The independent. (Vernonia, Or.) 1986-current, November 20, 2003, Image 1

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U.S. Postage Paid
Vernonia, OR 97064
Vol. 18, No. 22
“Voice of the Upper Nehalem River Valley”
The news said that Chief Warrant Officer
Erik C. Kesterson, 29, was one of 17 U.S. sol-
diers killed when two Black Hawk helicopters
collided in Iraq. That is the way people hear
about the death of their friends or classmates
or students.
What the news doesn’t say is how Erik
Kesterson’s death left a hole in people’s lives.
Steve Giere, who was the principal at Ver-
nonia High School when Erik graduated in
1992, explained part of it in a letter in The
Oregonian (Nov. 19, 2003): “There were only
39 seniors in Kesterson’s graduating class,
but he would have stood out even if there had
been a hundred times that number. He was
friendly, considerate, respectful and liked by
all – just a really nice kid.”
The 29 year-old Kesterson spent much of
his youth in Vernonia and joined the Marines
after graduating from Vernonia High School.
He spent eight years in the Marines as a crew
chief and gunner on Huey and Cobra helicop-
ters. Shortly before leaving the Marines, he
November 20, 2003
Historical Society sues
County, City, Museum
pulled seven men out of a helicopter that had
crashed in California and burst into flames. He
was awarded the Marine Corps Medal of
Heroism for his actions.
He worked for Evergreen Airlines after
leaving the Marines, then enlisted in the Army
after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He
chose the Army because their warrant officer
program allowed him to do what he loved, fly
helicopters, as a member of the 101st Air-
borne Division stationed in Fort Campbell,
Kesterson’s father, Clayton, and stepmoth-
er, M.J., live in Independence. If you have
watched the news or read their statements,
you know how they hurt. Clay Kesterson said
of his son, “He’s a good man.”
The cause of the helicopters’ collision is
uncertain, though it appears that Erik’s heli-
copter lost power when it was struck by ene-
my fire. Whatever the cause, 17 soldiers lost
their lives last Saturday. One was from a small
town in Oregon.
Do you think winter is here?
Drivers had no problem slowing down during Wednesday morning’s sudden snow storm.
In June, 2003, when local
volunteers went to open up the
Vernonia Museum for visitors,
they discovered the locks had
been changed, apparently by
someone working for or with
the Columbia County Historical
It was an odd situation be-
cause local volunteers had
been asking questions about
some missing Indian artifacts
and hadn’t been able to get an-
swers about when and why
they were removed.
The volunteers took their
concerns to the Columbia
County Board of Commission-
ers, which didn’t have any an-
swers, either. Columbia County
owns the old Courthouse,
where the St. Helens Museum
is located. It also has a long-
term lease ($1.00 per year)
with the City of Vernonia for the
former Oregon-American Lum-
ber Co. headquarters, which
houses the Vernonia Museum.
The county also pays for main-
tenances and utilities for the
Vernonia Museum. When the
commissioners included the
Historical Society on their
agenda, several volunteers
spoke about their concerns.
One person who didn’t speak
was the Historical Society pres-
ident, R.J. “Bob” Brown. He
had an attorney and two volun-
teers speak for him.
There were never any expla-
nations about the missing arti-
facts or why volunteers were
locked out without notice. The
artifacts are still missing.
The county closed both mu-
seums for a while and, subse-
quently, did some reorganizing.
The Vernonia Pioneer Museum
Association now operates the
Vernonia Museum.
Now, charges and counter-
charges are flying between Co-
lumbia County and the Histori-
cal Society.
The Historical Society filed
suit, October 10, in Multnomah
County against the county, city
and local museum association,
claiming that it is “the owner of
all the objects at the Court-
house Museum and the Ver-
nonia Museum.”
In addition to its claim of
ownership of everything in the
Courthouse Museum, accord-
ing to the suit filed by Michael
J. Morris, of Bennet, Hartman,
Morris & Kaplan, the historical
society since 1962 “managed
and operated the Vernonia Mu-
seum in which it displayed a
portion of its collection of histor-
ical artifacts, photographs and
other objects.”
The society is seeking
$500,000 or the return of “its”
property, plus attorney fees.
Columbia County filed a
counter suit, Oct. 28 in Colum-
bia County, claiming manage-
ment and ownership of both
museums and their contents.
This summer, the society
sent the county a tort claim no-
tice of ownership of all artifacts
and contents. The county re-
sponded by asking the society
to provide proof of ownership,
but hasn’t yet received it.
The county also has a dis-
pute with R.J. Brown and the
historical society over a
$36,848 federal grant for the
Lewis and Clark bicentennial.
The historical society and
Brown urged the county to let
Brown administer the grant, but
there was no written agree-
ment. The society retained two
consultants for approximately
$11,000. The consultants
agreed to do the work for $500
each and donate the remainder
of the fees to the society al-
though the money came from
the county grant funds.
The county returned the
grant to the federal govern-
ment, but the historical society
is demanding payment as part
of the total it is to administer.