Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


Ken Johnson Wahkiakum West Telephone has a new chief executive. On June 9, Ken Johnson came to the office for his first day on the job. He was recently hired by the board of directors because of the pending retirement of Steve Appelo who has served in that position since the retirement of long time CEO, Carlton Appelo. According to a phone company news release, the board looked nationally to fill the position. Johnson was chosen "for his unique gifts and experience with companies both small and large." He and his wife moved here from Nevada where he ran a large company. Prior to that he worked 20 years for a smaller company in Ohio. They have set up residence in Naselle. Photo by Karen Bertroch.

Busy Days: It's early on Monday. What a busy weekend! I so enjoyed the Finnish Midsummer Tea at the Appelo Archives Center (AAC) and talking with women face to face again. It was fun for me to sit with ladies from the beach who are active with the Columbia Pacific Museum in Ilwaco. And I was happy to talk with Eagle readers, too. Friday, I interviewed the new CEO at the phone company. Last Thursday I had my first medical appointment with the new nurse practitioner at the Naselle Clinic. So much to report on, but first may we stop and breathe and take a moment to honor Maria Wirkkala. I have heard about a wonderful talk her son, Tim, did at the service. We have lost yet another matriarch who will be missed so much. I know it is hard to even imagine our community without her. My prayers are with the family.

AAC Tea Report: The tea was well attended. Good Finnish food like cardamom cookies Linda Elliott made and fabulous cardamom sponge cake with strawberries and whipped cream made by Ashley, the baker at the Center. I will get at least one of those recipes and share in a Dispatch. Good to see the presentation of a $4,000 grant from the Finlandia Foundation National for an oral history project. Hours at the Center are now expanded to closing at 4 p.m., so feel free to come in the afternoon for a goodie and "cuppa." See Darlene Bjornsgard's photos from Maria's service and the tea on Facebook.

Photo of the Week: I had a medical appointment last week with the new Family Nurse Practitioner at the Naselle Clinic. She is full of both knowledge and care. I cannot recommend her enough. She spotted my swollen ankles (from sitting at the computer too much, I'm sure) and sweetly suggested I get compression stockings. Aging seems to include things that as a child left me feeling sad for the old ladies on the bus but now, I'm one of them I guess. But in truth I find aging has its benefits. I am who I am and it took me a long time to get here, so I am going to just enjoy life every day, stockings and all. I certainly recommend signing up with her. She takes Medicare patients and no driving over the Astoria Bridge just to do labs!

Wellness Center and PT building in Ilwaco on schedule: The new Wellness Center is coming along. Electrical work is moving right along. Walls have been framed for new rooms, too. I will be meeting with Larry Cohen on Friday, the Ocean Beach Hospital CEO, to get updates and make sure we're on schedule for an opening late summer or early fall. Not only our Wellness Center is on the Hospital's list. A new physical therapy building is opening if not by now, soon. Physical therapy is such a gift for all of us, especially for us with Medicare. All you need is a prescription from your doctor, and you can get all the benefits such as help for pain from arthritis. Therapy helps so much. We don't have to wait for weeks to get an appointment either.

Fresh ripe strawberries from Zimmerman's Farm: They are for sale by flats and half flats from April. She can be reached at (360) 465-2168. She reports that they had 110 flats ready last week so get in there and grab them if you want to make strawberry jam!

From Wahkiakum Chamber: Stacey Lane sent me a message I want to share with you. "I am excited to have Monica Budd of Puget Island joining our Chamber team as our Tourism and Event Coordinator. We are creating a separate office space directly next to our existing office specifically as a visitors center. We will fill the space with more traveler's resources, information about the county and an event calendar. We plan on putting up a screen that will play drone videos of the area and photos of our past events. Our goal is to get people better integrated with Wahkiakum and its resources. We will begin to be open on Saturdays beginning this week.

A grant for $4,000 was presented to the Appelo Archives Center (AAC) in Naselle by the Finlandia Foundation National's Treasurer, Dirk Schulbach. The presentation was made at the Finnish Midsummer Tea held at the Center on June 12. Six visitors from Oregon came to the presentation. L-r are Anita Raistakka, Library Volunteer, Dirk Schulbach, Steve Ullako, AAC President, and Annika Kay, AAC director. Linda Elliott, Anneli Raistakka, Kelly Shumar, and Don Raistakka represent the AAC Board and volunteers. The grant was given in support of an oral histories project. Carlton Appelo, Appelo Archives founder, spent years interviewing regional residents of Finnish descent. The collection is invaluable for those who want to hear their relatives personally speaking of their family history and immigrant story. Currently, the interviews are on cassettes which will deteriorate over time. This project will move them to a permanent digital format. The center is open three days a week offering public access to geological history, oral history and a Finnish library that continually increases with book donations coming from all over the region, almost all written in the Finnish language. There is no charge to visit, but donations are always welcome. For more information, contact Annika Kay, Director, at (360) 484-7103 or email: Photo by Karen Bertroch.

The current office will be dedicated to Business and Economic Development. My plans include bringing resources here to educate and inspire our business culture. Our first effort is a class taught by an LCC educator specializing in business technology. It will be at the River Street room on July 17 from 6-9 p.m. Anyone can attend and it's free! We will also continue to support Employ Wahkiakum, our local employment program. Having Monica here now means that I can break the shackles of my desk and get out more. I'm very excited to be able to be in the west end of the county to meet people face to face. I look forward to working with all of you as we strengthen the connection between the two sides of the county."

This is great news! Don't hesitate to let the Chamber know about events and special gatherings. Both Monica and Stacey can be contacted at (360) 795-9996 or email:

Phone Stock: Did you know that when "our" phone company was a newborn they had no wealthy investors? CA Appelo needed money to buy equipment and pay a small staff so instead of getting a loan, CA asked new customers to pay $40 instead to buy stock! That was a long time ago. Descendants of those stockholders now own that stock and get dividend checks. That is one more reason we in this area consider Wahkiakum West our phone company! There's another business where we can feel ownership as well. The Eagle is "our" newspaper! The people of this county have supported it for 132 years to keep us in touch with each other. Here is another business where we can feel ownership.

Senior Lunches: The CAP box lunch today is Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli Normandy, Sliced Peaches. Next Thursday, the 24th: SW Turkey Bake, Cheesy Potato Hash, Spring Blend. Contact Diane Hollenbeck at (360) 465-2991 to order a box lunch then pick it up at Rosburg Hall at noon. The Senior Lunch Club's next scheduled gathering will be on July 7 at noon at Rosburg Hall. Lunch will be provided with donations requested to cover costs. I hope you will join me there. It's fun and the food is great!

Naselle Community Center Outdoor Market: The Naselle Community Center will hold an Outdoor Market one Saturday morning each month from June through September. The first one will be June 26. Vendor applications can be found at

Word for the week: Prayer


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