Late on Sunday February 24th, I received word that a long-time volunteer at Mount Rainier National Park, Jeanne Friend, had passed away. Due to illness, it's taken me a week to write this remembrance, but that has also given me a lot of time to think about what Jeanne meant to Mount Rainier, and about the many ways she contributed to this place that will have long, lasting, and positive effects.
With declining health, Jeanne last contributed hours as a volunteer in 2009 -- but that was her 27th year on our volunteer roles. I pulled her folder out of our archives and it's three quarters of an inch thick with time sheets, e-mails, volunteer agreements, photographs, and letters, many of them hand-written. Here's a little note with a time sheet reading "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family." Here's another from 2005, at the beginning of a new project, reading "Here I am back again! The Mountain keeps calling."
For most of her volunteer career, Jeanne's passion was with the revegetation program. She was actively involved with a Boy Scout troup in Everett, starting with restoration of the old Paradise Campground in 1983, and her folder includes photos of teams working on other restoration projects above Paradise from 1984 through 1997. Many of the still-healing patches in the meadows that you'll see during the summer, where errant boots created social trails and volunteer crews repaired them, were her doing, and that of her teams. She also served as a "Paradise Ranger Assistant" under Ranger John Madden, patrolling trails and helping in the ranger station full time from 1997 to 2000 and part-time in 2001 during the summer. In later years, she helped with the park library and curatorial collection, and conducted research into the history of Mount Rainier National Park alongside Bob McIntyre, Jr.
She has a total of 7,457.5 hours of time logged in our database. Some of her last time sheets, totaling eight or nine hours a month, include apologies for not turning in more time, and promises to try to do better.
In 2003, Mount Rainier National Park created a new award category for volunteers, called the Superintendent's Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. Only a handful of individuals have received this most prestigious honor over the years; Jeanne was one of the first. What follows is the full text of the citation on her award:
Jeanne Friend is a Mount Rainier treasure. She came here as a widow with three teenage sons, camped at Cougar Rock, and began volunteering. In the beginning she did meadow revegetation, and when winter came she placed avalanche wands for the rangers. Ultimately, she gave every possible kind of support to the ranger operations at Paradise.
She made Mount Rainier her life for many years. Starting in May, she worked all hours, day and night. Officially, she has given 7,233 hours of servce to the Park over the course of 21 years. In fact, she often didn't report all the hours she worked. She routinely worked 10-hour days, and wouldn't go home at night if there was something that needed to be done.
Jeanne became a Gal Friday to John Madden and other rangers. New rangers at Paradise often learned the ropes from her: she knew what needed to be done, when it should be done, and where the equipment was to do it. She would anticipate jobs, have ready what was needed to do them, and then do them herself if necessary. This included directing traffic and shoveling snow from trails so visitors would stay off the meadows.
She was often the only person available during crises. In one instance she directed a helicopter landing; another time she was a great help in evacuating the Paradise Inn after a bomb scare.
She knows Paradise as few people do, and is a reference person on everything from flower indentification to geography and human history. She was a personal friend of Floyd Schmoe, Mount Rainier's first Park Naturalist, and she wrote a History of Paradise.
Jeanne is the quintessential Mount Rainier volunteer. She was not limited by any job description. She saw what needed to be done, and saw that it got done. Mount Rainier National Park is a better place for all of us because she was here.Jeanne's work is now done, and her service is complete. But her spirit will linger here on the Mountain for many, many years, and we are all better for it. Rest in peace, Jeanne... and thank you.