Love of Learning: What we love about Philomath

Philomath comes from the Greek words “Philo” (which means “loving”) and “math” (which means “that which is learnt.”) You combine the two and you get Philomath or Love of Learning, which just so happens to be the name of this column.

This month we looked to discover what we love about Philomath. We placed a couple buckets of blank hearts and collection boxes at both Timber Towne Coffee and the Boulevard Apartments and asked people to simply write down on a heart what they love about Philomath and share what is in their hearts with the rest of us.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we thought we would share the hearts people submitted. The results were impressive as you can tell from the pictures. We got quite a few responses.

One of the first hearts we received said “the views of Marys Peak as they drive into town.” Another heart said, “beautiful views, and fresh air.” I think I can speak for all of us when I say we love the impressive views of Marys Peak. According to the U.S. Forest Service, Marys Peak is considered the “Queen of the Coast Range” at 4,097 feet. It is a beautiful natural jewel that we all love looking at as we drive, bike, hike or run through town.

Just as you drive into town you may notice the Boulevard Apartments (Blvd Apts), a large apartment complex that was just completed last year. Given that a lot of these people are new tenants and residents in Philomath, we put a collection box in the clubhouse there to see what was in their hearts.

One heart read “What I love about Philomath is my second job as a photographer and I love capturing the scenery here.” The next one read “Fabulous people, stunning vistas, short drive to the coast, the way people in Philomath see themselves separate from Corvallis.” Another heart read “I love the beautiful clean parks, trails, and natural areas. I also love the care for residents and promote connection such as the fireworks, tree lighting, Lions Club, etc!”

I read a heart that read “Summer Farmer’s Market and our wonderful firefighters who answered questions during fire season here.” Brittany Harris, one of the leasing specialists at Blvd Apts “loves the rodeo, small-town eats, scenery and small-town feel. Such a beautiful town that I get to work in.”

A woman named “Karen” shared a heart that read, “Philomath is a small town with a big heart.” Philomath College was established by missionaries from the Church of the United Brethren back in 1867. The old college building is where the school started. One of the hearts we received said “Love the College Building – Very Beautiful.” One heart said, “Christian Heritage.” That’s where these two things came from. The town that grew up around the college was incorporated as the City of Philomath back on Oct. 20, 1882.

Another read “I love that our streets are safe 24/7. I love that we show our love and concern for one another. I love that people are not ashamed of the name of Jesus Christ here!” There are plenty of places of worship that provide fellowship and support all kinds of spiritual beliefs. That is what we love about America! The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religious expression and assembly. It is a right protected by our Constitution.

Hearts arranged on a wall
Why we love Philomath (Photo by Eric Niemann)

Since Philomath started as a college, that takes us right back to why we love learning. We love that we are different. We embrace diversity in Philomath. We love to learn about people who think differently, believe differently or look differently. By understanding each other’s differences, we can become more understanding and compassionate neighbors.

One heart we received acknowledged this by saying that they love “the feeling that I can approach anyone in this town, and they’ll be friendly.” Another read, “everyone is your neighbor-love your neighbor as yourself.” We do not get this perfect always and probably never will. I love that we keep on trying.

When the pandemic hit this time last year, and Living Faith Community Church could not meet inside their regular meeting space due to social distancing guidelines, they opted to pull weeds and landscape the Philomath Post Office. The whole congregation showed up with hedge trimmers, weed whackers, wheelbarrows, chainsaws and even a tractor. They worked together to transform the landscape from an overgrown mess to a beautiful space that everyone in Philomath can be proud of. They spent time together as a church family and served others outside. That’s what freedom to assemble Philomath Style looks like.

The State of Oregon first became a state on Feb. 14, 1859, Valentine’s Day. You often see T-Shirts with the outline of Oregon with a green heart on it. That’s why. We love Oregon!

One of the next things you may overlook driving into town is the brown Fallen Hero Memorial highway sign that honors Cody Patterson. For those new to town, Cody graduated Philomath High School (PHS) in 2007. He was captain of the Philomath High School football team and was honored as Mr. PHS — a fundraising pageant which recognizes the senior who raises the most money for the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

After graduating from PHS, Cody enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, the exact same unit depicted in the popular movie Blackhawk Down. Cody was killed in action during his second deployment in Afghanistan on Oct. 6, 2013 by an improvised explosive device. The 3rd Ranger Battalion Commander described Cody as “the poster child for the Ranger Regiment. He was courageous and dedicated and lost his life while fighting tenaciously against our nation’s enemies alongside his fellow rangers. Philomath loves our hometown hero for his incredible sacrifice. Cody loved Philomath and he loved his country. Never forget him.

Many people in town love the American flag. Instead of a heart, someone erected an American flag on the pole by Cody’s sign. The Philomath Rotary Club places flags out along the couplet during every federal holiday. A lot of other residents display flags on their houses or apartments.

