If you haven’t seen ‚Äì and heard ‚Äì this band, read this article and find out why you should look for their next performance ‚Ķ

Under the baton of co-conductor Fev Pratt, the Portland Metro Band starts off the second half of the evening’s program.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Many people love good, live, orchestral band music – but hate the high-ticket prices charged for downtown performances. Nor are they thrilled with fighting for a parking place, after battling traffic to get there.

But, the hundreds of folks who filled the Howard Horner Performing Arts Center at David Douglas High School a couple of weeks ago enthusiastically received the holiday performance of the Portland Metro Band.

The concert, co-directed by Jay Burchak and Fev Pratt, provided a full evening of musical entertainment, ranging from marches to rhapsodies, plus Christmas music.

Trumpet-soloing “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are Jay Burchak, Mike Claritzio, and Larry Demas.

Started as the Milwaukie Elks Big Band, the Portland Metro Concert Band now numbers 45 musicians. The band includes amateurs, as well as musicians who play professionally. Members represent many fields of endeavor–including medicine, education, law enforcement, and computer programming.

All of the musicians and directors are volunteers. The band is a non-profit organization, and accepts donations at their concerts to defray their operating expenses.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

You might be surprised to see what happened on New Year’s Eve when we went on patrol with one of Portland Police Bureau’s finest ‚Ķ

Officer John Billard, a three-year veteran at Portland Police Bureau East Precinct, checks a driver’s identification and writes Traffic Safety Notice to a driver ‚Äì his first one for the new year ‚Äì in the early hours of 2007.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
To most people, New Year’s Eve is an occasion to go on the town, raise the roof and party heartily, or celebrate the New Year at home.

But to many service workers, including cops, the evening hours of December 31 are merely another scheduled working shift.

On the town, on patrol
Just before 10:00 p.m., we grab our camera bag and slide into the patrol car staffed by Officer John Billard, a three-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct.

This is the first time he’s pulled a New Year’s Eve shift, the officer tells us. “By all accounts, it will be like any of the other holidays. Some people will get a little drunk and goofy.”

Billard is assigned to patrol District 40. It’s comprised of the greater Parkrose area and part of the Gateway district. It runs from SE Stark St. north to NE Sandy Blvd.; from I-206 east to Gresham.

As we set out on patrol, our area is quiet. Radio calls are infrequent. We learn that, for years, Billard worked for Macy’s in Arizona, doing “loss prevention”. Impressed with his local cop’s professionalism, he decided to change profession and become a law enforcement officer when he moved to the Portland area.

Looking for trouble
“We’re focusing on SE 160th between Burnside and Stark St.,” Billard tells us. “There’s lots of criminal activity here.” We take a slow drive through several of the apartment complexes along the way.

A manager of one of the apartment buildings walks up to the car and greets officer Billard. “We’re watching a unit here,” the manager tells the officer, “I found out they’re friends of the occupants we kicked out last week. Thanks for coming by.”

We get a radio call and head north, responding to a “panic alarm” on NE 157th Ave. between NE Broadway and Schiller. Billard meets the homeowner who says he saw someone in his garage. Another officer arrives, and both cops carefully check the home and yard. “We didn’t find anything,” Billard says, as he “clears the call”. “But we’re here to serve.”

A young man is reported shooting a BB gun at passing vehicles from his balcony. It’s at the apartments we’d just visited at SE 160th and Burnside. After checking out the complaint, Billard reports, “There were conflicting stories. We didn’t find enough ‘probable cause’ to make an arrest.” Most likely, he adds, police presence was enough to get them to stop doing it, if they were.

After neighbors flag us down, reporting activity a closed business on NE Sandy Blvd. in Parkrose, Officer Billard does a “premise check” and finds all to be secure.

Hunt for a fugitive
It’s now 30 minutes ’till midnight. Billard says he’s looking for a fugitive. The patrol car’s computer shows the female fugitive’s credentials: Arrests for prostitution, drug distribution, mail theft, fraud ‚Äì this would be a good person to get off the street before the New Year starts, he says.

He’s joined by two additional officers along NE Fremont St. in Parkrose. “She ran out the back door and got away last night. We’ll see if we can pick her up tonight.” But, the woman isn’t at the residence tonight. “We’ll get her another night,” Billard says.

