Contagious enthusiasm: Connie Lauzon is an inspiration to many

September 2009 Posted in People

By Jan JacksonWith grandchildren in tow, Connie Lauzon rides her recumbent bicycle through her Mt. Angel neighborhood. From left are Connie, Sebastian, 5, and Avielle, 8.

When Connie Beard said “Ich will” in Schwaebisch Gmuend, Germany to then Army Capt. Jerry Lauzon, it came with a rider that once his military service was finished, they would return to God’s Country, her native Oregon.

The year was 1965 and Jerry agreed. However, he too had a request. He wanted to retire in a house within walking distance to the church and the pub. Connie found what they were searching for in Mt. Angel.

“Mt. Angel wasn’t new to me because I grew up in the St. Paul, Butteville, North Marion area,” Connie said. “I fell in love with this house the first time I saw it. It wasn’t the single story Jerry really wanted, but the balcony reminded us of the houses in Germany and from it we could see St. Mary’s.”

Connie was born in a Columbia County logging camp near Clatskanie, Ore. She remembers living in Tillamook when Pearl Harbor was bombed and moving to the St. Paul and Butteville area when her dad gave up logging for farming.

At an early age, she began setting goals and finding ways to reach them. She was 8 years old when she picked hops to buy a horse. Nine years later, she sold the horse to earn money for college and cried as she rode her beloved horse from her home in Butteville to his new home in Aurora. Her friends say she still has the kind of resolve that always benefits a greater cause.

Her fondest childhood memories were attending a two-room grade school in Butteville. “Miss Gooding made us study hard all morning but after lunch we got to race to the field in back of the school and play baseball,” Connie said. “The kid that got to home plate first got to bat, the next guy got to be pitcher and on down the line. We all rotated positions, but Miss Gooding was always the umpire.”

Miss Gooding also taught her students the “Robert’s Rules of Order.”

“As eighth grade president of the school’s 4-H Health Club, I can still hear, ‘The meeting will come to order, the secretary will read the minutes. Any corrections or additions? If not, the minutes stand approved as read,’” Connie said. “I’ve since learned that once it’s out that you can run a meeting, you get elected to all kinds of things for life.”

Connie worked her way through both Portland and Oregon State universities, and in 1959, graduated from what is now Oregon State University. Armed with her bachelor’s degree and signature enthusiasm, she landed a job in Garden Grove, Calif., teaching sewing to eighth grade students. After three years teaching, the travel bug hit.

“My friends were getting teaching jobs in Europe so when I got the chance to be the director of a U.S. Army Service Club, I took it,” Connie said. “I really was hoping to go to Bavaria, but instead I went to the small West German town of Schwabisch Gmund, about 30 miles from Stuttgart and I loved it.”

It was there she acquired “a rather funny vocabulary from memorizing a page at a time out of my Berlitz German Phrase Book.”

“My earliest conversations were limited to ‘How much does this cost, what is this called in German and where is the ….? It did improve and I speak it quite fluently,’ Connie said.

Jerry and Connie have returned to Germany a couple of times together. For several years, Connie has sung in Germany with the Festival Chorale Oregon.

Marilyn Hall, one of Mt. Angel’s many volunteers, has fond memories of participating in many of Connie’s community projects, especially one project when Connie was president of the Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce.

“Connie is a visionary and when she gets excited about something, she really dives in,” Hall said. “I will never forget the picture three of us must have presented when we working on the Oktoberfest Joy Fountain which was one of Connie’s pride and joy projects.

“To help the sculptor (the late Jerry Joslin) create the statue, we had to make authentic Bavarian costumes to put on the polka dancers and it had to be of material that could burn away in the bronzing process. Connie had picked up an old white shirt from Goodwill, cut one of her own blouses and aprons down to size, and gathered felt, buttons, leather lederhosen, suspenders with plastic buckles and you name it.

“We made quite a sight arriving at the artist’s beautiful Lake Oswego home piled high with bags of felt, a sewing machine, an ironing board, three Bavarian hats and my 2-month-old baby. As funny as we appeared, we got it all done and thanks to Connie and the rest of the people in Mt. Angel that helped make it happen, it is still there for everyone to enjoy. ”

Connie is still setting goals. She can been seen riding her recumbent bike in whatever weather Mother Nature dishes out. She tries to ride her bike 30 to 50 miles a week.

“On the ride to Silverton and back, I enjoy seeing the fields along the highway,” she said. “I’ve had deer cross in front of me, I watch the crops come up, I watch them ripen and then get to watch the harvest. It’s when I do my praying. I consider every day a gift.”

Her husband, Jerry Lauzon, said the saying “Behind every good man there is a good woman pushing him on” could not be more true as in his wife’s case.

“She encourages me, she inspires me, she supports me and comforts me,” Jerry said. “There is very little that I could accomplish without her constant and unfailing love. She is, of course, my best friend.”

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