Happy Valentine’s Day inflatable heart
Philomath has a big heart. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

My son and I regularly drive around the couplet to try and count how many flags we see. During MLK’s Birthday holiday last month, we counted 63 by driving around the couplet. Considering it’s a small town, that’s a great show of patriotism. We love our country, and we love our flag. Patriotism is certainly on display in Philomath.

Presidents Day is Monday, Feb. 15, the day after Valentine’s Day. Presidents Day celebrates all former presidents. I encourage you to drive around the couplet next Monday and count the flags!

Speaking about red, white, and blue, we love our barbers. According to a story in the Gazette-Times, the first indoor plumbing in Philomath was inside the house of Guy and Dora Frink back in 1911. Reportedly, Guy was a barber that stood behind the same chair for 19 years in the town barbershop. We still love indoor plumbing and we also love to get our hair cut.

Taka Hirabayashi has cut hair on Main Street for 20 years and happens to be a huge Cubs fan, whose colors are also red, white and blue. Go Cubs go! You can also visit Stacey’s Funky Hair Salon, MAK Studios or the Shop Salon & Barber on Applegate. We all love to get our hair done. When we look good, we feel good.

Mary Torgerson shared that she “loves the caring school, the teachers, instructional aides, and administrators from 1995 to present who truly care about students and their parents.” She went on to highlight that both the Philomath Community Library and the upgrade to the Clemens football field area were all volunteer efforts! Philomath loves our volunteers!

Mary T also gave kudos to Clemens Primary School and Philomath Elementary Schools for having COVID 19 training for substitutes “and I was truly impressed with all the planning and logistics that went into having K-3 starting. … Will it be a challenge? Sure, it will! But together we all can make this happen! Truly a great and caring community we live in.”

Another heart said “excellent schools” on one side and mentioned “34 state championships” on the other. People love their kids and are passionate about all the schools and high school sports. The boys cross-country team just won a state championship in 2019. Both the Warrior boys and girls basketball teams were making runs for state championships last year only to have the OSAA State Tournament cancelled due to COVID. We still love Warrior basketball and are hopeful you’ll be back out on the court in 2021.

One heart said, “it’s a family town.” Another said, “I love the small-town feel. Everyone here is so awesome.” Another said, “the people.”

Daniel Rooke is a dentist who loves his Philomath Dental Office which he has owned and operated for 27 years. While relatively newer to town Dr. Taylor Bennion is a dentist at Mid Valley Dental on Main Street. Dr. Wade Haslam is a popular orthodontist and lives just outside of town. He has worked for decades making kids teeth straighter than a county road. All three of these dentists have kept us smiling. According to what’s in our hearts, there is a lot for us to smile about.

One of the hearts that came in said “I do love the bigfoot dude at the Meetin’ Place! He’s cooler than the rest.” Bigfoot showed up this fall. He must’ve been chased out of the mountains due to the wildfires. He was created by Walt Newman, a skilled metalworker outside of town. Bigfoot’s brother hangs out in Alsea somewhere (kidding … or am I?)

A few people love Dax. Dax is the friendly robot you see delivering everything from pizza to cookies to burritos to doughnuts to cinnamon rolls. Dax is the creation of a local company called Nova Dynamics owned by Joe and Kevin Sullivan. Dax makes kids giggle and smile as they stop, turn their heads and playfully interact with them. One heart said “Dax is a great addition to the community, so unique and fun.”

People love small businesses. A heart submitted by Lynette Tutt, of Care For Givers Massage Therapy, said, “I love having a thriving business in Philomath.” Multiple hearts indicated that we love Timber Towne. We love their biscuits and gravy, their coffee their thoughtful gift selection and the wonderful Marshall family that took the risk to open a sit-down coffee shop in January of 2020.

They want to bring us together. Two months after they opened, COVID hit. Despite that they keep on brewing up coffee and serving it with a smile. They partnered with June’s Kids Kloset to create a coat drive that collected 85 coats for kids in need. We love Timber Towne and the wonderful generosity of all our Philomath residents that contributed coats. We love that people care about others around here.

People also love Sissy’s Bakery and Eatery. Someone from the Boulevard Apartments wrote in gold lettering “I love Sissy’s donuts and the small-town charm!” Sissy’s just posted a donut alert on Facebook that they are now serving “heavenly-root beer float-explosion-blueberry snail and chocolate buttermilk.” What’s not to love? Just don’t tell the dentists we mentioned earlier, OK.

Just down the street from Sissy’s are two popular businesses. One is the Dizzy Hen that keeps people cluckin’ for some eggs, bacon and potatoes. If you’re not too dizzy walking out of there, just cross the street to Dirt Road Brewery located in the Old Bank Building. They brew a variety of beers right here in Philomath and serve pizza to die for. Their menu is painted on a pallet and they have tons of swag or a growler to buy a Valentine’s Day gift for someone you love.

