ETCETERA - Nothing blue about Blue Genes Family Reunion


I don't imagine too many clans have such fun with their family surname as folks sharing lineage in Jim Irwin's family tree. After all, when they get together, they bill gatherings as Blue Genes reunions.

The sixth western Blue family shindig was pretty snazzy, what with an appearance by Steppin' Country, local a group of line dancers who "wowed" the group. The clan assembled in Walla Walla June 24 at Jim and Shirley Irwin's home.

The couple fretted about the cool, windy weather. But as guests arrived, the wind subsided and the patio pizza party was a delightful success, Jim said in a recap of the event. Out-of-towners came from Bend, Corvallis and Redmond, Ore., Seattle, and Charles Brinson of College Place, and son Garth Brinson of Walla Walla. Other Walla Wallans were Mel and Cecelia Blue, Arlene Dirks and daughter Wanda Singer, Howard and Sandra Morgan and the hosts' daughter Kathryn Fisher of Quincy, Calif.

A gathering on June 25 featured a potluck luncheon at The Center at the Park in Jefferson Park. Entertainment was provided by Howard and Sandra Morgan's Steppin' Country.

"The entertainment was perfect for the occasion and many of the family members were encouraged to join in and received a short lesson in line dancing, which made the event even more special, at least for those that had some sense of rhythm and could follow instructions," Jim noted. More Walla Wallans joined the reunion on June 25, including Darrell and Donna Gleason, Steve Hendrickson, Bob Singer, Sabrina and Buddy Blair and their baby girl, Mia. "Mia's smile indicated that she especially enjoyed the dancing."

They arranged for computers to be available for ancestry searches.

"It was discovered from a newspaper search in that Melvin Blue at age 16 in 1957, had hit a grand-slam home run, winning the game between Walla Walla and Richland, 4-3. Mel who is still athletically fit, just recently sunk a witnessed hole-in-one at one of the local golf courses," Jim added.

Many took advantage of free time and checked out our historic downtown area and enjoyed views of the Blue Mountains before meeting at a local restaurant for a no-host dinner. Darren Brinson of Walla Walla joined the reunion at this point after working at the airport for an all-week event aircraft event.

"This was a smaller group, and with the privacy of a separate room, we were free to enjoy lots of laughter and loud conversation, especially with the arrival of Walt Blue, a local barber and a part-time entertainer," Jim said.

"While leaving the restaurant a small crowd gathered to examine and take pictures of Walt's homemade three-wheeler, ... a combination of a Honda motorcycle in front and a Volkswagen bug in the rear. He calls it a Honvogan, definitely a one-of-a-kind vehicle fitting of Walt's one-of-a-kind personality. This ended a successful Blue Family Reunion on a very happy note."

Howard and Sandra Morgan accompanied Jim and daughter Kathryn Fisher to the annual picnic of Whitman County Genealogy Society in Tekoa, Wash. The picnic site was chosen for a visit to the nearby Lone Pine Cemetery, recently declared a Washington state historic site.

Sarah Bowen Blue, wife of Amos Blue, and three of their grandchildren are buried at the pioneer cemetery. Sarah was a great-grandmother of Jim Irwin and great-great grandmother of Howard Morgan; both of whom are active members of Friends of Lone Pine Cemetery, a group of descendants working to restore and maintain the long-neglected cemetery, Jim said. See for more details..

Meghan Rambo received a $3,000 P.E.O. (Philanthropic Education Organization) Program for Continuing Education Scholarship.

Meghan can apply the funds as she pursues a physical therapy assistant degree at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., according to a release from Deborah "Debbie" Lee, education chairwoman with Chapter AP P.E.O.

Meghan grew up in Milton-Freewater and graduated from McLoughlin High School. She earned a bachelor's in business administration in 2007 from Southern Oregon University.

Upon graduation, she moved to Portland and worked for OrePac as an administrative assistant. Later, she was an insurance underwriter for Farmers Insurance until fall 2009.

At that point she returned to Milton-Freewater to prepare for a career in physical therapy. She began work as a physical therapy aide at Premier Physical Therapy in 2009 and also started pre-requisite courses to become a physical therapy assistant.

