The late Jill Graham had a motto in her life as a tireless and dedicated volunteer in the Clatsop County community.

It was short, simple and sweet.

“Be kind to others.”

And as more than 100 people gathered at the McTavish Room at the Liberty Theater Thursday for the second annual Lady Liberty Award Luncheon, her motto rang out loud and clear as each speaker spoke of this year’s honoree and her endless volunteerism in organizations such as Court Appointed Special Advocates, The Assistance League and the Lady Liberty event.

“Almost exactly one year ago today, we gathered here in the McTavish room for our first Lady Liberty Award Luncheon,” said Betty Smith, board president of Liberty Restoration Inc. “What many of you may or may not know is at the very heart of last year’s event was the very special touch of Jill Graham.”

Graham served on the Liberty board starting in 2008. Her term was two years but she stayed at Smith’s request to assist as the chairwoman of fundraising.

“It gave me two amazing years of working with Jill as we co-chaired two brand new events,” Smith noted, including the Lady Liberty luncheon and Art a la cARTe event. “We would meet weekly for months prior to the event, often at lunchtime and at The Daily Astorian. Jill never arrived empty handed. She was always bringing us goodies, often that she had made or picked up. She was always the consummate hostess.”

When she left the room during one of those meetings, everyone remaining said they knew Graham would one day be honored at the event she was helping to organize.

“There’s just no way we could have ever known what the future would hold,” she said.

Graham died Dec. 7 after complications from surgery. The Gearhart resident and former owner of Gearhart Grocery with her husband Mike was a middle school teacher for more than 20 years. She graduated from Marylhurst University, the same school Thursday’s keynote speaker Shawna Schuh attended.

Schuh, an actress who has appeared in movies with James Garner and Gary Busey, is a certified speaking professional with the National Speakers Association of Oregon.

She spoke of the importance of laughter in sad or frustrating situations, telling the audience about her parents’ individual strokes and their subsequent stays in nursing homes as a result.

“I said, ‘Why me?’” Schuh recalled, noting that she later realized it wasn’t about her. “I missed life because I wasn’t laughing every day.”

Her moral of the story, “If all else fails, laugh.”

Rosemary Baker-Monaghan, executive director of the Liberty Theater, opened the event.

“We’re really glad you’re here to celebrate and honor volunteerism and a very special woman,” she said to the audience that included City Manager Paul Benoit, Mayor Willis Van Dusen, former Mayor and past Lady Liberty honoree Edith Henningsgaard-Miller and city councilwomen Karen Mellin and Arline LaMear.

The Assistance League, which clothes underprivileged children throughout the county and is a program that was near and dear to Graham’s heart, served the lunch of clam chowder, rosemary chicken salad and Graham’s favorite rum cake. Each were Graham’s recipes and the rum cake recipe was printed on a bookmark for each attendee to take home.

Bottles of Pinot Gris were also on each table.

The lunch was catered by Lori Breslauer of the Firehouse Grill in Seaside.

At the end of the event, a chandelier and matching sconces were dedicated in honor of Graham in the Liberty stairwell.

The light fixtures were designed and crafted by John Cook Glass Studio and Gallery.

Sponsors for the event included Bank of Astoria, Bank of the Pacific, The Daily Astorian, Pacific Power, Providence Seaside Hospital, Teevin Brothers and U.S. Bank.

   

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