Once, Coeur d’Alene was the toast of New York City.
For 75 minutes in their historic city hall, New York leaders praised Coeur d’Alene for its courageous battle with the Aryan Nations and racism.
Bill Wassmuth, leader of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, was there on Jan. 14, 1987. So were Mayor Ray Stone and Undersheriff Larry Broadbent.
I was there, too, with the national press and a crowd of 100, squeezed into the ornate Committee of the Whole Room, to witness the presentation of the first Raoul Wallenberg Civic Award to Coeur d’Alene.
The six New York speakers were impressive, including then President Andrew Stein of the New York City Council, fabled civil rights leader Bayard Rustin and Hyman Bookbinder of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. Bookbinder linked the Coeur d’Alene of the 1980s to the unending fight for liberty.
He thundered: “Holocaust, slavery, I-have-a-dream, Selma, Raoul Wallenberg, Howard Beach, freedom to worship at the Western Wall, apartheid, the right to emigrate, Coeur d’Alene — all of these, and much more, all are part of the story of humanity’s struggle for freedom.”
“Howard Beach” was a reference to the murder of a Black man by a mob of white youths that had shaken New York the month before the January ceremony. Council president Stein pointed out that Coeur d’Alene had shown New York the way despite being “an all-white city in an all-white state.”
“It’s ironic that we’re looking to you in our time of trouble,” he told the three Coeur d’Alene men.
What impressed me most? The Idahoans measured up well with the New York speakers. Each was battle-tested in the human-rights movement. Aryans had bombed Bill’s home in September 1986. Ray had helped liberate a German concentration camp as a young soldier in World War II. Larry was charged by the Kootenai County sheriff to keep an eye on Aryan Nations’ activity.
Bill told the New Yorkers he was honored to accept the award from the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States on behalf of Coeur d’Alene.
“We know the eyes of the nation have been on our area, seeing there the presence of a few misguided people who promote hatred, division, violence and racism. Your award acknowledges that the real convictions of the people of North Idaho and our work for human rights have been noticed as well.”
Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat, stationed in Hungary in 1944, who is credited with saving more than 100,000 Jews. He later disappeared into the Soviet gulag.
Stone, Wassmuth and Broadbent have all passed on.
I wonder what they’d think of the state of human rights in Coeur d’Alene today.
Lindsey Rasmussen Gross was a shivering bride-to-be in a wedding dress on chilly North Idaho College beach when Huckleberries last checked in on her. She and her beau, Daniel Gross, had posed for wedding photos on Dec. 27, 2016. They were married the following day at Fort Sherman Chapel.
Both were enrolled at Loma Linda University in California — she in the dentistry program, he in general medicine. Lindsey would return from her honeymoon with such a bad cold that she missed four days of school.
Now, onward. Lindsey graduated in 2019 and now holds her dream job, practicing with her father, Coeur d’Alene dentist Stan Rasmussen.
“I love working for him,” she said. “You can’t get a better mentor.” She also works one night a week as a supervising dentist for NIC’s dental hygiene program.
She fell in love with dentistry at age 14 while helping in her father’s office. The road back to Coeur d’Alene hasn’t been easy. After graduation, Lindsey landed a promising job with a mobile clinic treating school kids. But COVID shut that down. Later, hubby Daniel was matched to a residency at MidMichigan Health in Alma. He has 2 1/2 years to go. “It isn’t easy,” Lindsey said. “But we’re making it.” And they will.
• Poet’s Corner: The little peas are green and round,/when squashed they make a squishy sound/and plop green goo upon the floor./What child of two could ask for more? — Tom Wobker, The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“Dining with Baby”).
• So, what do retired teachers think as the snow piles up outside? Earlier this month, Kristi Nivette Milan awoke and pondered, “I’m trying to decide if I care if there is a snow day.” Then, she yawned and wondered, “Should I sleep in or face the crowds at the ski area?” Decisions. Decisions.
• Quotable Quote (from days gone by for Seattle Seahawks fans): “Football seasons are like relationships. Most of them end in heartbreak, but you pick yourself up and keep trying. And if at least one ends magically, you’ve won forever” — Bill Will, a former Priest River resident.
• Indeed, it has been 40 years since Harry Magnuson, J.R. Simplot, Duane Hagadone, Dennis Wheeler and other investors offered $65 million in an attempt to save Bunker Hill from closure by owner Gulf Resources. The miners signed off on a cut in pay and benefits. But not all the unions did. A deadline was missed. And things went south. Tough times followed. But are vanishing. Finally.
A Facebook friend, who’ll remain anonymous, launched a thread of 66 comments with her observation: “I was on a dating site for one afternoon. I already rejected every man on the western seaboard.” Why? Here’s a brief sample of her list of the turnoffs offered by prospective dates: Toxic positivity. Obvious smoker. A bar or motorcycle in every background. Gold chain. Is called “Buster” west of the Rockies. A girlfriend of hers commented: “I’m too scared to try online dating here. It’s just too small of a town.” My friend responded: “You are not missing much but entertainment. It’s a shallow pond for sure!” Sounds like the single gents our there need to step up their game.
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D.F. “Dave” Oliveria can be contacted at dfo.cdapress.com.