parkrose, helping her now-69-year-old mother clean rooms and manage a 28-unit motel on NE Sandy Boulevard. It was quite a change for her mother who was 37 years old when she came here to Parkrose.

“It used to be called the East Portland Motel.  At the wise old age of 13, I told my mom that we needed to market ourselves better – and change the name to the ‘Prestige Motel’ – which my mother did.”

The TV newsperson regaled the audience with tales of the “colorful characters” who were in the area in those days, and what it was like for her to split her duty to the family business with going to school – eventually graduating from Parkrose High School.

Anna Canzano tells how her mother supported her desire to improve herself while living, working, and going to school in Parkrose.

Winding down her remarks, Canzano commented that “Long after the Pony Soldier Motel, the Jim Dandy Drive-in, and other landmarks may be gone in a hundred years, we hope the Portland Immigrant statue will still be standing.”

She then closed with a prayer, saying in part, “God, Thank you for this day, thank you for the blessings you brought Parkrose and each person here.  We thank you for the courage of those who came before us, laying the foundation for us today. May your peace help unify this diverse people in this community, for all the days to come.”

Parkrose School District board members Alesia Reese, James Woods Ph.D., Adair Fernee, VP Guy Crawford, Chair Ed Grassel, and Superintendant Dr. Karen Fischer Gray are recognized for continuing their efforts to provide quality education.

Ken Bello, project manager with Walsh Construction, who oversaw the construction of the “Parkrose Triangle” traffic island on which the Portland Immigrant Statue now stands, tells of his special connection to the project.

The next speaker was Ken Bello, project manager with Walsh Construction, who told of the special meaning the Portland Immigrant Statue has to him. (See his story, as told when the statue was being installed: CLICK HERE.)

Bello concluded by saying that, next to his family, “My most valuable possession is not my house or my car or any material thing. It’s that little blue book with the gold eagle on it that says ‘United States of America’. We’re privileged to be able to call ourselves Americans.”

Amelia Salvador says she feels privileged to have been able to work with Parkrose Centennial projects.

After introducing Parkrose Rose Festival’s Parkrose Princess, Taylor Ballard, Rossi asked the event planner for the summer’s centenary activities, Amelia Salvador of Trinity Productions, to step up and be recognized. Salvador thanked many of the volunteers whose efforts contributed the event, and added, “Thank you for all, for the pride that you show in supporting our community.”

Portland City Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz are introduced.

The theme of Portland City Commissioners Nick Fish’s talk revolves around two immigrant women who have been prominent in his life.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish was the last formal speaker at the event. “I am inspired by those who spoke before me. It reminds me that we all have a story about immigrants important to us. The two most important mothers in my life are immigrants.”

Fish talked about his mother, born in Montréal, Canada, who immigrated to the United States. “I lost her when I was very young, but she gave me the gift of life.”

He then talked about his mother-in-law, who came here from Spain, and who made sure her eldest daughter, now Fish’s wife, “did her best” in school. She did, and went on to earn Masters and Doctorate post-baccalaureate degrees. “Today, as we celebrate immigrants and opportunities, I want to pay homage to my mother, and to my mother-in-law.”

Minutes before the Portland Immigrant Statue is unveiled, Commissioner Fish tells how the project was accomplished without any public funding.

About the Portland Immigrant Statue, Fish said, “This is an incredibly important gift. I believe this statue is a statement of our fundamental beliefs as a nation of immigrants. It represents inclusion.  In America, everybody has an ancestor who came here as an immigrant. It symbolizes diversity, and Parkrose is one of the most culturally-diverse neighborhoods and school districts in Portland.”

The project also symbolizes the power of grassroots efforts, Fish added. “None of the funds from this effort came from public sources. If it were not for the generous members of the community represented here today, we would not have the statue.”

For his own efforts to bring Parkrose the Portland Immigrant Statue project, Joe Rossi receives a standing ovation.

Fish continued, “Interestingly, the man who is the reason why we’re here, Joe Rossi, is the person most embarrassed to get the acknowledgment. That tells you all you need to know about Joe Rossi! And, I also want to knowledge Amelia Salvador for her work on this project.”

