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Our New Neighbors: Setzer comes from Africa to Oregon

Kathy Aney

East Oregonian

Published on December 27, 2017 5:41PM

Kathy Setzer moved to Pendleton a year ago from the African country of Namibia.

Staff photo by Kathy Aney

Kathy Setzer moved to Pendleton a year ago from the African country of Namibia.

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Kathy Setzer’s journey to Pendleton started 10,000 miles away in southern Africa during the height of summer and ended in a frozen winterland.

It was about a year ago when the couple left the hot, arid climate of Windhoek, Namibia, and flew to Portland where winter gripped the city with a veneer of ice and snow. They waited a couple of days to finish the trek, using the time to buy a new car, until the weather eased enough for them to brave the Columbia Gorge. A job waited for Jim in Pendleton where he’d been hired to direct the Umatilla County Public Health Department.

Kathy and Jim journeyed east on Interstate 84 and arrived unscathed. Though Jim had traveled to Pendleton months earlier for an interview, this was Kathy’s first glimpse of her new home except for some Googling sessions while still in Namibia. Upon arrival, their car slipped as it navigated their steep neighborhood street but safely reached the driveway. Ice initially prevented the moving truck from reaching the house, however — the movers drove to Seattle to drop off other cargo before coming back to unload.

Despite this inauspicious beginning, Setzer and her spouse rapidly fell in love with their new town.

“Everyone was incredibly welcoming,” she said. “People went out of their way to be friendly.”

The Indiana native noted that Pendleton and Windhoek (a city of 350,000) have similar rough-hewn beauty. The couple’s view of the Blues from their living room window is similar to the one from their Namibian home. The animals roaming the country, however, were quite different. In Namibia, they saw giraffes, elephants, lions, leopards, zebras, ostriches, hippos and others.

“Warthogs and baboons are the mule deer of Namibia,” Setzer said.

In Africa, Jim helped the Namibian government strengthen the country’s health information system. Kathy’s visa wouldn’t allow her to work for pay, so she volunteered in an after-school program.

Kathy had met her epidemiologist husband when they both worked as Peace Corps volunteers in Zaire (now the Dominican Republic of the Congo). They married in 1980 and raised two daughters. Over the next few decades, the couple also lived in Kenya as well as Namibia. They both speak fluent French.

In Pendleton, Kathy works for CAPECO as a case worker, helping low-income clients beef up their résumés with education and workforce development training.

In their new home, the Setzers have found opportunities to spend time outdoors, as well as enjoy the thriving art and music scene. They like to listen to music at the Great Pacific or attend local symphony or choral concerts.

“We are blown away by the amount of talent in this community,” Setzer said.


Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or 941-966-0810.


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