Best wishes to everyone for a happier new year!

The “New Year Honours” is a British tradition, the time for awarding knighthoods and other kinds of recognition for exceptional public service. It’s an idea worth borrowing, one every community can use to thank key individuals for the lives they’ve led and the good deeds they’ve done.

Pacific County is blessed in so many ways it’s hard to account for them all: Soul-inspiring scenery, awesome and diverse wildlife, profoundly ancient and rich history, crystal-clear air and water. But if there’s one factor that truly makes this an exceptional place to live, it’s our treasury of outstanding people — individuals of generosity, courage, strength and depth. Our social ecosystem is complexly interwoven and diverse, making this a far “wealthier” place than money alone could ever do.

A former editor decades ago invited controversy by presuming, on the basis of a small poll, to name our area’s most important and influential people. In reality, like all communities, ours has many overlapping spheres of goodness — imperfect but nevertheless essential coalitions and institutions that perform vital functions. Any list of our VIPs would need to include thousands of names. So that’s not what this is.

Instead, the editor would like to take this new year opportunity to mention just a few top-of-mind individuals who I think deserve to be celebrated. If you have others you feel strongly about — particularly someone whose actions in the past year have earned your admiration and gratitude — please tell everyone about them in a letter to the editor at editor@chinookobserver.com.

Ron and Liz Hylton

Together with a cast of kindhearted helpers, Ron and Liz Hylton were for decades our undertakers — stewards of the sacred job of taking care of our deceased loved ones. It is impossible to imagine more respectful, caring and dedicated service to countless families in their time of mourning.

Running a small-town funeral home means performing necessary tasks in ways that honor the departed while tenderly navigating the emotional minefields of bereaved families and friends. The Hyltons operated Penttila’s Chapel by the Sea in ways that earned the gratitude of generations of local people, upholding traditions that come to us from out of the mists of distant times. It was a tough job, and always well done. Ron’s obituaries are an enduring legacy, perfectly written mini-biographies of ordinary folks.

Facing life transitions of their own, when the Hyltons negotiated a local sale of Penttila’s it was with an eye to maintaining this dutiful diligence and sensitivity. They chose to depart quietly, whereas their goodness would have otherwise merited a front-page tribute. They may even be dismayed to be singled out here. But we would be deeply remiss to not thank Ron and Liz for all they did over the course of many years.

In a 2012 interview, Liz expressed a view that is more valid than ever:

“I think the biggest challenge is remembering how to take care of others, how to help others, how to see the other side. Just because you think one way is right doesn’t mean there aren’t other perspectives. … I think we need to figure out how to listen to each other and get along.”

Jeannine Miller

A tiny woman with a giant-size personality, Jeannine Miller’s death in 2020 went largely unremarked at the time in deference to family wishes. However, the passing of such a mighty person must not go unremarked.

Jeannine walked far and wide until quite late in her long and storied life, always pleased to strike up a conversation in the post office or pharmacy — which is where I last greeted her.

Jeannine Miller

Jeannine Miller

As a French Jewish survivor of a Nazi death camp, Jeannine was among a rapidly vanishing number of witnesses to one of humanity’s most appalling crimes. But she resisted dwelling on the past. When we interviewed her in 2012 — she was 86 at the time — Jeannine said she was proudest of working as a nurse.

“I loved that job. You become a different person when you first enter a world with very, very sick people. I was very happy to be able to help them. Even today, when I go to the hospital, I feel like I should stay there to help. I think nursing is a vocation and not a profession,” she said — words that probably ring true to every nurse serving in today’s horrible crisis.

Asked how she’d like to be remembered, she observed, “Well I don’t know, because really, you know, I have not done anything special. … Eccentric. Because I dress to the hilt and people ask me where I’m going because of how I dress. They say, ‘Are you going to a wedding?’ because I look like I’m headed to a reception somewhere. But I’m an eccentric, very eccentric.”

Where would we be on this wild coast without our eccentrics?

Marlene Quillin

On page A5, Cate Gable does a fine job documenting how important Marlene has been to the Chinook Observer and everyone we serve. I’d only like to add a few additional personal observations about someone who has been my “right-hand person” for these past two decades.

Although Marlene isn’t completely retiring and will still be doing a lot for us behind the scenes, I speak for thousands in saying she will be dearly missed as a daily presence in the Observer office. She epitomizes excellent customer service. Every business should be so fortunate as mine to have employees who inherently know that doing right by our readers, advertisers, colleagues and neighbors is the key to every kind of success.

Her well-stocked candy bowl — on hiatus since the start of the pandemic — was a small symbol of how much Marlene and I appreciate everyone who relies on us. I often joked she was like some legendary “Joe the bartender,” without the liquor but always ready to listen to people. Over the years, these kindly conversations generated hundreds of news and feature stories, content that has helped make the Observer one of our region’s most honored newspapers.

I can’t thank Marlene enough for her dedication, patience and insights over the years. With a sense of humor tempered by wisdom, she’s a joy to work beside.

Kristen Inskeep is taking over our front counter. We’re certain she’ll do a great job and will put her own personal stamp on the important role of serving as the Observer’s main point of contact. You’ll be reading more about her elsewhere. Due to the ongoing health emergency, our office hours will be limited to mornings and the lunch hour for the time being, but call us anytime at 360-642-8181 and our company’s central switchboard will get you to the right person.

Finally, thanks again for everything. We so appreciate being a part of your lives. Please drop me a note at editor@chinookobserver.com with any story ideas or other ways I can be of service.

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