Mike Dalton photo
Fr. Jeff Eirvin blesses monument to Fr. George Schoener and Assumption Church.
Mike Dalton photo
Fr. Jeff Eirvin blesses monument to Fr. George Schoener and Assumption Church.
BROOKS — March 21 turned out to be a perfect Spring Break Day for the celebration of Father George Schoener’s 150th birthday.

An event at the Brooks Branch of Chemeketa Community College included the dedication of a monument engraved with the priest's name and that of Assumption Church, which stood on the site from 1875 to 1915.

The day was hosted by and organized with the combined efforts of Brooks Historical Society and North West Rose Historians and their friends and benefactors near and far.

Father Schoener's 150th birthday was also celebrated in Steinach, Germany where he was born and in Santa Barbara, Calif. where he became known as the Padre of Roses.

The gathering of 30 people on the Brooks campus included members of Brooks Historical Society and their friends, members of Chemeketa Emergency Services, speakers and guests from the surrounding area and the City Of Portland.

On the snack table was a birthday cake with the icing commemorating Father Schoener (pronounced Schurner in German). The display table in the classroom nearby the monument included posters about the priest as well as vintage photographs of Assumption Church, showing Father's Schoener’s rose garden and Brooks Railway Station.

The program of four featured speakers began with a welcoming by Louis Sowa, the president of Brooks Historical Society. Laura King of Northwest Rose Historians led off with the story of Father Schoener and what bought him here to Brooks and his rise to prominence in the world of rose growing and breeding. King then read a thank you note from Deborah Wasserbach of Maryland, whose great great Aunt Anna Schmitt was Father Schoener’s first cousin, his housekeeper and able assistant in rose hybridizing research. Father Schoener and Schmitt are now buried side by side at Calvary Cemetery in Santa Barbara.

Next on the program was Rob McCorkle, dean of Life Safety Sciences of Chemeketa Community College. Training courses on the Brooks campus are conducted for police, fire and medical emergency personnel. McCorkle said that community service was the focus for first responders and the church that once stood here.

“Had we been there in 1915, the church would not have burned down,” McCorkle added.

Dorene Standish of Brooks Historical Society, local historian and ‘walking encyclopedia’ then outlined the history of the town of Brooks, the railway station and Assumption Cemetery where many of its residents are now resting. Standish mentioned that 100 years ago “the scent of roses” brought passengers two blocks away from the railway station to admire the roses filling the garden and covering the walls of the church and rectory.

Father Jeff Eirvin of nearby Sacred Heart-St. Louis Parish in Gervais said that priests and firefighters are both fraternities of brothers. He said that Father Schoener was a great man whose “gentle care and touch brought people and roses closer to God.” The program continued with a gathering outside at the monument with a formal dedication and blessing conducted by Father Eirvin. He concluded by placing a bouquet of red roses at the base of the monument.