WREN — "Love for music ... love for community."
Those words quickly enter the mind of Bill Pearcy while describing his late wife, Amy Schoener. A new stage built in her memory will be dedicated this summer at Wren Community Hall.
A popular longtime Wren resident, Schoener touched many lives through acts of generosity on many fronts. Among her numerous talents and interests, she's remembered by many as having a special love for making and sharing music with others.
It only seemed natural to organize a project to build a new stage that carries her name at the historic Wren building.
Mary Petersen, Jane Olson and Pearcy made up a committee dedicated to see the project through to reality. The idea for the stage originated during a meeting of a local group called Make It, Mend It, commonly referred to among themselves as MIMI.
In the first meeting following Schoener's death on May 1, 2016, MIMI began discussing ways to do something special.
"She was very important to that group ... a lot of good ideas were thrown around," Petersen said. "Amy had always wanted a stage in this building. She told me once it would get the crowd more involved because before, unless you were in the front row, you couldn't see what was going on."
The group decided a stage would be a fitting tribute.
Schoener was actually involved in starting MIMI, along with Olson.
"We realized there were a lot of women around the Wren community that we didn't know and we would like to be able to visit with our neighbors," Olson said. "So we got together this little social group and to this day meets pretty much once a month."
Petersen expected fundraising for the stage to be the most challenging part of the project, originally estimated to cost about $5,000. However, she said enough donors contributed money, services and supplies to fill up a couple of pages.
Interestingly, the wood used for the stage ended up coming from a local source.
"The actual framing was wood that was donated from a gentleman in Wren who was restoring an old barn," Petersen said. "So he purchased wood, actually, he had trees that fell on his property, and he had that milled and that's what he was using to re-do his barn. That was four or five years ago and he had extra wood."
Jonathan Jensen, the project's lead carpenter, knew the man and asked if the group could purchase some of the leftover wood. But Petersen said he just gave it to them.
"It's just like this building," Petersen said. "All this wood for this building was donated when it was built in '38."
George Lauris and George Caldwell devoted time to creating the first-draft drawings of the stage. Jensen led the carpentry piece of the project with a lot of help from Petersen and Olson. Trevor Storch Construction, a Philomath-based flooring company, supplied and finished the stage floor.
"He delivered for free and he gave us the wood at his cost," Petersen said. "He's really, really good and he's very popular in Corvallis and hard to get. But I've known him since he was a young man so when I called him up, I got to the top of the list somehow and he came right out and took care of it."
And then there was Lori Stephens of Broadleaf Architecture. Olson said she started calling around to see who did the barn renovation at Beazell Memorial Forest.
"We didn't know anything about building a stage, we didn't know anything about how to get volunteers, so on a whim, I called them up and said, 'this is what we're doing, do you have any advice for us?'" Petersen said. "And Lori Stephens said, 'when can I meet you?' And she came out here and met with us."
Stephens took those first drafts that Lauris and Caldwell had sketched and came up with a plan, complete with three-dimensional computer renderings.
"She drew us up the plans and she made sure it was up to code on fire and she looked underneath to make sure the engineering of the old building could hold the extra weight," Petersen said. "She gave us all of these images so we could help sell the idea to explore to help raise more money. ... She didn't charge us anything."
Jensen brought the plans to life and worked through the challenges of an old building.
"I thought the fundraising was going to be the hard part; the fundraising was the easy part," Petersen said. "The getting it done was the hard part."
For those who knew Schoener, there are many pleasant memories. Olson called her "very outgoing, very friendly, a lot of fun, great sense of humor, wonderful laugh and wonderful smiles" and added that she also "could throw a dinner party at the drop of a hat."
Petersen recalled when she really had an opportunity to get to know her. She had gone over to the couple's house and were fixing a dining room table.
"We had it turned upside down in your dining room and we just started laughing," Petersen said to Pearcy. "She had such a good sense of humor and she had a very contagious laugh when she started going. Every time I was with Amy, we had a good laugh."
Pearcy said of his late wife, "She was what I call a 'yes lady.' You ask her to do something and it was 'yes, let's do it.'"
But music was very special in her life. When Pearcy met Schoener, she was already a classical pianist.
"She came here and she heard somebody play the saw ... and she said, 'that's interesting, I'd like to play that,'" Pearcy recalled. "You know, the saw is hard to play but she was very dedicated and very persistent and I think she was better than anybody else around after a while."
Schoener wasn't finished with expanding her musical talents.
"Then she said, 'well, the accordion sounds pretty nice, too.' So she picked up the accordion and learned to play all by herself, no lessons," Pearcy said. "At the end, she had a mandolin and she died before she mastered that, but she was a great musician. She loved to get together with little groups and play."
The "Rusty String Band" and the "Accordioso" band were among her groups and she played music jams in spots such as Guthrie Park up in Dallas and Imagine Coffee in west Corvallis. Schoener also sang in the women's choir, "Jubilate."
"Sometimes, she'd be out of the house four nights a week out there playing someplace," Pearcy said. "She loved the small groups, not the big groups, and she joined a lot of them."
Wren Community Hall hosts several events through the year, including fundraisers for the building in the spring and fall. The hall is also rented out for various activities from reunions to holiday parties.
Organizers set the dedication celebration for June 23.
Petersen said she hopes to see good attendance at the dedication while spreading the word that the hall is available to rent. Rental income provides needed funds to maintain the old building. A new roof is among the big-ticket items on the horizon.