Beverly Harmon is at a bit of a crossroads. She had been a careerwoman for a successful law firm, working for them as a paralegal for nearly thirty years. Now, she is 65 and looks at a whole new life, an entirely new chance to start something fresh. What will she do in retirement?
I hope I go into it with the attitude she does.
“If you’re lucky, you get older, but you never get old,” she says, a truism we could all stand to remember.
She makes this remark as she explains how she survived a breast cancer scare in 2015. She is a survivor and is proud of it. She mentions how she loved being an artist and used to paint. She knits and counts on these hobbies and passions to keep her going.
This mentality? Likely driven by her life growing up, as is the case for so many (all?) of us. There’s a lot to tell. Interviews like these could go on for hours.
Born in Wyoming, Beverly lived on a ranch 38 miles from the nearest town. Yet, as happens for many country kids, she wound up in the city, living with her grandparents. After graduating high school, Beverly got married and had a child.
It was then that she, with her husband and new baby, hit the road to Alaska. There was an oil boom happening at the time – during the 1970s and 80s – and Beverly’s family went there not just for money but for the excitement of moving to a frontier town.
Then, on her final year up there, Exxon Valdez happened – the huge oil spill that dumped nearly 11 million barrels of oil into the into Prince William Sound’s Bligh reef in Alaska.
“I spent time in Valdez washing oil from the fur of sea otters,” she explains. “They have a very thick fur… we would wash them for four hours with soap and then rinse them for four hours.”
And yet, still, after all that?
“Most of them died,” she states sadly, yet quite bluntly.
It is a stark reminder of the mark humans have made on this planet, and the mark we continue to make. And long memories bear justified grudges.
“I will run out of gas and be stranded for days before I buy another Exxon product,” she says.
It was the following year – 1990 – that she and her (ex)husband moved to Portland where she was following his job and being a mom.
Though life has taken her many places, having been here for nearly thirty years now, Beverly loves Portland and surely has the authority to call it home.
“I like its quirkiness,” she says. “All the lovely shades of green and just being able to get out into the woods quickly for a walk, access to vegetarian food,” she trails off, yet could go on.
“Not so easy in Wyoming,” she says, finalizing the point.
She goes on to explain how proud she is and how much love she has for her family, including her step-daughter, a one Holly Harmon, who perhaps herself might want to become a PDX Person interviewee (hint, hint)? We’ll ask.
Either way, what an honor to have had Beverly here to share her story. Whether she is out volunteering, serving over 28,000 meals last year with her church, checking out a new waterfall, or knitting, she adds the charm that is exactly what we look for in PDX People. Thanks, Beverly, for letting us in on it.
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William Bessette – PDX People Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.