May 21, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Encircle Films honors 13 local women activists

15 min read
The awardees were honored at the Art House Theater following the screening of the powerful film “No Time to Waste,” about legendary 99-year-old park ranger Betty Reid Soskin.

from Encircle Films

Encircle Film’s Women of Impact 2024 awards ceremony April 18 honored 13 women for their invaluable activism and volunteer contributions to the Eugene/Springfield community.

Lifetime of Activism awardees included Ruth Duemler, Anne Ehrlich O’Brien, Phyllis Hockley, Martha Moultry, and Nadia Telsey.

Spirit of Activism awardees included Sue Barnhart, Nancy Forrest, Jennifer Frenzer-Knowlton, Patricia Hine and Debra McGee, Chandra LeGue, Debra Nunez, and Jana Thrift.

Ruth Duemler – Lifetime of Activism/In Memoriam

Millions of people in Southern California are living longer, healthier lives thanks to the work of Ruth Duemler and others who passed numerous laws to reduce air pollution.

Ruth’s childhood neighbor was a kindergarten teacher, and by the time Ruth was in first grade she was reading to her neighbor’s students. Thus began Ruth’s teaching career.

As a teen, during the Korean War, Ruth became an activist. She started the first USO in the Los Angeles area. Then, when she saw that shoeshine vendors were taking advantage of servicemen by failing to post their prices, she took the matter to her city councilman, who created a law requiring that all charges must be listed for street services and merchandise.

In the 1960s, Ruth became concerned about smog in the Los Angeles area and organized workshops at local churches. She learned that rats exposed to air simulating the pollution surrounding a sulfur oil-burning power plant developed tumors similar to those impacting families living near the plants. She successfully had the fuel changed.

Ruth created a three-tier smog alert system for the schools of Los Angeles County, and together with Irving Bengelsdorf had Los Angeles create carpool lanes.

Living close to Caltech, she initiated a friendship with Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit, among others, and participated with Caltech’s Environmental Quality Lab. When Haagen-Smit became the first chair of the California Air Resources Board, Ruth enlisted speakers to spread the message about smog’s impacts. She led campaigns to stop one power plant and change two plants to less polluting emissions.

Ruth moved to San Diego, where she was responsible for a law, later adopted as Title V of the Clean Air Act, making industry pay an effluent charge corresponding to the amount they pollute. This provided an incentive for industry to reduce pollution. Under the leadership of the Air Pollution District, the county lowered emissions of many pollutants by over 80% in the following decade. While in San Diego, Ruth and Jim Bleisner led a successful campaign to end city-wide election of councilors, addressing the problem of domination by big money

Ruth moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1991. Her children David, Laura, and Charles followed. There she and others launched “The Other Paper,” a forum for progressive groups that lasted for eight years.

Ruth was one of three chief petitioners for an initiative for universal health care, which became ballot Measure 23 in 2002. She has continued her involvement with Health Care for All, Oregon (HCAO).

Ruth has been a board member of St. Vincent de Paul, an advocate for clean water, taught Mexican immigrants to sew, helped to create a film about protecting wetlands, and protested the construction of biomass plants. Ruth has been a prolific letter writer to the Register-Guard and the Eugene Weekly, and a devoted attendee of Encircle Films screenings.

Anne Ehrlich O’Brien – Lifetime of Activism

Anne dreamed of how to end wars when she was eight but never sent her solution to President Truman. She long ago forgot what the details of that solution was, but she believes it comes from living out the principals of peace in our relationships with others and our commitments to helping to create a more just and loving world. She is a retired RN, who was head of the nursing program at Lane Community College and head of Home Health Services at PeaceHealth.

Anne is currently a board member for Beyond War Northwest which is based in Eugene. Their vision is an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just world that works for all. Their focus now is on teaching the principles of the Third Harmony: Nonviolence and the New Story of Human Nature by Michael Nagler.

They focus on developing the Beyond War message in new forms to keep the principles and practices dynamic, alive, contemporary, relevant, and cross-cultural, to empower people to educate themselves about the options for resolving conflict that do not involve violence, to create social change through meaningful and rewarding relationship building, and to work for peace, peacefully.

Anne was president of Church Women United of Lane County for the past 10 years and continues as a board Member. CWU is a group of progressive women from all over the USA working for peace and justice.

Anne is a regular attendee at our Encircle Films events and was instrumental in helping us bring her sister Judith Ehrlich’s film “The Boys Who Said No” on the Vietnam War to Eugene in 2023.

Phyllis Hockley – Lifetime of Activism

Phyllis was born in 1932 and raised on a Wisconsin farm. She became a teacher after college graduation, and she enjoyed working with a diversity of students, ranging from first through sixth graders, as well as adult welfare recipients in Newark, New Jersey. She drove around the Midwest and East Coast in her 1950 black Ford, always asking God where she should next serve.

