BROOKINGS, OREGON — The 2018 Azalea Festival Pioneer Citizens, Cecil and Glenda Wilber, can tell you plenty about Brookings area history.
Glenda might prefer he not share some stories. As Cecil says with a laugh, “I’ve tried forever to make her a redneck, and I can’t do it!”
Glenda moved to Harbor with her parents, Glenn and Clytie Hadley, and three of her seven siblings in 1956, when her father bought into Brookings Plywood.
Soon after that, Cecil became friends with Glenda’s brother Richard. Glenda was 11, and the boys were 17. As she tells the story, Cecil was invited to stay the night with the family and never went home.
But a good deal of time would pass before Cecil and Glenda became a couple. He graduated from Brookings-Harbor High School (Class of 1958), then he and Richard Hadley both joined the Air Force. After serving for four and a half years, Cecil returned to Brookings and started work at the plywood mill.
“She was my advisor then,” he said. She advised him to save the money he was making.
“He didn’t take my advice,” she said with a laugh.
Later, Cecil studied forestry at Lane Community College, then graduated from Umpqua Community College in 1971 and returned to Brookings to work for the Forest Service.
Glenda and Cecil began dating while she was in college. After graduating from Brookings-Harbor High School (Class of 1964), Glenda went on to college. They married in 1969 when she was in her final quarter at the University of Oregon.
Later, Glenda became a teacher. She began her teaching career in Sutherlin, then taught in the Brookings area for 32 years. She was at the Upper Chetco School for three years, Lighthouse Christian School for five years and at Kalmiopsis Elementary School for 24 years.
The couple celebrated their 49th anniversary on March 22.
Cecil counts among his ancestors Modesto Payne who immigrated to the United States from Switzerland in 1871 and arrived in Curry County in the fall of 1883* after exploring areas along the coast. The following fall he married an Indian woman named Sarah.
Modesto and Sarah had eight children and raised them on the Upper Chetco. The oldest was Henry Daniel Payne, who was born May 16, 1886. Cecil has many fond memories of his Grandpa Henry, who died at the age of 72 on September 1, 1958. His grandmother Gladys was born in Downers Grove, Illinois, in 1886 and lived until the age of 90.
“Grandpa would walk through the mountains to date her,” Cecil said. Gladys and her sister Hattie lived in the Illinois Valley. “He would go through the mountains (what is now the Kalmiopsis Wilderness) and come out at O’Brien. And then he would walk back.”
His grandfather told a story of one time when his grandmother came from the valley by wagon, and it took three days each way.
“Grandpa set out walking when she left and beat her home,” he said with a laugh.
Henry and Gladys Payne had four sons and two daughters. The four sons – Kenneth, Lawrence, Donald and Henry – were honored as Pioneer Citizens for the 1995 Azalea Festival. Their oldest daughter, Dorothy, was Cecil’s mother. Their youngest child was Evelyn (Merritt).
His grandparents were a big influence on his life, and Cecil has many memories of growing up on the Upper Chetco. As with many young people in those days, he found opportunities to make spending money in the forest.
“I never had any trouble making money,” he said of his time as a teenager. He recalls gathering fir cones for the Forest Service (at the rate of $8 per gunny-sackful), as well as ferns, mistletoe, cascara bark and mushrooms.
Hunting and fishing were part of his growing up years, too.
“The most trouble I ever got in was when I put birdshot in the .22 rifle that my step-dad Steve Cate later used when he went to butcher a hog,” he recalled. “I got in a lot of trouble for that.”
Although Glenda’s family has not lived in the area as long as Cecil’s, the Hadley family had a significant impact on the development of the community.
In 1959, her uncle, Gordon Hadley, founded the Lighthouse Assembly of God Church in Harbor and served as pastor there until his retirement in 1964. Her brother Richard Hadley was also the pastor at the church from 1978 until his retirement in 2003.
Before the founders built a church in Harbor, the young congregation held services in Glenda’s parents’ home. The original pews, pulpit and altars were also crafted by her parents.
Hadley Lane in Harbor bears the family’s name.
Cecil and Glenda have two sons – John who lives in Port Orford and Michael who lives in Brookings. They have five grandchildren.
Through the years Cecil had many occupations. He worked for the Forest Service, in logging, at the mill, and as a commercial fisherman.
His least favorite job was in real estate.
And one of his most surprising ventures – because neither he nor Glenda drinks coffee – was to open a drive-through coffee shop in Brookings.
“Espresso 101” opened around 1992 and operated for about 10 years until the Wilbers sold out to Dutch Bros.
Today, Cecil is the oldest member of the Payne family descendants. His sisters are Jeri Lynn Thompson and Virginia (Ginger) Porter. And there are many cousins, all younger than him.
Cecil and Glenda were honored at the Pioneer Citizens Reception sponsored by the Chetco Valley Historical Society at the Chetco Valley Museum on Saturday, May 26, during the 2018 Azalea Festival.
The Chetco Valley Museum is in the old Blake House, a former stagecoach way station build in 1857, at 15671 Museum Road, approximately two miles south of the Chetco River Bridge.
*According to information in Pioneer History of Coos and Curry County (see Biographical Index, page 77, under original name spelling “Peine.”)
A version of this article was published by the Curry Coastal Pilot on May 23, 2018, as part of a supplement for the 79th Azalea Festival.