CAROLE PARKER (RIGHT) stands with retired United States Postal Service clerk Marie Coffey (left) in the lobby of the La Center Post Office, 421 NE John Storm Ave., La Center. Behind and beside the women is the photo wall Parker created to honor and remember local veterans.
The Reflector staff reporter
Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2015 5:00 pm
Recent visitors to the La Center branch of the United States Post Office may have noticed something a little different over the past few weeks.
Inside that post office’s front lobby, a new display honors dozens of La Center veterans – from the “greatest generation” who fought in World War II to veterans currently serving in all branches of the U.S. military.
On one wall, photo collages thank veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War and the most recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. On another wall, individual photos honor specific veterans, including local leaders like La Center Mayor Jim Irish and La Center City Councilor Al Luiz. Above the individual photo collages, a large, framed banner reads: La Center Salutes Our Veterans.
The project is the brainchild of Carole Parker, a La Center resident and military widow.
“I wanted to pay tribute to our military personnel,” Parker says. “But, also, in talking to so many family and friends, I got the sense that many people are unaware of what has come before them … of the sacrifices our military members have made to protect their freedom.”
On the wall hangs a photo of Parker’s husband, Lloyd Parker, a recipient of the Purple Heart for injuries he suffered during the Vietnam War. He was only 26 when he died during a training exercise in Germany, and Lloyd left behind his young wife of five years, Carole, their 14-month-old son, David, and an unborn baby daughter. Nearly 45 years after her husband’s death, Parker smiles at Lloyd’s photo and says she remembers her handsome, young husband every time she sees their daughter, Kendall.
“She looks just like him,” Parker says. “He was so beautiful. And he would have been the first to tell you that!”
For the past several months, Parker, whom many may know as the longtime (now retired) secretary of the La Center Evangelical Free Church, has been collecting photos of local, La Center area veterans from their families and then crafting a beautiful collage, with a military background, photos of the military members in uniform and maybe even a current photo to show the “then and now” of the veterans. Each photo collage has the veteran’s last name printed in bold and is encased in a lovely frame.
Two weeks before Memorial Day, Parker, along with a few volunteers, including retired U.S. Postal Service clerk Marie Coffey and La Center residents Mike Ready and Ted Ross, hung the photos inside the La Center Post Office lobby for the public to see.
“Even as the pictures were being hung, postal customers passing by would stop, admire and inquire about adding family pictures to the collection,” Coffey says. “Some even went running home and returned with prints!”
Coffey, who comes from a military family and has a photo collage on the veterans’ wall featuring her father, husband, father-in-law and grandfather-in-law, worked with former USPS Postmaster Bob Vore to build a large bulletin board inside the La Center Post Office lobby, honoring the local veterans. People would leave news clippings and photos to honor the veterans, and Parker used many of these to craft her time-period collages featuring veterans of foreign wars, from WWII through Iraq and Afghanistan.
Parker is still adding to the wall and says she can take any photo, no matter the condition, and turn it into something usable. She also hopes to expand the project to build similar walls inside other Clark County post offices and is reaching out to USPS folks in Ridgefield and Woodburn. Parker urges La Center families to submit photos of their loved ones who have served in the military and to call her at (360) 931-1527 or email her at email@example.com for more information. The La Center Post Office is located at 421 NE John Storm Ave., La Center, and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.