Bits 'n' Pieces: Dusenbery goes extra mile for alma mater Reed College

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When it comes to supporting his alma mater, Harris Dusenbery walks the talk.

The 98-year-old Vancouver man graduated from Portland's Reed College in 1936.

This year on June 10, he marched with Reed's float in the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade. It was the first time the college had been in the parade since 1936.

Here's how it came to pass.

Reed volunteers put together a float and about 100 alumni and friends of the college planned to walk in the parade. Reed is marking its own milestone, celebrating 100 years of excellence in education. About three days before the parade, Mike Teskey, director of the alumni group, invited Dusenbery to join the walkers.

Teskey ordered a wheelchair in case Dusenbery was unable to finish the route.

No wheelchair was needed.

Dusenbery said his daughter, Diane Waggner ('68 Reed grad), pushed the empty chair most of the route. He confessed he did sit in the chair when the parade stopped on occasion, but when the parade started moving, so did he. To the very end.

When he attended the Reed reunion during the first week of June, he attended lectures all day and slept in a dorm room for four nights.

Dusenbery, who retired 42 years ago as district manager of the local Social Security office, doesn't spend much time sitting. He is healthy and walks at least a mile every day. But since his artificial knee has begun wearing out, he started buying a bus pass.

His wife, Evelyn, died four years ago. Dusenbery keeps busy. He volunteers at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop one day a week and serves on the investment team at First Presbyterian Church. He eats lunch at the Luepke Center two or three times a week. At home, he is digitizing slides he took when he and Evelyn visited the North Pole in 2001.

Dusenbery has other distinctions.

He recently was named as one of two recipients of the first-ever Lifetime of Giving Award by The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington. It was bestowed for his years of philanthropic generosity that were sometimes made thanks to "significant personal sacrifices," the foundation said.

During World War II, Harris served in the Army's 10th Mountain Division, a then-new program to train skiers and climbers for combat in difficult mountainous terrain. Although the division served in combat for only four months, it had one of the highest casualty rates of World War II.

After he retired, Dusenbery wrote two books about his experiences in the 10th Mountain Division. In 1991 he published "Ski the High Trail: World War II Ski Troopers in the High Colorado Rockies," which focuses on the training of the soldiers at Camp Hale in Colorado, where, in addition to being trained in military operations, they practiced skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing and cold weather survival.

In 1998 he wrote his second book, "North Apennines and Beyond with the 10th Mountain Division." Both of Dusenbery's books are available on Amazon, and this book is available through the Fort Vancouver Regional Library.

One reviewer wrote: "The universal appeal here is Dusenbery writing of his military experience from a common-man, citizen-soldier's point of view."-- Mary Ricks

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.