In December 1978, she married Len Hockley and, as members of the Ecumenical Institute, they traveled widely to help local folks, as distant as Indonesia and South Korea, to start small businesses.

For Phyllis, God is a spirit — the spirit of true love. For decades she has manifested this spirit in her daily decisions and activities to promote justice, whether it is by petitioning government officials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or by standing against war in front of the Federal Building at 7th and Pearl.

Phyllis has served as communications chair of Eugene’s chapter of Church Women United. And at her church, St. Mary’s Episcopal, she has coordinated the Circle Service, as well as participating in multiple outreach programs to benefit our community.

Phyllis has also been a leader in encouraging public participation in community garden plots. Her own plot is a wonder to behold! She shares its bounty by cooking delicious meals to fill the bellies of guests at the Hockleys’ many dinner parties.

Martha Moultry – Lifetime of Activism

Martha has been a long-term advocate for gun control and a member of Moms Demand Action / Everytown for Gun Safety.

She testified at the Oregon State Legislature in favor of SB 554 which banned guns in State Capitol and Portland Airport and required a person to secure a firearm with a trigger or cable lock, and in a locked container or gun room. The measure passed by voters and then an Oregon state judge ruled in Nov. 2023 that a series of gun control provisions passed by voters last year violated the state’s constitution, preventing the measure from taking effect.

Martha is a retired elementary teacher and principal with 38 years of experience as an educator, 25 of those in the Eugene School District 4J. Martha was instrumental in lobbying the Eugene School Board to pass a policy that would prohibit people with concealed carry licenses from bringing firearms onto school campuses. Policy KGBB “Firearms Prohibited” bans firearms on district property.

In conjunction with Lane County Public Health, she starred in an outreach video in April 2021 to elder Blacks in the Eugene area about the importance of COVID vaccines.

Martha worked with Encircle Films in 2017 to bring the film “Under the Gun” to Eugene audiences. She led the audience Q&A after two showings and organized “A Faith Response to Guns in America” through the First Congregational Church, with four information sessions that included the discussion from “Under the Gun.”

Nadia Telsey – Lifetime of Activism/In Memoriam

Nadia Telsey pioneered the field of verbal and emotional and physical self-defense for women, beginning with the founding of a feminist self-defense organization in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1970. She taught empowerment self-defense to women at the University of Oregon for 17 years, from 1989 to 2007 and served on the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force.

A long-time community justice activist, educator, and author, Nadia was an attentive listener and a gifted communicator. She began studying martial arts in an era when very few teachers would allow women in their classes. In 1974, she co-founded Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts in New York City, a feminist organization that is still in operation and is now called the Center for Anti-Violence Education.

Nadia moved to Eugene in 1981 where she continued her activism for social justice, supporting lesbian and gay rights – and later trans rights, opposing racism and misogyny, and fighting anti-Semitism. Nadia tailored special self-defense methods around the United States as well as internationally, designing and conducting self-defense trainings for developmentally disabled young people.

As a foremother of the field, Nadia has received many awards, including:

  • Founder’s Honors: National Women’s Martial Arts Federation,
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists,
  • Human Rights Award: City of Eugene, Ore., and
  • Change Award: Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force

Nadia wrote a version of Get Empowered: A Practical Guide to Thrive, Heal, and Embrace Your Confidence in a Sexist World (called Self-Defense from the Inside Out) in 1988, photocopied it, and used it successfully in college classrooms with about 2,000 young women in her years at the university.

In June 2015, Nadia co-founded the Springfield-Eugene Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, SURJ. She served on the initial steering committee and prepared a Bystander/Upstander program to train local residents to come to the aid of individuals subjected to incidents of racism, homophobia and antisemitism. Nadia trained others to continue that work, thus assuring its staying power.

Her latest book is Get Empowered: A Practical Guide to Thrive, Heal, and Embrace Your Confidence in a Sexist World, which she co-authored with trainer, Lauren Taylor.

Here’s a link to an interview with Nadia from 2001. Nadia was recently interviewed by Barbara Dellenback of KLCC for Oregon Grapevine.

Sue Barnhart – Spirit of Activism

Sue Barnhart is a retired Lane County social worker who worked with people who were developmentally disabled. Sue has been a long-time peace and justice activist focusing on war tax resistance for over thirty years.

Sue and her partner Michael Carrigan helped to found the organization Planet vs Pentagon. Currently, they have an ongoing 5 p.m. Wednesday Peace Vigil for an “immediate Middle East ceasefire” at the Old Federal Building.

