A belated birthday for a Cathlamet icon
Pioneer Church honored at gathering
November 9, 2023
On Saturday, the Pioneer Community Association threw a belated 125th birthday party for the Pioneer Church, which is now known as the Pioneer Center.
After a ribbon cutting, PCA President Suzanne Holmes revisited the years of fundraising and renovations, sharing dozens of pictures of the structure, the problems and the solutions, and some of the people who helped along the way.
That included Craig Bjorge, whose name joined six others on a plaque recognizing them for "their support and effort towards the restoration of the Pioneer Church."
"Adding Craig's name was an easy decision," Holmes said. "He has left an impressive legacy and is a warm, funny, and humble guy."
She also expressed gratitude for a fellow member of the PCA, Larry Hendrickson, who is referred to as their "get it done" guy.
In one of their final acts on the big day, the PCA honored two local heroes who were instrumental in the restoration of the church, Former State Senator Dean Takko and the late Kay Cochran.
The lower meeting room of the Pioneer Center will now be known as the Cochran-Takko Pioneer Room.
Takko and his wife Debra were joined by Cochran's husband, Wayne, and daughter, Stephanie (Cochran) Prestegard.
Prestegard would later express some appreciation of her own, for Holmes.
"She picked up the ball when mom was forced to put it down," Prestegard said. "She saw this project through for her and for their shared love of this community."
"Ever since I was a young person in high school, I'd look at that building and wonder how did they get up there and build that spire," Takko said. "The building has always been an iconic thing for the town that I always just sort of looked at and marveled at."
Takko helped secure funding from the legislature that provided for some of the renovations.
"I convinced people that it meant a lot to me, and it wasn't that much money in the total budget of the state," he said. "Kay was really involved and she put me on to trying to get money out of the state to fix it up."
"Our paths crossed many times professionally but also as friends," he said of Kay. "She was a truly great gal that I truly miss."
He will continue to support the Pioneer Center, and hopes the community will join him.
"It takes money to keep that thing in shape for the next 125 years," Takko said.