If you stop by the Philomath Pharmacy, you can get some aspirin or perhaps a Valentine card for your sweetheart. People love the convenience of having a small-town pharmacy that can fill prescriptions right on Main Street. There aren’t too many rural pharmacies left where people know your name. We love that Philomath Pharmacy is still doing business smack dab in the middle of timber town.

If you step outside the pharmacy, you’ll smell some delicious BBQ on the grill next door at Eats & Treats. That’s Sandy McHenry in the cowboy hat tending to the grill over there. They serve an awesome plate of beef or pork and a heart attack roll that will make you drool. If Linda McHenry finds out it’s your birthday, she’ll gather up the wait staff and surprise you with a one-of-a-kind singing conga line. We love Linda’s joyful spirit, and we love Eats & Treats!

Further on down headed east, you’ll see Vinwood Taphouse. When you stroll into Vinwood Taphouse, it feels like Cheers. Everyone knows your name. Thanks to the Harwood Family and their girls for bringing a great place to Philomath where everyone feels right at home.

Lots of hearts indicated how much we love the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo. We love the parade. It is undoubtedly the event of the year. It typically takes place the second weekend in July. One of the hearts we received said, “We just moved to town this spring and love the small town, rural, community, and family-based culture. We’re going to settle down and are looking forward to our first Frolic — hopefully this summer.”

If you have never been to the Frolic, you are in for a treat! I reached out to Darrell Hinchberger, who serves as the president of the Frolic committee this week, and he reports that “We are planning on having the 2021 Philomath Frolic & Rodeo!” The last Frolic we had before the pandemic was in 2019. Oregon Public Broadcasting dispatched Michael Bendixen, a Philomath High School resident along with other OBP crew to film the frolic in order to create an Oregon Field Guide which you can view at this YouTube link. You will love it.

We love the Philomath Farmers Market. We love that Mark and Laura McGuire took the plunge and organized the market with the help of our city recorder, Ruth Post. The year 2020 was our first year. It ran for 10 weeks on Sunday afternoons in front of the Philomath library. There was produce, arts, crafts and even delicious snow cones to be had on hot summer days. This year will be bigger and better.

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community donated $3000 to the American Legion to help purchase additional canopies, tables and signage. The market will open on May 30 and run through Sept. 9 (16 Sundays). Market hours will be from 1-5 p.m. on Sundays at the Philomath library. If you haven’t been to it, don’t miss it. You’ll love the fresh produce and the community atmosphere. For more info visit bountifulbackyard.org/market.

Other community events that we love include the Christmas Tree Lighting at the museum, Trunk-or-Treat, the chili cookoff, the wine walk, the car show and coming soon will be a new “Run to Get Lucky Race” put on by Best In The West and Dirt Road Brewing on March 19-21. For more details and registration about this first ever event visit www.runtogetlucky.com.

The biggest thing people love are the people. One heart someone shared said “I love being a proud Phillbillie.” Another said I love all the friendly faces who recognize me when I go places.” A pink heart read, “I love the community feel and the small-town hospitality I receive.”

A red heart said, “I love that it’s a pedestrian town. Everything you need is within walking distance. Other hearts said, “we love the trails and natural areas in Philomath.” Another said the love “the sled hills! Neabeack Rocks!”

A small heart said “DQ.” Who doesn’t love ice cream from Dairy Queen? We love the Choi family for supporting our community with all kinds of blizzards, sundaes and ice cream cones through the years. We also love the white house on 19th Street behind DQ with the great big inflatable heart that reads Happy Valentine’s Day! That house loves to celebrate the holidays!

Softstar Shoes LOVE in window
A message from Philomath’s Softstar Shoes. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

We love people’s creative spirit in Philomath. When the pandemic hit and there was a mad sellout of toilet paper, a few women got together dressed up like fairies and wheeled around wheelbarrows full of toilet paper. They fluttered about gifting neighbors with random rolls of the precious paper and brought badly needed smiles to all of us. Meanwhile, Softstar Shoes rapidly converted their shoe manufacturing lines to instead make masks for first responders. Mike and Diane Crocker started a community food bank in a couple coolers in their front yard to help anyone who was hungry, no questions asked. It is better to give than to receive. The Crocker family set an impressive example for the rest of us.

4-H girls wanted to bring joy to people by Christmas caroling on horseback. Their moms drove their horse trailers to the parking lot of the Baptist Church on 26th Street, unloaded their horses, decorated them and then saddled up to go spread some love “Philomath style” along Applegate and Newton streets. People were shocked and pleasantly surprised when their doorbell rang and a half a dozen girls on horseback began singing “Frosty the Snowman.” Scenes like this is why we love Philomath! If you missed it, here’s a clip taken by Brad Fuqua from the Philomath News.