Meghan was admitted to her degree program at Whatcom Community College in February 2011 and began her course work in April.

The program hybrid degree program includes live classes and online courses. She must drive the 10-hour journey to Whatcom County, Wash., once a month to attend weekend lab work, Debbie said.

The scholarship is designed for women who have had their education interrupted for over two years. The P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education was established in 1973 to provide need-based grants to women in the United States and Canada whose education has been interrupted and who find it necessary to return to school to support themselves and/or their families.

P.E.O., one of the pioneer societies for women, was founded in 1869 by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

For more details, contact Debbie at 541-938-7176.

Walla Walla Wagon Wheelers presented $500 college scholarships to their 2011 recipients, both high school graduates who plan to pursue further education.

Recipient Megan Moberg graduated from DeSales High School and will study bioengineering. Recipient Carley Frazier, a Touchet High School graduate, wants to be a math teacher.

The Wagon Wheelers established the scholarship fund in 2004 and have awarded scholarships for the last six years, said Carolyn Hansen, WWWW secretary.

Pat King, former manager of Pantry Shelf Food Share, will once again be on deck at the food bank to serve as interim manager for three months starting July 11.

Current manager Kate Rambo resigned to take a post in the Chemistry Department at Whitman College.

"Pantry Shelf is pleased to have Pat King's expertise in managing our food share and we expect a very smooth transition in the change of managers," said Gwyn Frasco in a release.

Later this summer the Pantry Shelf Board will advertise for a permanent manager and aims to fill the position by Oct. 1. Pantry Shelf is in the basement at First Presbyterian Church, 325 S. First Ave.

Dust off those street-legal vehicles for the eighth annual Sean Vandenberg Memorial Ride/Drive and BBQ fundraiser on July 10, said Sean's mother and event organizer Peggie Vandenberg. "The more, the merrier."

Registration will be from 9-10 a.m. at Touchet School Park. Although it is a motorcycle run of approximately 100 miles, any road-worthy rig can participate. Peggie said bicyclists have come in previous years. They departed a couple of hours ahead of the rest and returned at about the same time. A barbecue and prizes will greet participants beginning around 12:30 p.m. in Touchet School Park, depending upon when all bikes get back.

Canyon River Band will perform from noon-2:30 p.m. and "you won't want to miss this performance, the band is amazing." Prizes will be presented at 2:30 and the event culminates at 3 p.m.

Proceeds will benefit Children's Wishes and Dreams and The Sean Vandenberg Memorial Scholarship fund. The former is a non-profit that grants wishes to children with serious, life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries.

Joey Weber received the $1,000 scholarship this year, which is renewable for a second year at $500. Jose Contreras is this year's second-year recipient of the renewable $500 scholarship. Because the memorial event has been successful each year, the benefit amount was increased, Peggie said.

Folks can skip the ride and join the fun at noon, she added. The all-you-can-eat feast includes German sausage dogs with fixings, baked beans, pasta salad, chips, cake, bottled water and soda pop. "No alcohol is served, as this is a family-friendly event held on school property," Peggie said.

There is a $10 fee per person for the barbecue or $7 for those 12 and under. Riders can buy into the unlimited number of poker hands at $5 per hand. "There will also be a raffle for prizes and lots and lots of fun. It is an event that our son would have loved to take part in each year, and in a way, he is - in spirit - with us all the time."

Sean was nearly 12 when he was diagnosed with cancer. During the following 15 years, he was diagnosed four more times. "He never let cancer get him down. No matter how sick he was he always believed he would win the fight. It was a cold November day in 2001 when his body gave up on him and he unexpectedly lost the war," his sister Amanda wrote on a Myspace blog. Sean died at 27. The Vandenbergs started the annual memorial ride to raise funds for charity. Peggie herself spent some time healing from an accident in October and is raring to go. "I ... have a bright and shiny new bike. I'm back in the saddle again."

For more details or to make a donation, contact Peggie at, write her at P.O. Box 76, Touchet, WA 99360 or call 509-520-5396.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or 526-8313.


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