Strangers help Vancouver couple clean off graffiti

Their Cascade Highlands fence was vandalized

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter



It wasn’t how they wanted to spend their Saturday.

Jane and Lee Knable were still in bed at their house in Vancouver’s Cascade Highlands neighborhood at about 9 a.m. on March 25 when they woke up to their neighbor knocking on their door.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you, to wake you up so early for this, but you’ve been tagged,’ ” Jane Knable said.

The couple went outside to find most of their normally white 40-foot fence covered in graffiti — illegible bubbly letters and an expletive, “F-bomb Trump,” Lee Knable said.

“It was terrible, they had to use profanity,” he said. “It was a mess.”

Lee Knable tried to clean it off with a pressure washer, but that didn’t work. So the duo got some solvents and rags from the garage and got to work scrubbing.

What happened next played out like a children’s storybook: One by one, all day long, people stopped to help.

First, a woman driving by in her car stopped. She said she was going to the grocery, and asked if they needed anything, Jane Knable said. She told them she had more rags and cleaner at home and that she’d come back to help.

“I said, ‘We would really appreciate that. If you feel like doing that, that would be great,’ ” Jane said.

The woman returned a short time later and scrubbed the fence for about an hour, chatting with Jane.

A little while later, a woman and her young daughter, who was 5 or 6 years old, stopped by, Jane Knable said. They stayed and scrubbed the fence for about two hours.

“She was teaching the girl a lesson in helping neighbors,” Lee said. “It was so cute.”

Jane said she was in the middle of checking to make sure everyone had gloves when the next do-gooders stopped: two sophomores at Mountain View High School. The teens got to work, staying for about three hours on the sunny Saturday.

“They were just remarkable,” Jane said. “The character of these two young boys was just phenomenal.”

The next people to stop were the Knables’ new neighbors, a couple who were in the middle of moving into the house kitty-corner to theirs. The woman had just pulled into the driveway, having just made the trip from Medford, Ore., with a truck full of furniture. She and her husband stopped their moving efforts and came over to help the Knables clean their fence. The couple stayed for four hours and then went home to unload boxes, refusing help from the Knables.

“We hadn’t met them yet … I thought, hey wait this isn’t right, I’m supposed to be bringing you cookies and stuff,” Jane said. “That’s not how we were supposed to meet.”

Throughout the day, others stopped to express their disgust with what happened and to help for however long they could, some for only 15 to 30 minutes, Jane said. One person dropped off cookies. Another person dropped off orange cones, so the group would be more safe from traffic.

“It was just kind of a rotating door. People would come and go … Everyone kind of just went to work, talking about the neighborhood and each other’s lives,” Jane said. “They just stopped to do a good deed, to help us. It was just remarkable.”

Part of the reason that the Knables were so wowed by the outpouring of help was because they didn’t know anyone who stopped. It also happened on one of the first sunny Saturdays of the year.

“Everybody wanted to be doing something else but scrubbing a fence, but they stopped. It was just beautiful,” Lee Knable said. “One showed up, then another, then another. Pretty soon there was no space left. There were so many people you were elbow to elbow.”

As they were wrapping up around 6 p.m. that day, the Knables were approached by the owner of Out-A-Bounds, a sports bar down the road, who dropped off a gift card for the couple to have dinner.

“It was an amazing series of events,” Jane said. “You can see why I was just so overwhelmed with all of this.”

And if the story of what happened to the Knables was a children’s book, then the moral was a lesson in humanity.

“It restored my faith in mankind. The world is just so messy right now and to have that happen right now … it’s incredible,” Jane said. “It just made me feel really grateful for the community that I live in.”