Sue is part of the core volunteer group for Oregon Community Asylum Network (OCAN) which has helped many asylum seekers establish safer lives here in Eugene. She is an active member of Extinction Rebellion Eugene. Extinction Rebellion is an international non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the climate and ecological emergency. Sue is also a member of the Springfield Eugene Anti-Imperialist Coalition.

Nancy Forrest – Spirit of Activism

Nancy Forrest’s activism dates to the ’70s. She grew up on the East Coast and frequently traveled to Washington D.C. to join fellow citizens in petitioning the U.S. government to enact specific legislation like the Equal Rights Amendment or to end the war in Vietnam.

After serving in the Peace Corps in Nepal, Nancy arrived in Eugene to attend graduate school at the University of Oregon. It wasn’t long before she became very active in the campaign to save the UO Amazon low-income student family housing and later Westmoreland student family housing. Both of those long campaigns required extensive interaction with campus and community stakeholders. While both of those low-income student housing complexes no longer exist (Amazon was demolished and Westmoreland sold), it was lessons learned during those campaigns that focused her attention, as a local citizen, on the long-standing problem of homelessness in Lane County.

These grassroot experiences prepared her for successful work with the Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network (ESSN) supporting area workers, the right to join a union, and the creation of the Affordable Care Act in 2009. ESSN submitted over 900 signatures in support of the ACA on the eve it was passed into law. ESSN played a key role in the planning, organizing and ongoing support for Occupy Eugene. After the movement vacated Washington Jefferson Park, Nancy served on the Mayor’s Task Force, the designated body asked to make significant, actionable recommendations to the City of Eugene to address the lack of affordable housing and adequate emergency shelter.

While raising two boys with her husband, Daljeer Singh Ollek, Nancy worked for Oregon Social Learning Center, Cover Oregon, the Oregon Health Plan, and the SNAP Office in Springfield. Over the years she often served as a community volunteer on the streets of Eugene providing assistance and support to our unhoused neighbors. She attended hundreds of hours of meetings over two years with a dedicated group of local citizens who founded Opportunity Village Eugene, now Square One Villages.

In January 2020 Nancy landed her dream job with Carry It Forward, a nonprofit service organization that provides community support for the unhoused. During the pandemic Carry It Forward operated an emergency street outreach program and a small shelter in Springfield. Today Carry It Forward operates a Safe Sleep Site and shelter in Eugene and a Safe Sleep Site in Cottage Grove.

Nancy currently serves on the Eugene PeaceWorks Board and is active in supporting KEPW, our local community radio station.

Nancy’s consistent advocacy, dedication and commitment to peace and justice for all is outstanding and reflected in the long hours she spends helping the marginalized on the job and off as a volunteer activist.

Jennifer Frenzer-Knowlton – Spirit of Activism

After earning a law degree, Jen worked for the Makah Tribe on the Olympic Peninsula in economic development and helped the Tribe to finance a marina for their tribal fishing fleet. After moving to Eugene, she put into practice the activism she learned working for the Makah and pushed city council to address budget cuts that disproportionately affected young children’s recreation programs.

She worked on the founding of Million Mom March with Betsy Steffensen and for many years as a peace activist through Eugene Friends Meeting, Faith in Action, and the Justice Not War Coalition. Later, during the Occupy Movement, she became a leader in advocating for the homeless as well as working as a mediator and program manager in conflict resolution work with the Community Mediation Services (now known as the Center for Dialogue and Resolution).

For years, Jen trained community members in conflict resolution. For example, she organized peacekeeper training for Occupy Eugene and led the homeless advocates in negotiating with the city of Eugene and the police and served on panels at the UO. She is currently a certified Montessori teacher for young children at a local Montessori school.

Jen has focused on volunteer activism serving on the Eugene Human Rights Commission and on the steering committee during the early days of the Nightingale Health Sanctuary for the unhoused. Jen has played a crucial role as a community leader advocating for marginalized groups and teaching the power of nonviolent direct action, dialogue, and conflict resolution. She now brings these ideas into the classroom and is exploring the social justice elements of advocating for early reading skills and applying the findings of the “science of reading” to her classroom literacy curriculum.

Patricia Hine & Debra McGee – Spirit of Activism

Patty and Deb founded the Eugene chapter of the international climate justice organization 350.org in 2013, and are well known in our community as the “dynamic duo” of environmental activism.

350 Eugene is a grassroots nonprofit organization that works toward climate justice by organizing people to make deep system change: transitioning off fossil fuels; advocating for needed strong climate policies; and fostering resilient, just, and welcoming communities with creative, artful and joy-filled outreach, education and events. They do this through a diversity of tactics including policy advocacy, public education and nonviolent direct action.