Fireworks at the midnight hour
Minutes tick by. It’s midnight. As the New Year arrives, fireworks light up the East Portland sky. Celebrants at NE 148 and Glisan appear to be careless with Roman Candles. Billard talks with them briefly, they agree to be more careful.

“Compared to any other weekend night,” Billard comments, “I’m surprised at how quiet it is.”

We drive past Gateway and Parkrose businesses, including the bingo hall on outer SE Stark Street – and observe that the parking lots are filled to capacity.

A headlight is out on a white Honda driving east on Stark St. “We’re tasked to stop all vehicles with equipment violations,” Billard stays. “It gives us the opportunity to check in on the driver. We write a warning ticket if they appear sober.” The driver, a waitress just off work at Hooters, does appear sober, Billard says.

Ready for action, but all is quiet
The madness and mayhem one might expect on the New Year’s Eve shift never materializes. We ask the officer if anything has surprised him since becoming a cop.

“People say this is ‘thankless’ job,” Billard replies. “But, I’ve been thanked by citizens countless times. Not that I’m doing this job to get praised; it is still nice to know that the good people in East Portland appreciate what I ‚Äì and all of our bureau ‚Äì do out here every day and night.”

The officer pauses and a small smile breaks across his face. “The other thing is, until you actually are on the job,” he says, “it doesn’t occur to you how widely varied are some people’s ‚Äì how should I put it ‚Äì level of personal hygiene. It was more than surprising. The smell wasn’t anything I was prepared for.”

Designated drivers prevent problems
We see the driver of a gold Camry pull in front of us from a side street as we make our way west on E. Burnside St. A tail light is out. Officer Billard “lights them up” with the patrol car’s brilliant blue and red flashing lights. The driver pulls into the parking lot of an apartment building. “Sometimes, drivers try to ditch us in a parking lot,” he says.

An equipment violation leads to this traffic stop. However, the “designated driver” was, indeed sober.

Billard returns to the patrol car with the identification of the three occupants. He queries the computer and finds, as they told him, the two male riders indeed live in the building. The female driver is sober. “She’s doing the right thing tonight, by being the designated driver for her friends.”

On into the early morning hours of January 1, we continue to monitor the local party spots.

In the parking lot of Boss Hogg’s on SE 102nd, we see one person taking the car keys of another. “We’ll get your car in the morning,” was the promise we hear being made. The drunken reveler wants to argue, but sees our police cruiser stopped across the street. He accepts the ride.

It’s well after 1 a.m. The streets of outer East Portland are empty.

Lights go out at residents and businesses across the district. No murders, fights, nor drunken wrecks take place on this watch. “There wasn’t a lot of action,” Billard says as he drops us off in the cold morning air, “but perhaps, because we were seen on patrol, we saved a life or two.”

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Officials say this serious accident could have been avoided …

The victim’s shoes were all that remained at the scene when a woman and baby were struck on New Year’s Eve crossing SE Foster Rd. west of SE 82nd Avenue of Roses.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For all the partying going on across outer East Portland on New Year’s Eve, most folks here were behaving safely.

Early in the evening, however a woman and a baby were seriously injured when they were hit by a car about 8:00 p.m. on December 31.

Officials told us it looked as if the woman was crossing SE Foster Road, west of the SE 82nd Ave. of Roses intersection, not at the light. “We see many people jaywalking here, to avoid waking the few extra feet to cross at the light,” an officer said at the scene.

SE Foster Rd. was blocked for hours while the accident was investigated.

We were told the car’s driver immediately stopped and cooperated with officers.

The woman, carrying an eight-month old infant, was said to be dressed in dark colored clothing, making her difficult to see on the rain-coated street.

Police did not say if the driver of the car was facing any charges.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

They don’t know what started the fire ‚Äì but, thanks to quick response, residents and pets are safe ‚Ķ

After finding their way through thick smoke into the basement of this home, firefighters from four companies quickly extinguished the fire.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
An early afternoon house fire broke out January 4 and closed down NE 102nd Ave. at Fremont St. for several hours.

“I was just up the street, and saw a lot of smoke coming up,” is what next-door neighbor Tina tells us. “I thought it was from my house. By the time I got home, I could see it was my neighbor’s house.”

Fast fire response saves home, lives
Other neighbors say fire trucks were pulling up before they even knew there was a problem at the modest bungalow on the outer edge of the City of Maywood Park.

