Hood River viewers tuning in to the 2002 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day may spot a familiar face on their television screens.
Local celebrity Ken Jernstedt spent last week practicing his parade wave in preparation for his Jan. 1 ride on the 45-foot float operated by Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Jernstedt will be accompanied by his own guide dog, Driscoll, a yellow lab he brought home almost six years ago after learning handling skills from the Boring branch of the national nonprofit organization.
The two special guests from Hood River will share the spotlight with Michael Hingson of New Jersey, whose seeing-eye dog, Rosell, led him from his office on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center to safety following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
Along for the ride and walking alongside will be graduates of the Guide Dog program as well as puppy raisers and instructors. The float will feature the sculpture of a working dog in-harness that will overlook a basket of animated frolicking puppies.
"It's been quite a year and it sure makes growing old interesting, I'll tell you that," said Jernstedt, 84, who had the Hood River Airport renamed in his honor this fall.
Jernstedt is Oregon's first flying fighter ace and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross as a member of the elite Flying Tigers in World War II.
Following his military duties, Jernstedt served as a state senator for 20 years and in the House for two years prior to that. He was also the mayor of Hood River from 1959-60 and again from 1989-90.
In 1979 Jernstedt began losing his sight to glaucoma and a detached retina left him legally blind in his right eye two years later. But that vision impairment hasn't slowed the aging veteran down and he and Driscoll are a familiar sight on Hood River streets. The pair make their rounds each day to keep abreast of local news and volunteer time with the Hood River Lions and American Legion.
"I'm looking forward to the parade, I've never been in one this size -- and Driscoll will probably behave better than I do," said Jernstedt, who will be flown to California on Monday and return to Hood River on Wednesday.
The parade will kick off the 60th anniversary of Guide Dogs for the Blind, an organization that was founded in 1942 in California to serve blinded veterans of World War II returning home from the Pacific Rim. It is now the largest school of its kind in the country and provides free services to people who are blind throughout the United States and Canada.