Kayley Kampfer organized a Reverse Senior Parade in June to celebrate Philomath High School graduation. The parade included everything. It had kids in the back of a pick-up in a hot tub. It had a yellow VW bug with a mask across the front. It had countless trucks and cars covered with multi-colored balloons galore and even a BMW convertible with gold shark fins. Warrior Spirit was alive and well in the class of 2020 despite the pandemic. We love our seniors. Pacific Power, Pioneer Connect, Consumer Power, OSU Credit Union and the PHS Booster Club all teamed up to put up over 100 banners of the Class of 2020. I suspect we’ll do the same for the Class of 2021. Our seniors have had a rough year. Let’s celebrate them!

Beverly Durham both loved her son and loved Philomath. Her son, Paul Cochran, was PHS Class of 1966 and enlisted in the Army in 1967 to be a part of something bigger than himself. He deployed with the 101st Airborne to Vietnam and was killed in action on May 1, 1968 trying to free his buddies from an enemy ambush. His mother, Beverly Durham, was heartbroken. She passed away 50 years later in August 2018.

She was laid to rest in our Mount Union Cemetery. As a reflection of her love for her son and her city, she gifted Paul’s teenage home on College Street for the purposes of creating a Veteran Memorial Park in her son’s honor. The city just broke ground on this project last summer and we hope everyone in this community can help be a part of this 50-year love story in the making. There is nothing stronger than a mother’s love.

We love Brad Fuqua. Back in 2015, Brad loved Philomath so much he decided that we needed a hometown newspaper. Brad started the Philomath Express back in 2015 and he has been writing about us ever since. He is everywhere: School Board meetings, tennis matches, City Council meetings, cemeteries and the police station to name a few. Brad is an amazing journalist that writes compelling and interesting stories that we have all grown to love.

He recently ventured out on his own to create his own independent online hyperlocal news service called the Philomath News, which you are reading now. I would encourage everyone that reads this to help share our love with Brad by signing up for a membership for the Philomath News. Just follow this link: philomathnews.com/memberships.

Max Grapoli’s message
Max Grapoli loves Philomath because it’s small and everybody knows each other. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

Max Grapoli sent in an adorable heart that read “I love Philomath because it’s a small town and everybody knows each other. Another heart we almost missed, read, “the closeness of the community, the support we show each other.”

City Councilor Teresa Nielson wrote that besides Philomath’s beautiful surroundings and wonderfulschools, what she loves most about our town is its citizens. “There is a genuine kindness, concern and willingness to help that permeates our city.We sincerely care about each other and strive to be our brother’s keeper. Accepting and respecting our differences, striving for mutual understanding and to more effectively lift and help one another. Our strength is born of a willingness to work together, shoulder to shoulder, carrying the collective burdens of those with heavy loads.”

February is American Heart Month. Peace Lutheran Church partnered up with the American Red Cross during the pandemic to run a series of blood drives. People from all around came to donate blood during this crisis. Every month there were 63 open spots and every month they got 63 registrations. They had to turn away walk-up people. The result was amazing. These drives collected over 600 pints of blood since the pandemic started last year. You want to know where people’s hearts are in Philomath? I’d say the results speak for themselves. People gave their blood for others.

Lifelong Philomath resident, Amber Jo, was diagnosed with high-risk disease. She underwent complex medical procedures in Portland. Her treatments racked up a staggering number of medical bills. Amber Jo’s best friend, Amanda, organized a big block party called Amber Jo’s Backyard Bash in October 2019 to help raise funds to cover her dear friend’s medical expenses. The community came together, blocked off 12th street and set up a stage with live entertainment on a flatbed trailer. There were bounce houses, face painting, a silent auction and fresh BBQ pork.

The event raised over $10,000 in six hours. One-hundred percent of the proceeds went to pay down Amber Jo’s medical costs. This is a reflection of a beautiful love between the best of friends and the resilience that Philomath people are known for. They never give up!

Patriot Guard Riders from Longview, Washington, to Portland Oregon, and even Twin Falls, Idaho, organized a Go Fund Me Page to raise $10,000 to buy a motorcycle for Philomath resident Janice Page who is suffering from stage 4 bladder cancer. She lost her son, Sgt. Joshua Brenan from Ontario, in Afghanistan back in 2007. Fifty bikes rolled into town from as far away as Tacoma, Washington to Twin Falls, Idaho to Philomath City Park just to fulfill her dream. We love the patriotism and love these total strangers extended to Janice that sunny day in September. That’s the Philomath way.

I know this column has been extremely long this month, but it is reflective of some of the things we love about Philomath. We love too much to capture everything in one column. Despite all that has happened in 2020 and all that we may have lost, our hearts are still overflowing with love.

Happy Valentine’s Day Philomath. This is your story. We love you!

(Eric Niemann is a former mayor and city councilor in Philomath. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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