Crews from four engine companies and one truck company from Portland Fire & Rescue began fighting the fire.

“We’ve got a fire in a residence,” Portland Fire & Rescue’s Battalion Chief C2 Kevin Brosseau told us on scene. “It started in the basement. There were people at home when the fire broke out. But, the residents, and their pets, got out safely.”

While the Battalion Chief said fire damage was minimal, the smoke residue on the front windows indicates the residents have some cleanup work ahead of them.

The fire was difficult to reach, Brosseau said, because of the large amount of smoke they encountered. “A smoky, basement fire is always more challenging to fight.”

How the blaze started the fire is unknown, he said. “The cause is under investigation right now.”

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Take a look, and see the award-winning,
dazzling displays right here …

The home of Mark LaFerte, on NE Broadway St. in the Wilkes Community Group, took first place.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The day before Christmas, judges combed the Wilkes neighborhood, in search of holiday-decorated homes.

According to Ross Monn, chair of Wilkes Community Group, the winner was Mark LaFerte for their home on NE Broadway St.

The Swanbergs won the second place with their classically-decorated home and yard.

Second place, Monn told us, went to the Jim Swanberg family on NE 150th Place.

Coming in third was the home of Connie and Frank Garwald, on NE San Rafael St. On the occasions we passed by their home, their decorations were turned off – but we could still see they put great effort into their display.

“What made this contest possible,” Monn said, “was the gracious contribution of US Bank’s 181/Glisan branch, which stepped up and provided the prize money.” The branch manager, Daniel Corcoran, told him they were glad to participate in this Wilkes tradition, and help the neighborhood, Monn related.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Usually, Mayor Tom Potter is called upon to speak when he appears at events throughout the city. But find out what he learned from his “10 Minutes with Tom” session in inner SE Portland ‚Ķ

Neighbor Thomas Walsh gets his “10 Minutes with Tom” Potter at the SMILE Station on November 18. He brought up noise in city parks, and encouraged the city to use ecological friendly products in city projects.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Usually, when Mayor Tom Potter makes an appearance outside of City Hall, he makes a speech or proclamation. But, when he visited the SMILE Station on November 18, he was there to listen.

With a staff member at his side taking notes, Potter spent the morning in Sellwood giving area residents the chance to have “10 Minutes with Tom” to vent their concerns, make suggestions, or praise the city’s administration.

Mayor Potter, and his next citizen, Thomas Walsh, allowed us to check in and learn what he’d heard that he found interesting.

Community Center funding
“It is all interesting,” the Mayor began. “What I like about this is, I learn so much more about what is going on than I’d learn sitting behind my desk.

“One issue that has come up is about funding for the community center. A year or so ago, the City Council decided they’d like communities to provide more financial support for community centers.

“So, Sellwood has been struggling with that issue. They devised a couple of plans they wanted to talk about. One is to have the city provide an endowment for the center. It would draw the interest that could be used to offset the cost of the facility. Commissioner Saltzman and I will meet with some the representatives of the community to talk about it. I reminded them that if we do this for the SMILE Station, we’ll have to do it for all the community centers. That gets to be expensive.”

Focus on the Sellwood Bridge
“Another thing we’ve heard about is the Sellwood Bridge. As you know, the structure is slowly moving ‚Äì shifting ‚Äì and starting to have structural problems. It has to be replaced.

“With what it will be replaced is of great concern to this community. One of the things I’ve heard indicates much of the bridge’s traffic starts in Clackamas County, not Sellwood.

Neighbor fumes over odors
“There is an industrial site in Sellwood emitting some noxious fumes that a number of people in the neighborhood are concerned about. It’s making their eyes water.”

Their concern, he added, is there might be health hazards from the fumes. “We’ll be talking to the owners of the facility and see if there can be a cleaner on their exhaust system. If not we’ll try to work with DEQ to fix the problem.”

Neighbors tell Potter that out-of-town relatives said they couldn’t believe an ordinary citizen could talk with the mayor of a large city like they can here in Portland.

Says talk with mayor unique in big cities
Not all of what Mayor Potter said he heard was gripes or problems.

“A man came in with his son, this morning. They’d had a family council last night. They discussed what to talk with me about. A family member from Syracuse, NY was listening in, and commented that it was ‘interesting that out here on Portland, Oregon, that the mayor would meet with people’ to talk problems and issues they identified were important.”

