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From the Publisher

April 14, 2005


Orchids, generosity


WHEN WE MOVED OUR YOUNG FAMILY TO Humboldt County in 1972 there was a shortage of physicians. I remember it clearly because one of our daughters developed a very high fever and I tried frantically to find a pediatrician (no luck) or someone in general or family practice to see her. Most had unbelievable waiting lists. (In those days we thought emergency rooms were for car wrecks and heart attacks.)

We got through that crisis and months later finally found a doctor. Not just any doctor one of the best. Call it luck -- or maybe karma.

My husband was teaching at Humboldt State and he saw a note on a bulletin board from a man looking for a math tutor for his disabled son. He thought he'd help out. During those sessions the man, a radiologist, said, "If there's anything I can do to repay you " and Bob said, "Well, do you know any doctors who would take my family?"

That's how we went to the top of the list for Dr. Roy Wittwer, one of the founders of Eureka Family Practice. We later became friends with Roy and the love of his life, his wife, Frae. (They had met in a bar on the Arcata Plaza, but that's another story.) I think we bonded during the many long, cold, wet, miserable nights crushing grapes together each fall behind their home in Eureka. (Roy had the first winery in the county, Wittwer Winery, years before Bob and I started Fieldbrook Winery in 1976.)

Our lives went in different directions over the years. Roy retired as a physician and eventually gave up making wine, but he and Frae continued to pursue their overwhelming passion of growing orchids -- a subject that landed them on the Journal's cover this week. They are the two shy ones standing in the back on the left.

Bob and I always call our winery "the hobby that got out of control so we made it into a business." The Wittwers have the same affliction -- only far worse. Can you believe a million orchids? And how many acres under glass?

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READERS MAY RECALL in early January we ran a story called, "One soldier's effort." It was a tale about Wade Aubin, son of Carol and Vic Aubin, who was serving in Baghdad as liaison officer for the National Guard to the impoverished neighborhood of Diyala, a Shiite community. He had told his mom about the lack of clothes and shoes for the children and how cold it was. He said the women didn't even have basic sewing supplies.

The Aubins, their family and friends immediately launched a drive to gather supplies to ship. Their deadline was tight -- less than 30 days -- because Wade's unit was being moved.

Their efforts were a resounding success. Hundreds of pounds of clothing, shoes and sewing supplies were gathered and 128 boxes were shipped from the Bayside Post Office later that month. They arrived just in time for Wade to distribute the material to the neighborhood he served. Eighty people gave cash to cover the $4,000-$5,000 worth of shipping costs. Wade told his folks, "We have shown these people another generous side of the American people."

What is even more astounding is the success of the effort in light of the timing. Early January? The Aubins were trying to beat the clock at the same time so many other local relief efforts were under way to help tsunami victims. Humboldt County School Superintendent Garry Eagles recently noted that students and teachers raised nearly $25,000 for tsunami relief.

This is a generous community.



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