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For many people, owning a popular restaurant chain while balancing a marriage would make life busy enough. But not for Dellan Redjou.
In 1983, when Redjou married her husband, Wayne Redjou, the young couple took ownership of the now-closed Vancouver institution Smokey’s Pizza. She loved her job, and she continued to work at the pizza parlor until it closed in 2013.
But Redjou wanted to do more beyond the paperwork and hours of office time that comes with owning a business.
“I didn’t want to be sitting in a desk all day,” said Redjou. “I just prefer to be out talking to people.”
That much is clear, even in a short conversation with 58-year-old Redjou, a gregarious woman who now manages volunteers at Share Vancouver. She’s a fast talker, quickly recounting her nearly 40 years of working, volunteering and parenting in Clark County. She’s one of those people who seem to have their hands in everything, and there’s no question that her work has affected, in big ways and small, thousands of Clark County residents.
It was Redjou’s early years working at the restaurant, and a few years later, joining the Hazel Dell Business Association — which would later become the Hazel Dell Salmon Creek Business Association as it expanded — that kicked off nearly four decades of community service.
” ‘Whatever you do, don’t become president,’ ” Redjou recalled her husband saying after she joined the business association. “So what did I do? I became president.”
Over the years, Redjou would find herself involved in more and more activities across Clark County. Though she moved to Battle Ground after she and her husband were married, their ownership of Smokey’s kept them busy in the Hazel Dell area. The restaurant sponsored Little League teams and high school athletics, along with donating to more than 30 local schools throughout the years and sponsoring reading awards. In 2010, the Redjous were inducted by the Rotary Club of Vancouver Sunrise into the Clark County Hall of Fame.
“We supported a lot of youth groups,” Redjou said. “We enjoyed that.”
She’s been a volunteer with the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and an active member of the Rotary Club of Greater Clark County, including a yearlong stint as its president in 2007.
“She pushes people to do a little bit more, be a little bit better,” said Kathy Streissguth, who worked at Smokey’s for nine years and volunteered with Redjou at Rotary Club. “She always made me want to be a better person.”
In her work for the Hazel Dell Salmon Creek Business Association, she was chair of the Hazel Dell Parade of Bands for a decade, which she said was one of her greatest passions.
“The highlight of the whole thing was watching the first group out of the chute,” she said. “Watching the first group step off for the parade was always so exciting. I loved watching it.”
Dan Clark, who served alongside Redjou in the on the Rotary Club for about eight years, called her an “amazing business woman,” and “very driven” to serve.
Redjou’s always been a big-picture thinker and a leader, Clark said. In her work on the Rotary Club Foundation, Redjou always thought about saving for long-term projects, such as building parks, he said.
“Just in general, I think the community is better for people like her,” Clark said.
But then, as often happens, the rest of life began to slow Redjou down — though her definition of scaling back still makes for a busy life. The couple had their oldest daughter, Rachael, 20 years ago when Redjou was 37. Their second daughter, Kelly, came four years later.
“I remember taking my oldest daughter various places with me,” Redjou said, recalling taking baby Rachael to Chamber of Commerce meetings.
Then, four years ago, Redjou faced one of her greatest hurdles. Her husband, Wayne, died after fighting nonsmoking throat cancer for about eight years.
Redjou, suddenly a single mother and facing running a business alone, had to reinvent herself, she said. She sold Smokey’s, ending a 48-year run for the restaurant chain.
“It’s tough to do that when you’re a single parent,” Redjou said. “I had to.”
Two years ago, she took a job as the Director of Volunteers and Community Resources for Share Vancouver, where she manages about 3,000 volunteers. There are some similarities to running a business, she said, but the transition came with its challenges.
“I had to go from being an owner to an employee, which is an odd transition,” Redjou said.
And though life seems to have settled down a bit in recent years for Redjou, she shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. She has aspirations to continue working at a county-wide level, as well as to be more involved in promoting education around Clark County.
“(Clark County) is just a very generous community,” Redjou said. “It’s a pleasure and an honor to be able to work with all the people that I end up working with. I consider myself incredibly lucky.”