As it turned out, the mayor related, this father and son were also worried about the future of the Sellwood Bridge. “They were also concerned about increasing traffic in their neighborhood. When the Springwater Corridor Trail was put in, it increased the bicycles in Sellwood. So, the conflict between bicycles and cars has increased. They’ve noticed near-accidents. Their request was to see if speed bumps or stop signs could help.”

With that, the mayor went “back to work”, listening to, and learning from, some of the people he governs.

© 2006-7 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Operate a business southern outer East Portland? See why you might consider dropping by the next Midway Business Association meeting on January 9 …

APNBA president Pat Donaldson came by to tell the group about new grant programs available to help business districts grow and prosper.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
More and more business people, located in the southern portion of outer East Portland, are making their voices heard by supporting Midway Business Association.

But, this association isn’t just about taking. Come to their next luncheon meeting and you’ll probably learn something you can use in your business.

At their last meeting, for example, members got an update on their business district sign program from president Donna Dionne. She said they were working with both PDOT and ODOT to get the boundary signs, identifying their service area, in place.

Funds for the signs, she said, came through a grant program designed to help people more closely identify their business district with the neighborhood.

Association news
Patrick Donaldson talked about the Affiliation of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations’ (APNBA) new grant program, and helped the Midway business people formulate plans to utilize a second round of grants provided by the city. “My organization,” Donaldson related, “the Hollywood Boosters, face the same challenges as Midway.”

Donaldson said the, APNBA, the umbrella association for neighborhood business groups across the city, hopes to grow. “We plan to be self-sustaining within the next three to five years,” he said.

Telling members how domestic violence hurts businesses as well as individuals, Jill Rachel shares information gathered from her work in the field for the past 20 years.

Quelling violence
Jill Rachel, with the Multnomah County Family Violence Council, spoke regarding domestic violence.

Rachel said one in three women will be a domestic violence victim. “I was a victim. It is a prevalent problem. But, many people don’t talk about it.”

Physical violence, such as being punched, choked, or having hair pulled is typically reported. “But often the ongoing emotional abuse, which can be worse, never makes it into the statistics.”

The cycle of domestic problems
Rachel said that most violent relationships don’t improve on their own. “There is a cycle: People are happy, then tensions build, violence breaks out, and then comes apologetic behavior.”

Most men abuse women for a number of reasons, she told the group. Sometimes it’s due to alcohol drug or anger issues. “But it boils down to this: People who abuse other people lack self control of their own lives. They feel like the gain control of their own lives by controlling another person.”

Workplace repercussions
“75% of women work. Many women, who are in an abusive relation, report that they are harassed at work. Domestic violence causes increased business healthcare premium costs, loss in productivity and absenteeism. This can reduce the productivity of other staff members.”

Chance of being killed higher if they leave is hire than if they stay. Afraid, scared, ashamed. Most of the guys can act charming. They get away with it.

Rachel suggest employers develop a domestic violence workplace policy. “Using posters and flyers, try to be understanding and supportive, letting workers you know that domestic violence a crime.”

Other actions employers can take is to refer affected employees to services designed to help the victims.

Make life less taxing
Come on January 7 and learn how to minimize your taxes in 2007!  Stop by Bill Dayton’s Pizza Baron on SE 122nd Avenue at Division Street at 11:45 a.m. to network, learn and support your local business district.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See how the songs and stories of these volunteer entertainers brightened the holidays for some of East Portland’s elderly ‚Ķ

Kevin Minkoff–the producer, MC, and entertainer–was joined by Forrest Palamountain, Nancy Chapin, chamber president Greg Zuffrea, and Frank Ryan, as they performed holiday favorites for CherryWood residents.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
A volunteer group of entertainers from the East Portland Chamber of Commerce–The East Portland Minstrels–took the stage at Cherrywood Village on December 16.

The show’s producer, CPA Kevin Minkoff (not your ordinary bean counter), was the master of ceremonies; he also sang Christmas tunes, and kibitzed with the other performers.

Nancy Chapin, of The Support Group, expressively performed a reading giving convincing reasons to believe that why, yes, there is a Santa Claus. The Chamber’s president, Greg Zuffrea, of BC Graphics, told the story of how the Grinch couldn’t steal Christmas from the citizens of Whoville.

