Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, February 21, 2018, Image 1

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High suicides
leave grief
in their wake
Christena Brooks Special to Salem Statesman Journal
Snow dusts the restroom near South Falls on Feb. 14. DAVID DAVIS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
California natives
fall for Sublimity
13 years later, Silver Falls park
volunteers feel right at home
Justin Much
Salem Statesman Journal
When Jim Thomas took his regular morning walk
around a snow-dusted Sublimity recently, one thing
came to his mind:
“I’ll bet the falls are a pretty place today.”
A light snow up the road at Silver Falls State Park
always adds something to its seasonal appeal. Thom-
as, 76, and his wife, Janet Thomas, discovered that
appeal 13 years ago, and it provided enough impetus
to relocate from Southern California and call Sublimi-
ty home.
“I was born in Los Angeles and raised there,” said
Thomas, who worked in the title insurance business.
“The last office I worked in, I was on the 18th floor of a
building, and from my window I could see the hospital
where I was born.”
That all changed the year the Thomases’ daughter
moved to Washington, and they decided to visit her.
The couple had never heard of Silver Falls State Park,
but a friend from Eugene recommended they cruise
up there with their RV and visit.
They did, and the experience was life-changing.
The Thomases moved to Sublimity in short order
and they’ve been volunteers at the park for 8 1 ⁄ 2 years.
“The (South Falls Nature) Store opened in July of
2009 and I started volunteering in September,” Jim
Thomas said.
“It is such a beautiful place to volunteer and spend
Jim Thomas and Janet Thomas are volunteers at the
South Falls Nature Store. STATESMAN JOURNAL FILE
A student suicide has again deeply grieved the Sil-
verton High School community.
The most recent death, officially addressed Feb. 7
in a district-wide message by Silver Falls Superinten-
dent Andy Bellando, follows the suicide of another
Silverton High student last spring.
Many questions will go unanswered as family,
friends and staff protect the privacy of the students
and their loved ones.
“This challenge is not specific to us; it’s a nation-
wide issue,” Bellando said. “Our kids are growing up
in a world that is very different from the world we
experienced as youth. “
The most recent data shows that 38 Oregonians
19-and-under died by suicide in 2015. This and more
information is included in the Oregon Health Author-
ity’s 2016 Youth Intervention and Prevention Plan
Annual Report.
According to the report, those 38 suicides ac-
counted for 45 percent of the suicides reported
among youth 24-and-under, a slice of the state’s
population being tracked more carefully than ever by
prevention specialists.
Three years ago, concerned lawmakers commis-
sioned the OHA to create and keep updated a state-
wide plan and report to the legislature.
At the time, Oregon’s youth suicide rate had been
climbing steadily since 2011. This continued until
2015, when the rate improved slightly, dropping Ore-
gon from having the 12th highest youth suicide rate in
the nation to the 16th, according to the report.
“Oregon Health Authority will be monitoring
youth suicide in future years to determine if this
slight decrease in 2015 is the beginning of a down-
ward trend or a one-year dip in an increase over
time,” coordinator Ann Kirkwood wrote.
In Silverton, “two suicides are too many,” Bellando
said. “We’ve struggled to understand the loss of pre-
cious lives, and we’ve stood together in support of
families and each other.”
The Silverton Appeal left messages with the other
seven high schools in the OSAA’s 5A-2 conference,
requesting unofficial suicide data. Representatives
from three – Central High School in Independence,
Woodburn High School, and South Albany High
School – responded by deadline, saying there were
no reported such deaths among their students over
the past two years.
“You are always in shock when anybody who
seems to have everything to live for chooses that
path,” said Superintendent Chuck Ransom, of Wood-
burn School District. “It’s obviously related to mental
health, to depression.”
South Albany High School Principal Brent Belveal
said he’s convinced his staff prevents “at least one
suicide a year,” through a process that starts with
asking all students to take a 10-minute survey every
year. The survey is not anonymous, and it’s typical
for staff to call 200 of its 1,400 students in for coun-
seling afterward, he said.
In 2017, nearly 17 percent of eighth-graders and 18
percent of 11th-graders statewide who took the Ore-
gon Healthy Teens Survey reported they’d seriously
Commissioners kick off annual tours in Mt. Angel
Staff reports
A range of topics from infrastructure to homeless-
ness are set to take stage in Mt. Angel.
Marion County Commissioners Janet Carlson, Kev-
in Cameron and Sam Brentano will kick off a series of
annual community tours in Mt. Angel with a town hall
from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 21, at the city library, 290 E
Charles St. Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce will host
the visit.
“The commissioners will be taking a tour of GEM
Equipment at 2 p.m. after the town hall,” Marion Coun-
ty Public Information Officer Jolene Kelley said.
The commission will hold its Silverton Community
Forum at 11:45 a.m. Friday, March 9, in Silverton Hospi-
tal’s conference room above the Birth Center, 342 Fair-
view St. Silverton Chamber of Commerce is hosting
that forum.
The commissioners delivered their annual State of
the County address as part of SEDCOR’s monthly eco-
nomic forum on Feb. 14, where they addressed innova-
tion and technology for agriculture, infrastructure in-
vestments, public and mental health, public safety,
and homelessness. That provided a glimpse of the top-
Silverton Poetry Festival kicks off Feb. 23
Christena Brooks
Special to Salem Statesman Journal
The Silverton Poetry Festival will make its 18th an-
nual appearance this weekend, offering six poetry
On Friday, Feb. 23, things kick off with readings by
John Brehm and Emily Ransdell from 7 to 9 p.m. at
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, Silver Falls Library will host
an event from 10:30 a.m. to noon, where attendees can
read aloud their favorite published poems, as well as
their own work.
Then kids, fourth grade through eighth grade, are
invited to attend a poetry workshop at the Silverton
Arts Association from 1 to 3 p.m. Registration is $5.
From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. that same day, Voces Poet-
See POETRY, Page 3A
Online at
Vol. 137, No. 9
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ics expected to emerge at the upcoming community
town halls.
Brentano touched on emergency management but
focused on transportation issues, including the safety
value of rumble strips alerting motorists of upcoming
stop signs in rural areas and the importance of im-
proved infrastructure, such as a proposed third bridge
across the Willamette River in Salem.
“The roads from Marion and Polk counties are nec-
essary to get people and products to and from Salem
See MT. ANGEL, Page 2A