BEND, Ore. - The Bend Christmas Parade committee has chosen a native Bendite as the 2017 Grand Marshal, Susie Penhollow. The Parade will begin on Saturday, December 2, at noon in downtown Bend along Wall Street. Susie Penhollow and her husband Mike Penhollow will be riding in the beautiful red convertible driven by Wendy Puller.
Susie’s family settled in Bend from Yugoslavia in 1919. The original family farm has been passed down through the generations and is currently operated by her cousin Rob Rastovich, who sells the prized Barley Beef to many local pubs and restaurants. Rastovich Farms also donates beef for the Annual Chili Feed to benefit the Historical Society which Susie now chairs. This event started many years ago with Dorothy Cale (the first female Deschutes County Commissioner), Millie Chopp (Susie’s mother) and Louise Brogan.
Susie attended elementary school in the Old St. Francis School, now occupied by McMenamin's downtown. After school, Susie and friends would hit Mabel’s, located next to the Tower Theatre, for fries and a soda. She went to junior high in the Bend La Pine Administration Bldg, and graduated from Bend Senior High School. Back in the day, the Bend Fire Department would flood Troy Field to be used as a skating rink during winter. You could bring your skates to school and go after the bell rang…enjoying the fun and open fire to warm your hands. It was a magical time to be a kid.
After college, she started her working career with the Parks & Recreation Department – when it was run by the City of Bend under the watchful eye of Vince Genna (Vince Genna Stadium). In 1970 Susie took a position in the Deschutes County Clerk’s office. In 1982, when the County Clerk’s position became available, Susie mounted a successful campaign to become the new Clerk for Deschutes County. She held that job until retiring in 2002.
During her tenure with the county, Susie saw many changes locally and aboard. Her role as County Clerk gave her the unique experience to travel overseas to observe and supervise elections in Albania (1997 and 2009), Ukraine (2002 and during the Orange Revolution in 2004), and Macedonia (2004).
Her first experience overseas was during a time of unrest in Albania and she was escorted by armed Turkish Army soldiers to and from the polling stations. Gunfire could be heard all around, but Susie was not deterred.
“You got to see the beginning of democracy in those countries. Now you can see how the processes have improved the lives of the people,” Susie explained. “It was one of the things you felt you were helping these people better themselves and shaping the future for them and the country. People were voting for the first time and they were proud to vote and dressed in their Sunday best, waiting in lines for hours to cast a vote…whole families came together. It was a remarkable time and I was honored to help make a difference.”
Back home. she was also making changes and helping to improve our election processes in Central Oregon and the state. When she started at the Clerk’s office, Deschutes County was holding upwards of 8 separate elections each year. Sharing her thoughts on this, Susie said “People didn’t understand what a process it was to get any kind of turn out for any of the elections held at the polls. That is why I advocated for and helped with the Mail-in Ballots system we have now. It allowed folks to study the issues and be a more informed voter.”
Mike and Susie have been married 53 years. They have 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren. Mike is also a native, born and raised in Redmond, Oregon. Mike’s father was the Honorable Judge D.L. Penhollow and minister of the Powell Butte Christian Church who started the annual Lord’s Acre.
Susie has been a very active member of the community, raising money for PEO scholarships and a longtime volunteer for the Historical Society. She is active in the League of Women Voters as Voter Service with forums and the Pioneer Association. Susie is a past member of Soroptimists, Assistance League, Quota Club, Kiwanis and did fundraising for Cancer Services. “Mike and I have been so fortunate to grow up with the focus on family in a loving environment, in a wonderful point in Bend’s history and for us the holidays are so important to keep these traditions alive and pass this legacy down for our kids and grandkids. I still cherish spending holidays in the same house I did at 7 years old with the whole family. We wish everyone in Central Oregon the best during this amazing time of year. Merry Christmas!”
Pioneer Queen named:
The Parade Committee would also like to announce that Carolyn (Blakely) Nelson has been crowned as the Deschutes Pioneer Association Queen. Carolyn will be riding in a Ford Model T during the parade. She too has long standing ties to Central Oregon, moving here in 1930. She spent her early years living in the China Hat Butte logging camps where she also attended school in a transportable single room cabin.
For more information on the parade, please visit www.bendchristmasparade.com. You may also call Ernie Gilpin, Parade Chair, at 541-388-3879.