Also telling stories and singing songs was the incomparable raconteur Frank Ryan, of NW Senior & Boomer News. His tales and tunes left smiles all around.

And, adding some real class to the program was violinist Forrest Palamountain, son of chamber member Jill Palamountain, who is with Action International. This young man’s dedication to music showed brilliantly in his flawless performance of classical music.

Want to learn more about the East Portland Chamber of Commerce? Check out their web site: www.eastportlandchamber.com.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

After growing for 85 years in Southeast Portland, the removal of this Giant Sequoia was not easy task …

For longer than eight decades, this Giant Sequoia has been an Eastmoreland landmark.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Dying trees having to be removed aren’t much of a story. But when building contractor Michael Harding alerted us that a Giant Sequoia was about to be removed, we took a look.

“Marian Bowman and her family moved here for over two decades ago,” Harding told us. But she wasn’t home today: “She couldn’t stay here and watch her favorite tree being cut down.”

Harding said the homeowner had spent thousands of dollars over the years in an attempt to save the tree. But, both the city and neighbors were concerned because branches kept falling off and showing other signs of disease.

Next door neighbor Candace Primack and her daughter Rachel say they’re sad to see the giant tree removed.

Concerned about the tree toppling
“We could see the base of the giant tree from our window,” said next-door-neighbor Candace Primack. “I remember how fun it was to look out and see the huge trunk, covered with snow in the winter, or surrounded with plants in the summer. It’s something you’d expect to see in a forest.”

But, more and more, the limbs were dying, Primack stated. And it’s started to lean ‚Äì toward their home ‚Äì markedly over the past two years. “Especially during a wind storm, it was a real concern. As large as it was, if it fell over, it would crush our house.”

Having lived there for 12 years, Primack said she and her family were sad to see the tree go. “It is a historical part of the neighborhood.”

“The owner told me many times that the bought the home mostly because of the tree. I know she loved it and is heartbroken that it has to come down. It makes me sad for her that it will be gone,” the neighbor commented to us, as she watched workers saw off the Giant Sequoia’s remaining branches.

Arborist Tim Beiswanger (standing) works out a strategy for removing the tree safely with the massive crane’s operator.

Huge crane removes Giant Sequoia – in sections
“This Giant Sequoia used to be 180 feet tall,” said Tim Beiswanger, a “high climber”, in charge of safely removing the tree.

About 85 years ago, Beiswanger said, a botanist came up from California and brought Sequoia starts with him. “He’s the reason there are Giant Sequoias around here.”

Beiswanger agreed it’s sad to see any old-growth tree removed. “But I do get a kick out of doing high climbing. It’s quite a view up there. I can see downtown Portland, Mt. Hood, and Mount St. Helens from the top.”

The arborist explained that the Sequoia has been dying slowly, from the top down. “Now that it has started to lean over, it’s time to remove it before it causes serious damage.”

A huge crane on a massive truck rumbled through the neighborhood. It took hours for the operators to set stabilizing jacks, put on the counterweights, and prepare for the lift.

After part of the trunk was hooked onto the crane’s lift line, the arborist cut off a section.

Beiswanger scampered up the tree’s towering trunk and set the choker — a loop that secured the tree to the crane’s lift line. He a chain-sawed portion off the tree, and the crane lifted it, then deposited it in the bed of a waiting truck.

The immensity of the tree came into focus, as portions were lowered into a truck.

Within a few hours, the Sequoia was standing there no more. We were told the last section lifted out weighed in excess of 14,000 pounds.

Rings on the section close to the base of the trunk indicate rapid growth for most of its life in Eastmoreland.

Looking at the rings, Beiswanger pointed out that the tree grew about an inch in diameter every year for decades. “It still was growing about a half-inch a year.”

The tree will live on, as art, the arborist said; the wood is destined for a decorative carver located just south of Oregon City on Highway 99E.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Many people haven’t heard of, much less celebrate, “Bill of Rights Day”. See why freedom activist Renee Kimball took it upon herself to organize a party to celebrate the signing of the amendments to the US Constitution ‚Ķ

Party organizer Renee Kimball reads the Bill of Rights to a crowd packed in the museum at “The Bomber” restaurant.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
American people live to celebrate all kinds of events. Sellwood resident Renee Kimball says she doesn’t understand why folks don’t observe Bill of Rights Day. But she’s determined to change that.

