Bench honors the memory of Serina Erspamer and her generous spirit

Feb. 16, 2011

photo

ROBERT ERSPAMER, left, watches as Bob Francis and Arthur Babitz unveil Serina’s bench during a Valentine’s Day ceremony.

A special bench awaits the weary on Oak Street.

About 60 people gathered Monday for an emotional dedication of the bench, in memory of Serina Erspamer, the beloved owner of The Gift House, who died in August 2010 at age 62.

Her husband, Robert Erspamer, welcomed the group to the event, through a statement read by store manager Beth Runnels:

"It gives me immense satisfaction that you are joining us today as we dedicate this bench to the memory of Serina," wrote Robert.

He said the bench "will be dedicated in her memory as an entrepreneur of Hood River and as the successful owner of Gift House for 20 years."

City Manager Bob Francis and Mayor Arthur Babitz did the honors in the unveiling, pulling back the sheet to reveal the plaque, adorned with a heart-shaped bouquet of pink roses that matched the pink-themed array of photos and memorabilia of Serina in the window.

The plaque reads: "In Loving Memory of Serina Muratore Erspamer, Wife, Sister and Friend to All. Serina was a true ambassador for the city of Hood River and welcomed everyone with a smile."

Hood River City Council voted in December to approve the bench dedication. It was an easy decision to make, but working out the details of the actual event took a few weeks.

"But everything comes together on Valentine's Day," Francis said. "I just have to say what a great honor it is to do this today in honor of Serina Erspamer."

Erspamer, a native of Australia, came to Hood River in 1990 after marrying Robert in Melbourne, Australia, in February 1990. She ran the store until shortly before her death.

Her friend Sherry Bohn said, "She was always giving, always thoughtful, always generous."

"I don't know how she made any money," joked Bob Altman of Hood River, a longtime customer. "She kept me in hats. She'd look at me and say, 'You need a hat. Just take this one,' and give it to me. She was a truly generous person." Altman attended the event with his daughter, Justine, 4, who wore a red hat purchased at the store.

Robert Erspamer said that while the bench is a tribute to Serina, "We must never forget the many people who have made Hood River the thriving business community that it is today."

He cited Butch Ogawa, Jerry Cranmer, Mark Fraas, Tom Vouivou, Jerry Kramer "and countless others who have contributed to our town's success and they equally deserve a memorial."

But this bench was one Serina herself enjoyed sitting upon, and this was Serina's day.

"Anyone who knew and worked with her during her two decades in business were the lucky ones," Mayor Arthur Babitz said during the ceremony. "Like many of us, Serina followed her dreams to this marvelous place. Then she made it better.

"In her business, she celebrated all the wonderful things that Oregonians grow and produce. To everyone she met, she brought a warm and winning smile. We can all only learn from her generosity of spirit.

"And, to the end, there was that lovely Aussie accent - that link to her first home.

"On behalf of the city of Hood River, it's my privilege to join her loving husband, Robert, in dedicating this permanent memorial to Serina."

Bohn, who owns Sage's Café, one of Erspamer's regular places, said, "Serina cared about the community, about her shop, and she cared for Robert. She was always a good friend.

"I think this bench is a reminder to us to stop and think about Serina and what she meant to us," Bohn said.

She recalled Erspamer once coming in to tell her, "Sherry, I have to confess something."

Erspamer told her she had locked up the shop - with a customer in the separate, east side of the store.

"Apparently, the customer didn't know what to do other than call the police, and they had to call Serina to come down and let her out."

Bohn said, "A memory is a way of holding onto the things we love, the things we are, and the things we never want to lose.

"I will miss looking for Serina coming down the street to order her usual toasted tomato sandwich, and sitting down to just watch and enjoy life."

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



Log in to comment

Columbia Gorge news and businesses