Legacy of Sharon Jean; BMD dear to many — Letters to the Editor 5-30-18

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Thankful for legacy of Sharon Jean

I’ve had the pleasure of calling Sharon Jean my friend and mentor since 2003. I interviewed Sharon a dozen years ago and learned many details of her journey to The Grove.

She is full of great stories of how she brought people together to accomplish something important, which initially seemed impossible. Her can-do attitude served her well, both as an Alaskan elected official and as an effective community leader.

In every town she has lived, Sharon spearheaded civic projects that left the community better off than when she arrived. A few examples are: creating a battered-women’s shelter, a childcare center, affordable housing, meal sites and senior center program improvements.

Her contributions in Cottage Grove are significant: she helped keep a hospital in town, established the Soup’s On Sunday supper project and the tiny homes project. It’s no surprise she was honored by the Chamber of Commerce with the Distinguished Service and First Citizen Awards.

But I believe the greatest legacy Sharon leaves us is Bohemia Mining Days.  Next year the festival celebrates its 60th year. If not for her leadership, persuasion and planning experience, it would’ve surely died soon after its 40th anniversary.

For nearly a decade, under her leadership, BMD enjoyed financial stability and transformed into a more professionally structured organization.

In my eight years as a Lane County Commissioner, my South Lane County constituents often said how much they respected Ron and his skills as an engineer and surveyor.

Sharon and Ron are a community-minded power couple we will surely miss around here!

My husband Ralph and I wish them much happiness with their kids and grandkids in Hawaii as they begin this newest chapter of their lives.

—Cindy Weeldreyer

Cottage Grove

BMD near and dear to hearts of many

I would like to tell you a story about the time that Bohemia Mining Days almost died.

It was six or seven years ago, as I recall. I was a relatively new member of the city council, and had been invited to sit on the Bohemia Mining Days board of directors.

BMD had been one of the many reasons I’d fallen in love with Cottage Grove, so I was very happy to be involved.

Unfortunately, at that time, BMD was having severe money troubles. When that fact came to light, there was a spate of resignations and the organization was left with a handful of board members, $20,000 of debt, and a little over $8 in the bank … and around six months to put on Cottage Grove’s biggest annual festival. 

As you can imagine, the death of BMD seemed imminent.

So, I called Sharon Jean.

Sharon had been the festival coordinator some years previous, and had left the organization in great financial shape. I figured that if anyone could overcome these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, it’d be Sharon.

Spoiler alert: I was right.

Despite the insane amount of work it took to bootstrap the festival into existence from nearly nothing, Sharon put in long hours, reached out to her network of contacts and leveraged her exhaustive understanding of all aspects of the festival. Because that was my first year as president of the BMD board, I sometimes get credit for turning the festival around; but that credit rightfully belongs to Sharon Jean.

I am not exaggerating when I say that she absolutely saved the festival that year. If she hadn’t stepped in, we wouldn’t have had a BMD that year, and there’s a very good chance we wouldn’t have had another one

Ever.

While many people may know Sharon Jean from her tireless efforts on philanthropic projects like Soup’s On and Cottage Village, I know that BMD is near and dear to the hearts of a huge proportion of our community.  So the next time you’re listening to music, panning for gold, or arresting villains in Coiner Park during BMD, save a thought for Sharon Jean, the unstoppable heroine of Bohemia Mining Days.

We wouldn’t have it without her.

—Jake Boone

Cottage Grove City Councilor