“This little-known holiday,” Kimball tells us, “commemorates the signing of the first Ten Amendments to the United States Constitution in 1791.”

We talk with Kimball at the Bill of Rights Day party she and her friends are throwing at The Bomber Restaurant’s “Wings of Freedom” aviation museum in Milwaukie on December 15. “It’s a fitting place, don’t you think?” she asks.

Most important to her, Kimball says, is that people understand that the Bill of Rights is the legal documentation that protects the freedoms and privileges enjoyed by United States citizens.

“There is big difference between a constitutional republic and a democracy,” Kimball explains. “Hitler and Mussolini were elected by democracies. The word ‘democracy’ isn’t in the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, nor Bill of Rights. It was not by accident our nation’s founders specifically created a constitutional republic.”

The year before, Kimball says, she celebrated the day by reading the Bill of Rights and handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution in a corner of Pioneer Memorial Square in downtown Portland.

“It occurred to me that people were more interested in enjoying their freedoms than learning how to protect them,” says Kimball. “So I decided to make a bigger deal out of it this year.”

Gordon Leitch tells the Bill of Rights Day celebrants the historical importance of the document.

Freedom fest at The Bomber
More than 50 people attended this year’s Bill of Rights Day party, the first event of its kind ever held in Oregon.

During the opening social hour, freedom revelers enjoyed a beautiful spread of finger food, talked, and explored the museum’s exhibits.

Then, the gathering sat to hear Gordon Leitch present a short history of the Bill of Rights. Kimball read the Bill of Rights to an attentive audience.

We rubbed our eyes to make sure we weren’t seeing ghosts, as Benjamin Franklin gets ready to step off the pages of history and into the celebration.

A special “mystery guest speaker” scheduled to close the ceremony was Ben Franklin himself, well portrayed by Steve Jordan, impersonator extraordinaire.

Plans are in place, Kimball tells us, to repeat and enlarge the celebration next year. For more information or to be invited next year, contact Kimball at 503-238-6973 or Renee@EnufWaste.com.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Read why so many of Robbie Pfeifer’s friends will be saying their final good-byes at a service this weekend to this manm slain by a stranger with a gun ‚Ķ

Friends say Robbie Pfeifer was a regular fixture here at the “Wetlands”, playing pool and listening to music, after he worked his evening shift at the Parkrose Shari’s Restaurant.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
A disagreement between two women, late on Christmas night, turns into a scuffle at a landmark pub on outer SE Stark St., “Wetlands Public House”.

The physical altercation soon includes several individuals, police detectives say, and then — a 21-year-old man pulls a gun and shoots.

Police roll on-scene shortly after 1:30 a.m. and find 28-year-old Robert Carl Pfeifer, “Robbie” to all who speak of him, lying dead on the establishment’s floor.

Detectives interview 15 of the 40 or so people on hand to celebrate the end of Christmas Day at the Wetlands. After the questioning, Lai Ngoc Thach is taken away in handcuffs, charged with one count of Murder.

Sorrow felt throughout outer East Portland

Everyone with whom we spoke says Robbie Pfeifer was a big, loveable guy who tried to soothe and calm situations wherever he went. (Contributed photo)

Tears well up in the large, dark brown eyes of Candy Woods, a fellow employee at Shari’s Restaurant in Parkrose, as she starts to talk about Pfeifer.

The two were within a year of being the same age she said. They’d been classmates a decade ago at Parkrose High.

“Robbie was a loveable goofy guy. He’d do anything to help people who needed his help.”

Woods shows us a photo she’d recently taken of Pfeifer. “I just got the film processed today. I’m afraid it might have maple syrup on it,” she says with a faint smile. “It’s been passed around a lot here.”

She learned what happened to Pfeifer when she came to work the following day. “Everything just paused. I don’t know how to explain the feelings I felt. I said to myself, ‘No, I don’t think so. Not Robby.’ I called his home and ‚Ķ” her words trailed off.

A “gentle giant”, the 6′ 3″, 230-pound Pfeifer often stood tall, trying to calm tense situations, Woods tells us. “To be honest with you, he’d break up fights and get people to calm down even when we were in high school.”

A coworker adds, “Last year about this time, he got a black eye from trying to break up a fight.”

This simple sign on the door of the San Rafael Shari’s Restaurant in Parkrose marks the passing of a beloved coworker and employee.

