If you weren’t at the History Heroes event yesterday, you really missed a treat. We honored Irvin Levine, Jean Williams, and Ken Clark, three instrumental volunteers who have done a lot to make the History Center what it is today. Learn more about these great volunteers below.
At the Cannon Beach History Center, we often remember our past by commemorating historical buildings, displaying important artifacts and recording the stories of Cannon Beach residents, past and present.
But what would happen if no one were interested in making our history accessible – if our town, although rich in history and heritage, was left alone to keep history alive?
Rather than focus on what has shaped our past, we’d like to give praise to those that make sure our history is there for the future by honoring two “History Heroes” – Jean Williams and Irvin Levine.
Luckily for Cannon Beach, a dedicated group of people felt that gathering and celebrating coastal history was an important endeavor, and the Cannon Beach History Center was born. Jean and her husband John were two of the volunteers that made that dream a reality.
Jean was born and raised in Portland, and her family has been visiting the Coast for as long as she can remember. She spent summers, New Years, and spring breaks in Cannon Beach each year, and her parents retired and moved to a home on West Van Buren in 1972. When her father became ill in 1984, Jean relocated to Cannon Beach to assist her parents.
Jean has always enjoyed the small-town environment of Cannon Beach. She even jokes that when she met her husband John in 1985, they had a date that the “whole town knew about.” The couple married in 1989, and they began living in a home on Jackson Street.
It was with John that Jean became involved in the History Center’s beginnings. She worked with Interpretive Exhibits in Salem, who created the museum’s permanent exhibit, and she and John also traveled to Alaska, where they worked with an artist to create pieces for the Haystack Rock exhibit.
She didn’t stop there – Jean also made the curtains for the classrooms, and encouraged the History Center to display quilt shows, which it now does seasonally.
In addition to all Jean did to help the History Center become what it is today, she also helps plan the annual Cottage Tour, giving the public a glimpse into Cannon Beach history through historic homes. Her contributions to the event include the creation of an original wall hanging quilt that is raffled off each year. Her wall hangings are a wonderful fundraiser during the Cottage Tour, and have raised thousands of dollars over the past five years.
She likes to think of herself as a “behind the scenes” contributor, and encourages everyone who has a hobby or talent to give what they can to the History Center.
Irvin Levine (or Irv, as he is affectionately known at the History Center) also plays a big part in helping the History Center thrive. Irv graduated from Portland’s Grant High School in 1944, and nine days later he left home to join the Merchant Marine. He loved the adventure of life on the high seas and learned to respect the power of the ocean during his time in the armed forces.
While in the Army during the Korean War, he met his wife Barbara Jean Low. They married in September of 1952 and had three sons.
Beginning in the early 1960s, Irv and his family began coming to Cannon Beach each summer for their vacation, staying in a cottage on Tanana Street in Tolovana Park. In 1984, they purchased their own small cabin on Tanana and used it on weekends and during the summer. As Irv approached retirement 1991, they made the decision to move to here full time, and to this day Irv says that there is no way anyone will ever move him out of Cannon Beach!
Irv and his wife Barbara became involved with the History Center shortly after their permanent move. Barbara was a dedicated volunteer and was serving on the Board of Directors at the time of her death in October of 1997.
Irv says that he became more involved with the History Center in her honor, because he wanted to help in any way that he could. Since he had a lot of experience in sales, he offered to sell the annual History Center calendar to area merchants.
Every year in early June, Irv puts away his golf clubs for a few days, loads up his car with boxes of calendars and makes his rounds. He consistently sells over 500 calendars and generates thousands of dollars of income for the History Center each year. Even in this year’s economy, he sold 505.
Irv says that he never puts any pressure on people when he makes his calls but that he has heard more than once when he walks in the door, “Here comes Irv; it must be calendar time again!”
He helps in many other ways throughout the year as well. He hosts History Center musicians and lecturers overnight in his home, he is a dynamo when it comes to putting away chairs and tables following events, and he is always cheerful when asked to help staff in any way.
The History Center also dedicated a historical street sign that has been restored in honor of 2009 History Hero Ken Clark, another committed volunteer who contributed hundreds of hours of his time to the museum before his death last year.