Colorado couple volunteers at Fair
August 21, 2014
The views at Skamokawa Vista Park and the charm of the Wahkiakum County Fair have fixed Bob and Jane Hays' travel plans for the past 15 years.
Bob, 83, a retired electrical engineer and his wife Jane, 82, came to the northwest to visit one of their three children. Their middle boy lives in Woodinville and works for Microsoft as an electrical engineer. Towing a fifth wheel gave them the freedom to travel without any particular plan and on a fateful day about 15 years ago they found themselves on a little ferry from Westport, Ore., heading north toward Cathlamet. Half an hour after taking a left on SR 4, they fell in love with Vista Park.
The couple from Golden, Colo., usually spends eight to 10 weeks in the northwest each year, traveling back and forth between Skamokawa and the Seattle area and points in between.
On one of their visits they noticed the Wahkiakum County Fair sign over the highway.
"We grew up in western Kansas on farms and the fair was a big deal," Jane said. "We were country!"
Bob and Jane decided to take a look. Now they return each year to volunteer, helping out however they can.
"We really enjoy the fair," Jane said, "seeing what people enter, seeing the animals, the kids and the flowers."
"We enjoy helping," he said. "We get to talk to the local people and get the flavor of the local people. So many times when you travel you don't get to do that."
They may have traveled from Colorado to Arkansas to the northwest already this year, but transportation was scarce when they were growing up and it made their county in northwest Kansas feel like a much bigger place than it seems today. Bob was from Norton, the county seat, with a population that he estimated to be around 3,000. Jane was from Densmore, which is about 20 miles away.
Even though their fathers had been acquainted for years, the two never laid eyes on each other until after high school and Bob's three-year stint in the Air Force. They met at a roller rink and quickly took up couple skating.
They may have given up the roller skating but they've remained a couple for 61 years.
Bob tried farming for a while, but it was hard on his back so at 26 he returned to school and got a degree in electrical engineering.
"I got my PHT," Jane laughed. "Putting hubby through. I'm the head of his department."
On July 31 of this year, they took a trip they hadn't planned when Bob had a pacemaker implanted at St. John Medical Center. He currently has to wear a brace so he doesn't lift his left arm, but he looks good.
Keep an eye out for them this time next year. They are a great help to the staff and the volunteers at the fair and though transient, they know and practice the essence of community.