On February 2nd, 2018 Bonnie Kooken of Orenco, Oregon suddenly passed away. She was a wonderful Mother and Wife and yet there was so much more about her that we all loved. She was our friend, a historian, and a fierce defendant of the old town of Orenco, a historic district in Hillsboro, Oregon. She was the head of the Orenco Neighborhood Organization and the Hillsboro Landmarks Advisory Committee.
It was 1969 or 1970 that I may have come into first contact with Bonnie. As the mother of some great kids in our little corner of the world, she was notable for raising her tribe and making a home in the suburbs for her family. She was by all accounts a hard-working homemaker.
Later in my life with kids of my own, we met again. This time as community activists and leaders. Bonnie having raised her kids was flourishing at her home on Fir Street and very active as a preservationist and history defender. We reunited and with our neighbors became partners in a number of battles in which we fought to maintain the way of life all of us have come to enjoy here in Orenco.
For these sort of battles, Bonnie and the locals had created the Orenco Neighborhood Organization which is known as ONO. Also known as OH - NO! Anyone that ever had to face ONO in a hearing or land use matter got to know Bonnie really well. The historic township of Orenco was her most favorite thing (outside her family) and she was like a mother to the town, or what is left of it. She fought it out to the end for anything that threatened the livability and safety of our place.
In 2015 we united again as the Orenco Woods Golf Course was being turned into 350 homes. For 3 plus years our group battled Oregon's largest land developer and home builder with no money but lots of belief and energy. ONO was recognized for the land use appeal and the fact is that the group lost the appeal but won the war. In that battle, the historic Malcolm McDonald Estate was being taken from a 90-acre Estate of historic relevance to a 350 home subdivision which would create 3,500 car trips a day through our historic area of Orenco. ONO dug in, raised funds, and hired a lawyer. Using the laws and legitimate concerns ONO launched a historic assault on the developers and each time the group was turned back the group fought on. Bonnie was always leading us forward to never give up!
ONO was willing to go all the way and with the help of a small group of people and resident member Dr. Jim Lubischer the battle was extended into the bad recession of 2007-2012. The builder gave the land back to the bank but we were not satisfied to sit and see what happened. After some luck and a lot of work, we landed the Trust For Public land as a buyer. Six months into 2013 the land was secured and in the hands of Metro and the City of Hillsboro thanks to ONO and the Trust!
At the end of all of this Bonnie and the ONO group celebrated with the Mayor and many others as the Grand Opening of the Orenco Woods Nature Park was held in 2017. After hundreds of hours of public service, this was a day to reflect on all the good work that had been done. Not just on this project but on many others too.
As the Park was opened in 2017 Bonnie Kooken was there. After all the hoorah was done she and I talked and took a walk down to the new arch bridge over Rock Creek. We passed by a bench that was dedicated to local historian Joan Krahmer (RIP) who like Bonnie was historically attached to the area and a terrific Historian and activist too.
"Sit down and let me get your picture with our friend," I said as she passed by. We both knew and loved Joan.
"Well maybe they will name a bench after me someday, " said Bonnie.
I replied, "I guarantee it."
Lucky for me I had my camera and insisted she sit for a picture. It was a good day... no, a great day.
Bonnie died suddenly yesterday and we did not get to say goodbye. We did have an energized meeting this week about the battle of the year, which is an ongoing land use mess in which one of the local builders is trying to build on a parcel of "park-land". We will win and make her proud.
Bonnie was a treasured neighbor by all that knew her. Her even temper, intelligence, and toughness were but a few of her notable features. I aspire to be like her and others do too.
We already have a goal to erect a bench in the Orenco Woods Nature Park in her honor and will pursue that diligently until it is accomplished. If you can volunteer, fight, teach, care, or look after others like Bonnie did in your life please do.
We will never forget you Bonnie. The good Fight continues!
UPDATE: We have a GoFundMe Page set up for Bonnie - A Bench For Bonnie - Donate if you can and Thank you!
Bonnie Kooken is remembered at our History Hall of fame and has her own page her on the site - See More here.
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