Our dear friend Loreen Eliason ascended from this world November 19, 2013 at one in the morning. She was at home.
She called the Trader the Friday before to say good-bye to you, her friends and readers. "I want to write one last story." I asked if she wanted me to come over now. "I could type for you."
"That might work," she told me. "But not today, Hospice just left." So I told her to call if she felt up to it... Anytime, I'd be there.
But of course she couldn't. "I'm done," she told me. "It's going to be fast." So I wrote down her 'message' as she'd told it to me, and prayed she'd get her wish for one last story, off the cuff. She had so many more stories in her.
Loreen was a fascinating person, a great writer with a memory for details that forever amazed me. "I don't remember what I had for breakfast, how do you remember what happened when you were seven?" I asked her many times.
We became friends when she bought the Riverwood. I remember pulling up to get her ad copy and there she was, digging out all the beautiful jade that grew in the beds in front of the Bar. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"I hate this stuff - I can't keep these idiots from throwing their cigarette butts in here. I'm putting in flowers!" "Well can I have it?" I asked. "I love jade plants."
So we loaded these huge plants into the back of my Subaru Station Wagon and I planted it in my garden where it did amazingly well until my husband ran over it with a tractor putting in our gray water system. He never could understand why it upset me so much.
I remember her showing off her new sound system with pride. "It's the best sound system in the county!" She beamed. "I'm going to start bringing in some great music." And she did. Loreen had worked in the music business for years in San Francisco. She still had contacts and realized her location half way between San Francisco, Portland and Seattle made the Riverwood Inn the perfect stop over for musicians on tour. And she had rooms. The downstairs was a mess when she bought the place but she painted and furnished all her rooms with antiques, "Mostly from Aunt Peg's house," her favorite aunt in Eureka.
After she got together with Gary, things got a lot better for her. She had a partner, a help mate. We were all so happy for her. They'd met briefly in Mendocino and when he showed up one day at the Riverwood, that was it.
Loreen was tough, an ex-cop. I've seen her toss a whole group of "Alderpoint Boys" out on their ears with a look when they misbehaved. She didn't allow any fighting in her bar. I always felt safe at the Riverwood Inn. When I was single, I'd get a room and come out for the music and dancing.
We spent many an evening on bar stools swapping stories, especially after my sister 'Lucky' moved here from Reno. She and Loreen were two peas in a pod in some ways, both worked in the music business and many years as bartenders. Both so quick witted, I'd sit and listen and laugh. When my sister died in '99, Loreen was there with her silent strength.
We always talked about her writing for the Trader. She had a column in Mendocino, Off the Cuff, and I encouranged her to do one for us. It wasn't until 2008, when Roger Rodoni was killed in the car accident, that she did. She wrote a wonderful story in th newspaper and we asked if we could reprint it in the Trader. After that she started writing her column. It's a big commitment to write a regular column. In all these years she only missed once or twice.
She loved her family and they were the subject of many of her columns. SHE, Loreen's granddaughter Cienna, was the apple of her eye, as well as her daughter Aimee. She wrote of their adventures, and wove a thread into all our hearts with her candid stories and opinions on life in general.
"I love you Loreen," I told her as I said good-bye for the very last time, hanging up the phone. I love you Loreen.
Kathy Jo Lucky