Shari’s customer Frank Ryan tells us he’d been waited on by Robbie for quite some time. “He’d goof around and say things like, ‘Oh, you’re back again!’ He had a big, warm smile that made you feel like you were special.”

Employees talk at the end of the counter. The grief they express to one another shows on their faces. Heartfelt phrases like “They say only the good die young,” and “I can’t believe he won’t be walking through that door” hang in the air. His coworkers struggle to make sense out of a senseless act of violence.

His boss, talking to customer Ryan, says, “Robbie was a peacemaker. In this case, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Alleged killer held without bail

Homicide detectives say customers at the “Wetlands” pointed out 21-year-old Lai Ngoc Thach as the man who shot Pfeifer.

Police arrested Lai Ngoc Thach, who lives in outer East Portland, at 6:30 a.m. on December 26, and is held without bail at the Justice Center Jail on one count of murder. He was arraigned the following day.

Detectives believe there may have been up to 40 potential witnesses inside at the time of the shooting; however, many fled the scene prior to police arriving. Anyone with information to contribute is asked to call Detective Brian Grose at (503) 823-0757 or Detective Bryan Steed at (503) 823-0395.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

We were shocked to learn that Multnomah County Sheriff Office Deputies were rounding up 80 children and checking them into the Inverness Jail just before Christmas. Read this story see what we learned about this incredible occurrence …

Some of the many Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office workers who put this unique party together stand by the piles of gifts they’ve wrapped for their guests.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Having covered so many events in outer East Portland over the past years, we thought we’d seen everything.

But when Lt. Jason Gates, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) spokesman, told us their organization was about to throw a party for kids at Inverness — the county jail — we changed our plans for the day and accepted his invitation to see this event for ourselves.

In the slammer
Clang, clack ‚Äì the door securely closes after we check in at the county jail. It gave this seasoned reporter a queasy feeling. Before this moment, we’d never been inside our metropolis’ working jail.

Those unsettled feelings evaporated when we entered a large training room at the facility. We were warmly greeted by Sandy Kaufman, Sheriff’s Operations Supervisor, a civilian staff member.

Sheriff’s office tradition continues
“Welcome to our 17th annual Holiday Party for Homeless Children,” she said. “Every year, all of the Sheriff’s staff members, uniformed officers, and civilian staff members all get together to we throw a big Christmas party for the Community Transitional School.”

Kaufman explained that this school provides an education for children of homeless families. “Most of these kids only experience public safety personnel in a highly emotional situation. It’s important to let them know we are here to keep them safe.”

“Our staff members pick out tags and we buy gifts for the kids,” Kaufman told us. “They each get two toys and two articles of clothing.”

It is a rare and unique moment as we experience Inverness Jail boss, (Left) Captain Ray Adgers, and (Center) Sheriff Bernie Giusto singing in harmony the holiday classic, “Jingle Bells”.

Mid-morning on December 15, the big jail bus pulls up to Inverness, and 80 bright-eyed kids pour out and into the training room, decorated in holiday colors. Student mentors from Wilson High School arrived with the youngsters, and helped out at the event.

MCSO Captain Ray Adgers, head of the Inverness Jail and the event’s Master of Ceremonies, got the festivities quickly underway by leading everyone in a round of Christmas carols.

Sheriff Bernie Giusto conducts a “Junior Sheriff’s Deputy swearing-in ceremony” that ends with the words “‚Ķ and to tell everyone my favorite color is ‚Ķ green!”

International comedy star rocks jailhouse

Showing off one his lesser skills, Rhys Thomas juggles six balls.

Then, Rhys Thomas, an internationally known comedy juggler, took center stage.

He may look like an ordinary juggler, but Thomas’ unique routines, comedic comments, and theatrical timing kept both adults and their guests in stitches.

Lunch and a visit from ‘The Big Guy’
After the show, the young guests were treated to a lunch featuring Izzy’s Pizza, and a visit by “The Big Guy” himself ‚Äì and we don’t mean the sheriff.

Santa Claus made his entrance, sat on his throne, and talked with each the kids. Then, the sheriff’s office volunteers bestowed upon the children their gifts.

Why do they do it?

“These children would not have a Christmas without us,” Kaufman explained. “And, it’s our special way of giving back to our community we serve.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

© 2005-2019 David F. Ashton East PDX News™. All Rights Reserved.

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