EVERSON - After seeing hundreds of 4-H horse club members benefit from a special spot over two decades, Rick Todhunter can still see the smile of the legendary local cattleman who made it possible.
"'OK, I'll give you the 30 acres,' Herman told me," said Todhunter, recalling the 1992 conversation that sent his spirits soaring. "That's how the Herman Miller 4-H Park began."
Local volunteers and 4-H members have never stopped improving the park. That's why they are seeking donations for a 20th anniversary benefit auction March 22. Much of the proceeds will go toward finishing an educational building on what was once raw land where cattle found shade while using trails to find grazing on Miller's adjacent properties.
The park at 1385 E. Hemmi Road in Everson is used by other community groups as well as 4-H clubs.
Everson resident Todhunter, retired from a career with Chevron, and Mick Blakely of Blaine, a customs broker, talked about what the park means to the community.
Both have been board president and both have held numerous other leadership positions while seeing their children benefit from 4-H membership.
Question: Rick, did Herman Miller have a 4-H background?
Rick: He didn't have any of his own children, but he was a horseman who was a 4-H leader. He just loved helping people and would go out of his way.
Mick: Herman loved what 4-H stands for - head, hands, heart and health.
Q: Rick, what gave you the idea for the park?
Rick: We were having lunch when I threw out some suggestions. Herman liked the idea of preserving the value of property and offered the 30 acres. He wanted a safe place off the roads for young people to ride horses. I went to a 4-H meeting that very night and people were enthusiastic.
Q: Herman must have been gratified when he saw the park open.
Rick: The park opened in November 1993. Deep down, I think Herman was really happy about the park. He was in his 80s but he could still outwork anyone. He would frequently pop into the park and check out what was going on.
Q: Who maintains the park?
Mick: It's all maintained and upgraded by adult volunteers and 4-H horse club members. It's used by all the local 4-H horse clubs for safe riding. They're riding on the improved trails that cattle once used.
Rick: You really wouldn't have nearly enough space to list all the many community businesses and hundreds of volunteers who have donated time, money and materials to the park. So many people have become involved.
Q: What other improvements are there?
Mick: So many, like the 110-by-200-foot outdoor arena, a picnic area, a gazebo donated by Cascade Joinery across from the arena. Scouts have done Eagle Scout projects here and there's a lot more.
What: The 20th anniversary Herman Miller 4-H Park auction.
Where: The Northwest Washington Fair Expo Building on Front Street in Lynden.
When: March 22. The silent auction starts at 5 p.m.; a live auction starts at 7.
Admission: Free. Food vendors will be on hand.
Donations: Businesses are encouraged to donate items for the auction. For details, call Dani Muhlbach, 360-398-2019, or Sandy Olson, 360-592-1123.
Online: hermanmiller4hpark.webs.com, or see Herman Miller Park on Facebook.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.