‘Just having a good time,’ says Jeanne Marie Davis
She is the friendly face veterans and their family members are likely to see when they enter the Veterans Service Office in downtown Hood River.
Jeanne Marie Davis, 80, is a 12-year volunteer with the Veterans Administration, including years of driving veterans to Portland and back for medical appointments and other needs.
For health reasons, Davis can no longer do the driving duty, but she helps in many other key ways and for that she recently earned a special honor from the Portland VA Medical Center.
Shawn D. Benson, chief of voluntary service, presented the Volunteer Excellence Award to Davis on May 3 in a ceremony in Portland.
“I was stunned, absolutely stunned,” to receive the award, Davis said. “The people down there do an awful lot of good. We have a couple of young ladies who are very dedicated; it really is something, it really is.”
“She was one of three to get the highest award,” explained Les Logsdon, Hood River veterans service officer. “The amount of time she puts in is just remarkable.”
In the last five years Davis has written more than 4,000 birthday cards to all volunteers who serve in all areas of the Portland VA Medical Center.
“She ensures they are bundled by week and set up so I could write my note from the Voluntary Service Staff,” Benson said. He thanked Davis “for all of the support you have provided this medical center and the veterans in your community during your years of service.”
Benson also noted that Davis “travels further to her volunteer assignment than any other volunteer in our system” (74 miles one-way).
“Jean has served more than 11 years at (the medical center) but that is not enough. This volunteer also serves the veterans in her home community, assisting with Welcome Home events, Veterans Day activities, and supporting the county veterans service officer. “
The Veterans Office is open with volunteers Monday to Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the county administration building, 601 State St.
“She started the birthday cards and she was our first volunteer in this office three years ago,” Logsdon noted.
She quoted an old friend who, upon receiving a service award, said, “I don’t understand this; I’m just having a good time.”
Davis has worked as a wire service copy writer, in the oil industry, and in tax accounting over the years, but it was her work as a greeting card writer that helped make her birthday card tradition happen.
“I was on contract with Hallmark for many years — I wrote copy for Hallmark — and I called the last person I knew in St. Louis, and asked her if she would give me a price for birthday cards. I wrote up a suggestion for all volunteers getting birthday cards. It kind of took off from there,” she said as other card makers got on board and they started regularly sending her boxes of cards.
“I write a note, and Shawn Benson writes a note, and for some reason this means an awful lot to volunteers. I thought it was kind of a frivolous thing but it’s a real morale-booster. We write to them that ‘We appreciate what you have done.’”
Davis moved to Hood River in 1989. Her husband, Aubrey Davis, who died in 2002, was recently honored at the Idlewilde Cemetery Walk of Honor, for his service as a pharmacist onboard a Navy destroyer in World War II.
She has a varied background. Davis was born in Minneapolis, and raised in a trading post in rural Quebec. She went to work for APS (precursor to Associated Press) as an apprentice copywriter. Her service took her to Indochina, where she was credited with an item in Stars and Stripes that said “The French taught the Indochinese one good thing and one bad thing: how to cook and how to drive.”
She later lived in Oklahoma City, working with a tax attorney and doing audits and estate planning.
“I was poor as a church mouse and did estate planning for other people,” Davis mused. She also worked for a company that sold pipe to the oil fields and managed oil rigs.
But it was another past job, as a greeting card writer in St. Louis, that led to her contribution meriting the Veterans Award: the regular system of thanking each Medical Center volunteer, in writing.
The names and addresses are all in the VA data base, and the VA pays for the postage.
She sits down about once a week, “usually for about two hours, depending; some months more than others,” she said.
As volunteer coordinator she both staffs the desk and trains the other office volunteers. She sets up appointments, does confidential filing, and “mostly interact with the veterans and their needs.”
Stan Hinatsu named Forest Service ‘legend’
The American Recreation Coalition has named Stan Hinatsu, recreation program manager for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Forest Service, as a “Legend in the Management of Outdoor Recreation.”
The Legend Awards are given to seven federal land managers in recognition of their outstanding work to improve outdoor recreation experiences and opportunities for the American people.
Hinatsu has demonstrated significant contributions in all of the criteria that constitute this national award over his 34-year career, according to his supervisor.
“Stan is a true ‘renaissance man’ when it comes to the recreation profession,” said Lynn Burdette, National Scenic Area manager. “He participates in all facets of recreation planning, program and facility development, operations, partnerships, and monitoring.
“All of this has taken place in the unique setting that is the Columbia River Gorge, one of the first congressionally designated National Scenic Areas in the country and still just one of a handful that exist nationwide.”
Burdette said Hinatsu is committed to customer service and has earned the trust, respect and appreciation of the many co-workers, partners and individuals he has worked with over the last two decades.
Hinatsu has become “the Forest Service face of the Columbia River Gorge,” Burdette said. “Stan Hinatsu truly is a legend. The Forest Service is grateful for the amazing service that Stan has contributed throughout his career, and we are proud that he is receiving this recognition.”