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Stars shine in Morrow County

Tammy Malgesini

East Oregonian

Published on February 14, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on February 14, 2018 9:46PM


A south Morrow County transplant was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award during the Heppner Chamber of Commerce Town & County Community Awards.

With a theme of “An Evening with the Stars,” the spotlight also shined on Dick and Karen Temple, Dr. Ken Wenberg, Virginia “George” Nairns, Sarah Matheny and Sophie Grant. Held at the Morrow County Fairgrounds, chamber executive director Sheryll Bates said they had record attendance with more than 235 people.

Born in Missouri in 1929, Bill Gentry’s family moved between the Midwest and Oregon six times during the Great Depression before finally settling in south Morrow County.

In addition to working for Columbia Basin Electric Co-Op for 44 years, Gentry and his trusty Kubota stayed busy with many area projects. He has volunteered with the Morrow County Fairgrounds, Heppner Masonic Cemetery, Willow Creek RV Park, Heppner High School track and the old Heppner Hotel to help make way for St. Patrick’s Senior Apartments. Also, tapping into his experience as a teenage boxer and Golden Gloves participant, Gentry helped with past boxing matches held during Wee Bit O’Ireland events.

Gentry and his wife, Pat, who died four years ago, were married for 62. They have four children, 12 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

“I believe if you ask Dad what his greatest lifetime achievement is, he would tell you it is his family,” said his daughter Jackie Ansotegui during the award presentation. “He is very proud of all of us.”

•The Temples have operated a veterinary clinic for more than 30 years. In presenting the business of the year award, Sam Bellamy shared comments from nearly two dozen people who have benefited from the couple’s passion, generosity and loving concern.

In addition to mending family pets and livestock at all hours of the day and night, the Temples help with the fair and donate time to assist with 4-H, Heppner FFA and the high school’s agriculture department. Also, they donate spay and neutering services for feral cats and help in placing homeless animals.

•A general practice physician, Wenberg was recognized as the man of the year. In presenting the award, Ann and John Murray said in addition to providing medical care for more that 30 years, Wenberg and his late wife, Bonnie, raised six children and opened their home to countless foster children. Also, they “adopted” families to help ensure they had joyful Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.

In addition to making house calls and saving dozens of lives, the Murrays said Wenberg connects with people — laughing and crying with both patients and co-workers.

•Receiving the woman of the year award, Nairns is said to be compassionate, energetic and enthusiastic. She spends her time helping others through church activities, community groups, as a hospice volunteer and numerous fundraising walks. On top of all that, Nairns pours her heart and soul into her work at Willow Creek Terrace assisted living facility.

“She has a heart for service and the energy to make things happen,” said Melissa Lindsay.

•Colleagues and former students use such words as “driven,” “devoted” and “contagious energy” to describe Matheny, a first grade teacher at Heppner Elementary School.

“I could not think of a more deserving teacher,” said Melissa Coiner, head teacher, as she presented Matheny with the citizen-educator award. “Mrs. Matheny has a way of making people believe in their own abilities.”

•In presenting the outstanding youth award, Marcia Kemp and Jean Collins said in addition to being a three-sport athlete, Grant is a hard-working student and community volunteer.

A member of the National Honor Society, Grant is active in student government, job shadows at Pioneer Memorial Physical Therapy and holds down a part-time job.

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Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539



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