One of the joys (and surprises!) of doing these “Friend” interviews has been discovering the hidden stories in the lives of our volunteers. Skip Buhler is one of the most fascinating subjects to date. He is a man of varied and immense talents, but almost no ego. And topping it all off is a quirky sense of humor that catches one by surprise.
Skip was born in Fresno, CA, but he traveled a bit before arriving in Forest Grove, the place we both agreed is “the best place ever” to live. Even as a young boy, Skip was interested in art; he was always sketching and doodling. He even designed, drew, and produced his own comic books….at the age of nine!
As he grew, Skip’s love of art grew as well, and this appreciation was nurtured by one of his early professors, the “awesome” Ken Owens. In college, Skip decided to concentrate on art history, and graduated from Fresno State with a bachelor’s degree. He had met his wife Amber New Year’s Eve in 1988. They moved to Denver so she could specialize in neuro-pharmacology, and Skip could get his master’s degree in art history/museum studies.
Their traveling continued when Amber went to Iowa for post-doctoral study and Skip taught American art history at a community college in Cedar Rapids. While there, he was able to meet with one of the experts he had cited in his master’s thesis, and he continued to work on his doctoral studies. Five years later, Amber was interviewed for, and accepted a position to the faculty of the Pacic University School of Pharmacy.
Skip and Amber have always been history enthusiasts, and the house they bought in Forest Grove led them, in a round-about way, to join FHFG. The previous owners of their home on Elm Street had mistakenly put the date 1893 on the house, but Skip had other data indicating the correct date was 1890. While on a faculty tour with Mary Jo Morelli, Amber learned about FHFG and the Old Train Station. Skip went to the OTS to research his home, and before long, was intrigued by the possibilities for research (Skip wrote an article on the “Cherokee Strip” nature of his home’s location in the February 2014 newsletter.)
When Skip looks at the volunteers of FHFG, and notes their various roles in the association, he thinks of his contribution as a two-part mission. First, he wants to make the FHFG library easier to understand and use. Secondly, he wants to interview and record the stories of local Forest Grove residents. He is also one of the main forces behind the Blathering Gathering, a bi-monthly meeting at the OTS to inspire and record reminiscences of long-time area residents.
So, these are things you might already have known about Skip…intellectual things one would expect of a history lover, of a FHFG member, and secretary of the board of directors. But did you know he is also a drummer in a rock band? Or that he has participated in the Chalk Art Festival since he and Amber came to Forest Grove in 2006? This year, Skip’s personal endeavor was to replicate with chalk an AC/DC album cover. As Skip explained, “I wanted to reach that
demographic we usually don’t reach: metal heads and rocker Dads.”
Skip has been a house husband since their two daughters, Claire, a high school junior, and Sophia, 10, were born.
Somehow, in the middle of juggling family schedules, schooling, home duties, and volunteer work, he also managed to
complete the requirements for his thesis, and in 2011, was awarded his PhD. He got a little wistful when he admitted that
someday he’d like to open a record store in Forest Grove, but I don’t know where he’d nd the time to t in one more thing!
Last year the principal of the Forest Grove Community School, Vanessa Gray, asked Skip to design a mural
concentrating on the three pillars of the school: scholarship, stewardship, and citizenship. He worked with the art
teacher and the students of the school to complete the project. And that’s only one small part of his volunteerism. Skip
will be teaching a watercolor class for children at Valley Art starting in November, while serving on their board as well.
He is also a writer; a chapter he wrote for a book about Frederick Remington will be published next year.
Skip quietly watches and learns from his community, but he also has an appreciation of the value of history usually
reserved for older folk. When I asked him to sum up what FHFG has meant to him, he said, “I’ve met some wonderful
people. Having the ‘Friends’ as my calling card has allowed me to learn how these old-timers contributed to the growth
of our town.” He pointed out the dance studio where Sophia takes classes. “People don’t talk about the fact this might be
the place where they met their rst love, or where their kid’s rst birthday party might have been. They don’t mention
this used to be Jan’s Food Mill, or the Auto Shop. But they should. That’s important.” The fact that Skip recognizes that
importance is what makes him special. How lucky are we to have him in our midst, doing this very important work!
About Diane Morris
Diane is a memmber of Friends of Historic Forest Grove