Newspaper Archive of
The Adams County Record
Council, Idaho
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April 19, 2012     The Adams County Record
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April 19, 2012
 

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Page 10 Wednesday, April 18, 2012 The Adams County Record Community Spotlight The Couple that Care By Deb Wilson Pete and Elaine Johnston of Council spend their lives working to help their community. Name a volunteer committee, project or proposal in Adams County in the last 21 years, and their names will be probably be on it. Most recently, as secretary of the four county Woody Biomass Utilization Partnership, Pete helped bring in almost $10 million of recovery money to the counties in 2010. Part of the money provided the Evergreen Mill kiln at Tamarack. Currently working on a new co-op power plant proposal, the partnership hopes to create 30-40 jobs burning woody biomass and garbage at the Goodrich landfill. As secretary-treasurer of the Adams County Historic Preservation Commission, Elaine has helped a 12-year effort restore the old courthouse. Many other involvements fill their schedules with meetings and proposal writing. "We work just as hard now as we did before we retired;' laughed Elaine, "but we don't get paid for itY Pete's dedicated career in the Forest Service eventually brought them to Council. Not many people make it from Greensboro, North Carolina to Council, Idaho, but Pete did. His father, an electrical engineer, worked with early space programs, and enjoyed lifelong ham radio operation. Depression era children, his parents dedicated themselves to ensuring that Pete and his sister Joanne finished college. Pete spent his Army enlistment in Ethiopia as a Morse code translator. Such high security communication proved vital protection during the Cold War. After the service he graduated as a forester from North Carolina State University in 1968, and headed west for his first position in Soda Springs, Idaho. Pete remembers the difference in the Forest Service in earlier days. "We got out and helped the people;' he said, as he recalled repairing water troughs with tar and burlap, side by side with area ranchers. In Soda Springs in 1978, he couldn't help but . notice a bright, attractive woman from Gooding, Idaho working at the title company, and soon they tied the wedding knot. Together they had 5 children from previous marriages. Elaine's father, a farmer, had been 67 when she was born. Elaine and her 3 sisters grew up in her mother's care after his tragic death when she was 10. An excellent seamstress, her mother worked many jobs, including making sheepskin coats at the Sheep Shack in Boise, where she could sew two intricate coats a day. Elaine was only 16 when she first got married. After a brief time in North Fork, crowded in a small house with a new wife and 5 children, Pete transferred to timber management in Dubois, Wyoming for the Shoshone National Forest. He explored the Forest on horseback, volunteered for the Lions Club, and captured a grant to refurbish the city park. Elaine covered the town as a reporter for the DuBois Frontier newspaper, working with her favorite editor, Bill Kunerth, now publisher of the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. Pete provided the photography for her stories. Pete then became District Ranger for the Black Hills National Forest in Spearfish, South Dakota. Elaine continued news reporting. She also worked up her courage and started at Black Hills State College the same year as her stepson Michael, and became college freshman and sophomore of the year. Pete's transfer to Thorne Bay, Alaska in the 17 million acre Tsongas National Forest, stuck them in 130 annual inches of rain for 6 years. Elaine joined the city council and completed.correspondence college courses by typewriter in the days before easy Internet access. Thorne Bay was a difficult town where there had once been the largest logging camp in the world. It barely had a road, and a muskeg lake served as the city water supply. In 1985 the old wooden water pipeline to the city froze. Pete coordinated Forest Service workers hauling in water for the entire town during the frigid weather until repairs could be made. His favorite memory there was pulling in a 150-pound halibut on 30 pound test line. Elaine's favorite memory was seeing the vast sunny skies of her home state again when Pete transferred to Council. Elaine reported for the Adams County newspaper. Their work on the Adams County Development Corporation resulted in the Council business park. For 10 years Pete volunteered on the Hospital Board. Together they achieved a grant establishing the Council Learning Center, which helped 400 people learn to use computers. Pete's eyes misted as he reminisced on 0.his several years volunteer tutoring with Council school students. "When I was struggling in school, my dad read me the entire Captains Courageous to help me catch up,' he shared. "I wanted to give that back." Their contributions continue at the Council Community Church where she is treasurer and he's head deacon. Both sing in the Council Community Choir. In their home, Pete's exceptional woodworking includes a gorgeousstereo cabinet, intricately crafted shelving, tables, kitchen utensils, and wall paneling. His waterfowl decoys win many awards. With his friend, Tun Toomey, he built a 13-foot hunting boat, complete with decoys and reed insertions. His cutting boards, lined and crossed throughout with curly maple, bloodwood, walnut, and Bubinga (African) wood, sell in Kay's Gallery in Cambridge. His restored 1929 Chicago piano from the old Bear schoolhouse adorns his living room. Pete's 95-year-old mother, Christine, lives behind them. Elaine loves growing flowers. Pete had his stint at gardening, growing 84 tomato plants one year. Elaine avoided the kitchen while Pete struggled through preserving endless bushels of tomatoes. He never did it again. In his rare spare time, Pete goes archery hunting and plays golf. They enjoy visiting their children Daniel, Stephanie, Selina and Michael, and their 4 grandchildren. Pete sees an incredible loss that the local forest ranger offices are no longer able to make decisions that benefit local economies. Forest service regulations now come from central offices like Albuquerque and Washington, DC, by people who have likely never seen the country. "I'm glad I retired when I did;' Pete admitted. Both he and Elaine have been recognized several times by the Chamber of Commerce for their contributions. "We were blessed" they said. "We love it here, and love being part of it all: "You have to believe that the world is greater than oneself, that we need to work in our communities and share in their futures;' they continued. Elaine added, "~And please pass the school levy." I ,llllrl I III I I II I I II III I I II IIIII I I rl I III I I III II GUEST SPEAKER: MarkChristiansen Scotts Lawn and Garden products Free amples Door Prizes Interior BEST LOOK and COLOR SOLUTIONS Buy one lallon/2nd gallon Buk] one tallon/2nd 5 Iallon $25 Paiw . ale APRIL 28th To MAY 12th, 2012