PRESORTED STANDARD 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 War Comes Home to Vernonia 1992 FREE 2002 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, Kentucky. 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 Society. 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.