Many of us take pride in being native Oregonians. But there are native Oregonians and then there are NATIVE Oregonians. They are the ones that have lived here as long as the creeks have flowed. They are the ones the creeks are named after.
One of these such Oregonians was recently honored by Governor Kulongoski in a letter for her 96th birthday. Mabel Christina Neathammer-Rigel has lived in the Rogue Valley all of her life as did her parents and grandparents. Her Oregon heritage dates back to 1855 when her great-grandparents crossed America in a covered wagon. Rigel has seen Oregon communities grow up around her. She raised 12 children in these communities and they have raised their children in them as well.
Governor Kulongoski said, “I envy the changes you have seen, for your experiences throughout the years are a part of the heritage and living history of our state.” Mabel and her late husband “Bud” married during the Great Depression and started their big family right away. If asked, Rigel would say the depression never quite ended for them. Although there was never a lot of money they always felt they were rich, they had so much more than money. They ate what they raised or what they got from hunting. She cooked and canned on a huge Army woodstove.
Bud Rigel died when he was 58 years old, one of the few times in Mabel’s life that it seemed perhaps it was more than she could handle, but handle it she did.
Now at the edge of 96 years young you can still find her camping in a tent several times a year with many of her very large family at her side. At this time there are six living generations in the family, a family that has large gatherings quite often. This is a family that knows the importance of family. They have been taught to love the Lord and to love each other.
Not only does Rigel have a heritage in this valley that dates back a few years but it is one that will live on for many, many more. The descendants of Bud and Mable Rigel have spread throughout the Northwest, one probably lives not too far from you!
I can safely say this because I am quite sure of it. Mabel Christina Neathammer-Rigel is my grandmother.
By Kathy Sell
Of the Independent