McDonald Park sign gets update

Rob Giese works on the sign at J.T. McDonald Park at the corner of South 7th and F streets while visiting Lakeview from his home in Alaska.

While visiting Lakeview from Gustavus, Alaska in spring, Rob Giese realized he would not be able to return home anytime soon due to COVID-related restrictions. While staying in his childhood home on G Street and taking walks around the neighborhood, he realized that the sign at J.T. McDonald Park needed an update. He took it upon himself to get the job done and encountered some ties to family and friends in the process.

Besides the fact that McDonald Park is in the neighborhood where he grew up, Giese said it also holds significance for him because he was childhood friends with Richard McDonald – the grandson of J.T. McDonald. Walking by the park one day, Giese realized he couldn’t read the letters on the sign.

So he got in touch with Lakeview Public Works Director Jeff Marshall to see if he could get permission remedy the situation himself. The process to get approval to fix the sign was fast and simple. “I will give Lakeview credit for that,” Giese said.

He chipped out some of the old lettering and repainted it so that it was legible again. He then set about priming and repainting the sign’s poles, which be believed were made of old irrigation pipes.

Giese shared that he’s enjoyed living down the street from the park and hearing the kids playing and wanted to enhance the area. “The City does an excellent job of watering, mowing and picking up trash” at the park, he said.

While standing on a ladder and looking at the back of the sign, he noticed two names carved into it: Stan Haught and D.L. Barry. Giese immediately recognized Haught’s name. Haught, who has since passed away, was a foreman for rangeland fires through the Bureau of Land Management and served as Giese’s supervisor after Giese returned from Vietnam and worked on a lookout.

Giese was not initially sure who D.L. Barry was, but after some research with the help of his wife, they concluded it was actually Giese’s cousin Donna Barry, now Donna Barry-Russell. A phone call confirmed their theory.

Russell noted in a conversation with the Lake County Examiner that she was working for BLM in 1981 when Haught asked her if she’d like to help with the sign, knowing that she often did calligraphy. While Russell had never carved lettering into wood before, she agreed. With the help of Haught, whom she called “a beloved teacher,” the sign was completed. Russell had attended kindergarten near the park’s location, so it held special significance for her.

Russell has since moved to a rural area south of Oregon City but said she typically visits Lakeview every six to eight weeks because she has family in the area.

Russell applauded Giese for his effort refurbishing the old sign and added, “He’s a great human.”

“I find it’s a very small world,” Russell described, noting, “Stan asked me to do (the sign,) I did, then 40 years later my first cousin walks by and says, ‘I think I’m gonna clean that up.’ And Stan was Rob’s guard station manager. I think that’s a beautiful story. This is why we love Lakeview and Lake County. Things like this don’t happen everywhere but they happen here.”

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