350 Eugene has had several successful climate action campaigns, including:

  • Electrify Eugene – local and state advocacy for electrification policy
  • Fracked Gas Resistance – resist new or expanding polluting fossil fuel projects (stopped the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal)
  • Divest Oregon – divesting our PERS accounts from risky fossil fuel investments
  • Forest Defense – keeping our carbon-rich, natural public forests in the ground
  • Resilience and Regeneration – staying strong for the long haul
  • Artivism – reaching out with beautiful creative endeavors that touch our hearts.

350 Eugene has formed strong alliances with other environmental organizations like Beyond Toxics, Cascadia Wildlands, UO Climate Justice League and Fossil Free Eugene, and is a founding member of the growing PNW Climate Forest Alliance. 350 Eugene has been critical to the progressive movement in working with public officials, like Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis, to promote solutions to the intersecting crises of global warming and biodiversity loss.

One fun fact you may not know about Patty and Deb: they love to sing and harmonize together!

Chandra LeGue – Spirit of Activism

Since 2003, Senior Conservation Advocate Chandra has been collaborating with conservation groups, federal land managers, and local stakeholders to promote Oregon Wild’s vision for Oregon’s public forest lands.

Utilizing her two decades of experience engaging in public forest management, working with partner organizations, leading hikes, and otherwise engaging the public in Oregon Wild’s work, Chandra helps support the organization’s major campaigns and development by connecting people to the places Oregon Wild works to protect and conserve.

Working from Oregon Wild’s Eugene office, Chandra is especially proud of her work to save Oregon’s remaining old-growth forests. Her book, “Oregon’s Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide,” was published in 2019 with Mountaineers Books and seeks to inspire an appreciation and action for these amazing ecosystems.

In addition to her work at Oregon Wild, Chandra has served on the Board of Directors of Friends of Buford Park and Mount Pisgah, and the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council. She is currently also the co-leader of the Willamette Valley chapter of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

Debra Nunez – Spirit of Activism

Debra began her activism in the ’70s in the protest movements against the Vietnam War, the logging of Oregon’s wilderness, and in advocating for women’s reproductive rights.

She offered her skills in fundraising and illustrative work for then newly-forming BRING., an organization that encourages waste reduction by recycling building supplies and materials.

She has also provided support to White Bird Clinic, the Victory for Whales campaign, Eugene PeaceWorks, and with Nevada test site activities. She has been active for many years with her husband and fellow activist David Oaks at national and international conferences and protests to support human rights in psychiatry.

Debra retired from her library aide job in 2018 to assist David after an accident. She is on the advisory council of Aciu! Institute which supports the independence and empowerment of businesses, nonprofits, and individuals concerned about disability, mental health, and environmental sustainability. Their specialty is green disability revolutionary consulting, with a focus on community organizing of people with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Jana Thrift – Spirit of Activism

Born in the mountains of Oregon and raised on its coast, Jana wants to do what she can to protect our planet for future generations, including her 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. After 20 years in Alaska, she returned to her roots and settled outside Eugene with her five sons and daughter. In 2014, she married Thomas Crowley, the man who makes all her volunteer work possible.

Believing that knowledge is power, Jana has earned AA degrees in Paralegal studies, Diesel Technology, Automotive Technology, and Multimedia Design. She knows that our human, animal, and plant relatives need us to show through action that we care, and that media guides and affects that action. Jana is proud to dedicate much time and love to her family, while also creating media for a cause.

Jana has supported many activist efforts with her videography skills, making over 200 videos about environmental concerns and legalizing survival for the unhoused. She participated and documented the Occupy Movement in Eugene, including Occupy Eugene’s First Year. With David Zupan, she made the award-winning “Homes For The Houseless” documentary about Opportunity Village that played on OPB, as well as many other videos.

Since 2014, Jana has volunteered for KEPW 97.3 FM PeaceWorks Community Radio. She helped to create this platform for voices otherwise left unheard – as a place for empowering community members, making sure diverse voices can share the messages important to them and listeners can be empowered by knowing more about the important work they can get involved with in their community.

Jana created and manages the Youth Radio Project and hosts Legalize Survival (Wednesdays at 6:30pm) and Water is Life (Fridays at 7 p.m.) on KEPW. Her love for music is perfect for radio and she is proud to help bring our diverse Northwest music talent, poets, and artists onto the airwaves in Eugene and to the web at kepw.org. Serving as the KEPW Operations Coordinator for the last seven years is Jana’s way of supporting her community with a crucial growing resource for local independent media.


The awardees were hosted at the Art House (formerly Bijou) Theater immediately following the screening of the powerful film “No Time to Waste,” about legendary 99-year-old park ranger Betty Reid Soskin’s inspiring life, work, and urgent mission to restore critical missing chapters of America’s story. The film follows her journey as an African American woman presenting her personal story from a kitchen stool in a national park theater to media interviews and international audiences who hang on every word she utters.

For more about Encircle Films, see its website at encirclefilms.org.

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