My aunt’s tenacity amazed me

Amy Bedford

My first encounter with a visionary was probably my aunt, Amy Bedford. As a kid, I watched many times as Amy showed newcomers plans for a Pendleton river parkway. Her blueprints, drawn by an architect named Richard Gabriel, were kept on a high shelf in her living room. They would come down at the end of a dinner. Every incoming Pendleton city manager would get a visit from Amy, with blueprints under her arm.

Pendleton recently celebrated the River Walk’s 30th anniversary. Like Astoria’s Riverwalk, Pendleton’s now spans an extensive stretch of the Umatilla River.

Any sales person must endure rejection. Amy got her share of that. Pendleton Mayor Joe McLaughlin rejected the river parkway concept as too expensive.

Like other western towns such as San Antonio, Pendleton decided to turn its face, instead of its back, to the river. Portland made a similar decision. Astoria’s Riverwalk has been a transformational element in the town’s rebirth.

The gestation of Pendleton’s River Walk took so long that — within that time frame — the Umatilla Indian Tribe became instrumental in restoring fish habitat. Now salmon swim by the town.

Marking the 30th anniversary, the East Oregonian wrote: “Remember, a river running through town is not a luxury most places have. Name another city where Main Street literally crosses a stream full of salmon, and which is walkable almost every day of the year. It’s a dream for anglers, birdwatchers and joggers alike.”

If I could time travel back to the 1960s and 1970s, I suspect I would find myself incredulous at my aunt’s perseverance in the face of so little positive feedback. Beneath her charming exterior, she was tough as nails.

•••

Watching the movie “Spotlight” amounts to taking a blow to your solar plexus. The movie dramatizes the Boston Globe’s investigation into sexual predation by priests in the Boston Catholic Archdiocese and Cardinal Bernard Law’s complicity. Unlike “All The President’s Men,” this movie about journalists does not possess the star power of big glamour like Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards. Except for Michael Keaton, the cast is more like a BBC roster of good actors who are believable because they lack celebrity luster.

“Spotlight” is an excellent recapitulation of the dogged reporting that developed a story that was especially explosive in a city where the Catholic Church is such a dominant political element.

•••

The business press has been buzzing with news of Macy’s problems. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that Macy’s has been slow to adopt the discount adjunct store model that Nordstrom’s started with its Nordstrom Racks in the late 1980s.

It seems to me that if you want to understand Macy’s problems, you only have to walk into its downtown Portland store. As with other cities, Macy’s bought an established retailer (Meier & Frank) and proceeded to dismantle or mask that heritage.

Unlike its warm and friendly predecessor, M&F, Macy’s virtually shouts that it is understaffed. Walk a block, cross Broadway and enter Nordstrom and you find a well-staffed retailer. It is night and day, and that’s also true of the two companies’ stocks. In the market, Nordstrom is proving to be a better longterm performer.

S.A.F

Beneath a charming exterior, my aunt was tough as nails

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