I am saddened to read that Gordon Aadland of Centralia, Wash., died at age 92 Sunday night.
When someone becomes that advanced in age, you know simply by average human life expectancy that one is not long for this world. But Gordon had been around forever, and I know I for sure thought he would just keep on keeping on.
I came to know Gordon Aadland in my capacity as a business reporter for The Chronicle in Centralia, as he wrote a weekly column that became one of The Chron’s must-reads. It was known as “Saturday’s Child,” and in it he would remember days gone by, opine on life as it were these days and offer words of encouragement or something to make you think.
We met when he walked into the office one day in 2010, stopped by my desk and said hello. Gordon was one of only a few people that was granted access to the newsroom on his own merit, and we loved it when he would stop in.
He asked where I was from, I told him Rainier, Oregon — and he grinned and told me one of his very first teaching jobs was in Rainier in the 1950s. We would talk about the town and how it had changed while still remaining the same old town of 1,700 right on the Columbia River, and it was Gordon who told me that Rainier was home to one Les Tipton, who competed in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in track and field.
Not only did Gordon know his history, but he did his best to preserve it in the Twin Cities. I remember his contributions in helping several members of the Chehalis and Centralia communities build a proper memorial to eight girls who died in a factory fire in the Coal Creek area in 1911. “The Girls,” as they were known, were reintroduced into the public eye in 2007 in one of Aadland’s columns — and four years later, through the collective efforts of many, a memorial was constructed in a local cemetery paying tribute to them.
Gordon was also a part of history, having served in World War II. With so many of the Greatest Generation passing on, vital links to our past pass with them.
Gordon Aadland did so much to benefit the Centralia and Chehalis communities. Much of his work was visible, but I would believe a much larger portion of his goodness to the Twin Cities was not. Instead, it was felt by many as he was one of the pillars and sound voices of the community that has seen more than its fair share of hardships.
The Aadland Esplanade, the central walkway at the Centralia College campus, is named after him and his contributions to education. He served the college in innumerable ways and contributed to the successful educations of countless numbers of Lewis County young people.
But my mind keeps going back to those “Saturday’s Child” columns. When I worked as the Friday night editor for the newspaper, helping paginate the content and post it to the Internet, I would always take time to read Gordon’s writings. His way with words and his gentle spirit about whatever subjects he would choose to write about drew me in as a reader, and gave me great insight as to the man people in the community respected and praised.
The Saturday’s Child columns are no more. His visits to the newsroom are but a memory. The sign at Centralia College that points to the walkway bearing his name no longer pays tribute to a living legend of Lewis County.
When I accepted a job here in Springfield, Mo., and moved away from Centralia — I knew full well I would likely never get the chance to speak to Gordon again for the lengths of time we could in the newsroom. My heart is filled with a great sadness when I realize such is indeed the case.
But Gordon Aadland is at peace. He is resting now.
May his memory continue to live on, and may the collections of his writings and fruits of his contributions to society foster grand memories and a desire to impact our communities in an equally positive fashion.