Off Beat: Her husband mapped out their road to wedded bliss

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

Handmade valentines tend to be the most … well, heartfelt.

That's why Phil Arnold's hand-drawn love note to his wife Helen was so touching.

They're both gone now. Phil, a longtime mapmaker, died two years ago. Vancouver has a public remembrance for him with Phil Arnold Way, a street just south of City Hall.

When Helen died on Dec. 6, we wrote that she didn't get that kind of recognition.

Well, actually, she sort of did.

Her husband did it.

As we have noted over the years, Phil was fond of sneaking little family references into his local maps. In part, it was a way to detect copyright infringement if somebody copied his work.

One of those whimsical byways actually was a tribute to Helen. When he drew his county atlas, Phil penned Northwest Helena Road onto the map of the Salmon Creek area.

There's actually no such roadway in Salmon Creek.

But there is more to the mapmaker's inside joke. It's not just the riff on Helen's name: It's the location of the road that makes it an enduring valentine for his wife, whose memorial service was on Feb. 1.

Helena Road is adjacent to one of the Salmon Creek area's main routes: Bliss Road.

"I always loved the placement on that one," said their daughter, Janice Arnold.

" 'By Bliss Road' was his quiet commentary for life with Helen," she said.

Janice Arnold is an acclaimed textile artist, by the way. Her favorite material is felt.

She used red felt to create some mementos for her mother's memorial service that also seem quite appropriate for Feb. 14.

Heart. Felt. Valentines.


Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.