In response, Rossi said, “Few things have the capability of outliving our lifetime, but this [statue] does. My hope is that in our second centennial, this statue will still be the symbol of our community.”

Joe Rossi asks Jamie Lim, of First United Engineering, to come forward to accept the 2011 Portland Immigrant Award.

Portland Immigrant Person of the Year announced
To conclude the morning ceremony, Rossi asked Jamie Lim, PE, PLS, of First United Engineering – he was the project’s architect – to come forward.

The criterion for selection as “Portland Immigrant Person of the Year”, Rossi said, is for an immigrant to have maintained a sense of pride about his or her country of origin, while nonetheless being proud to be an American. “The awardee will show that they are engaged doing charity work, and is really a model citizen.”

Emotion swelled in Lim as he accepted the award. “I thank you for the honor. I’m thrilled. I thank my wife and children for all their support. And, I thank Shelley Romero, from the Oregon Department of Transportation, for her support during the project.”

In the moment after its cover was whisked away, the group applauds as the Portland Immigrant Statue is revealed.

Hundreds gather around the Portland Immigrant Statue to take photos.

In the parade, 2011 Parkrose Rose Festival’s Parkrose Princess, Taylor Ballard, smiles at the crowd.

Here comes the parade, east along NE Shaver Street.

Reception follows ceremony at Parkrose High

The arrangement of these cupcakes suggests the reason for the celebration.

After the ceremony and the unveiling of the statue, the Parkrose Centennial Parade traveled from the Parkrose Triangle east to Parkrose High School, where a reception awaited revelers.

Behind the Parkrose Farmers Market, celebrants gathered near tents set up for the Parkrose Centennial reception.

Friends and neighbors gather to celebrate Parkrose’s 100th “birthday”.

“I’m so proud of Joe Rossi,” said Mary Brown of Bob Brown Tires. “His heart is so ‘for the community’; his vision and the drive made this happen.”

“I never did think I’d see a day like today,” commented David Ableidinger of Parkrose Hardware. “A lot of people had a hand in the project, but it takes one person to really get it started, and that person was Joe Rossi.”

Mary Walker, Chair of the Parkrose Neighborhood Association, said, “I am so thrilled. Parkrose is the City’s international gateway to the world, through Portland International Airport. The Portland Immigrant Statue is representative of all the folks who come to visit and live here. Joe Rossi and all of the supporters and volunteers have given a beautiful and incredible gift to our community.”

Representing the Parkrose Business Association at the celebration are Debby Codino, Marsha Lee, Kyle Zeigler, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Bob Roberts, Alison and Wayne Stoll, and Sharon Roberts.

Ready to cut one of the ceremonial cakes are Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Parkrose School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Fischer Gray, Parkrose Farmers Market Master Steve Voorhees, Parkrose Business Association President Wayne Stoll, and Parkrose Neighborhood Association Chair Mary Walker.

As the cupcakes were snatched off the display, and the delightfully decorated and delicious cakes were cut and distributed, Joe Rossi watched the throng of celebrants.

Referring to a comment he made during his remarks at the dedication earlier that day, Rossi said, “I always talk about my dad in the present tense. Actually, I think about my dad all the time. He’s always present-tense to me.”

Asked what his dad, Aldo Rossi, might have thought of the day’s events, Rossi responded, “Dad would have been so happy. He loves a party, he loves community, and he loves the school. He would have been the happiest person they are today, had he been here.

“Today, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the participation,” Rossi added. “When I saw people who came out for this, I really felt overwhelmed and humbled. There were so many nice people that helped me throughout this project. Having everyone together in one place made it real special.”

The Walker family – Elizabeth and Mary stand with Brian Walker – he  created the steel “Parkrose Time Capsule” – as they present it to Joe Rossi. It will be buried near the Portland Immigrant Statue after being filled with mementos.

Sculptor James Gion talked with East Portland News about his statue, now that it’s completed. “It’s really gratifying to see it all done, and having come out so well.  It represents what [the project organizers] wanted.”

Asked how he felt about gaining some sense of immortality through the Portland Immigrant Statue, Gion put things into perspective. “Nothing is immortal, everything goes away. Everything is a conscious state of flow.  Everything changes, some things change faster than others, but everything changes.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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