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Day: November 15, 2012

McNary alum, cav scout dies while stationed in Fort Hood

Kyle Bergeland (left) and friend (from Kyle Bergeland’s Facebook page)

Of the Keizertimes

Update: A memorial for Spc. Kyle Bergeland is planned for 2:30 Sunday at Claggett Creek Park for friends and family to share photos and remembrances.

The family of Army Spc. Kyle Bergeland of Keizer was notified earlier this week he had died while stationed at Ft. Hood in Texas.

Bergeland’s mother, Corina, was still waiting on further details, but presumed it had something to do with a staph infection Kyle recently underwent surgery to treat.

“He had a scratch on his knee, but didn’t even know how it had gotten there. It had gotten so infected that they did surgery and left it as an open wound to help the healing,” Corina said in an interview Friday morning.

Kyle, a 2009 graduate of McNary High School, began a four-year tour shortly after graduating and served a 12-month tour in Afghanistan where he drove an Oshkosh M-ATV, a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle as a part of the Army’s calvary scouts.

Kyle chose the Army after hearing recruitment pitches from several branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. He opted for military service instead of college because he wasn’t sure he was ready for four more years of school, Corina said.

“Kyle never liked rules or sitting in classes, but he respected authority and tried to fight for the underdogs when he could,” she said. “He thought that if he could make it through four years of the Army, he’d be ready for college.”

During his time in Afghanistan, Kyle received an Army Achievement Medal for his part in the recovery of a Chinook helicopter, Corina said. When he returned home from overseas earlier this year, Corina and Kyle’s dad Henry flew to meet him at the homecoming and a superior officer sought them out.

“He wanted to tell us that Kyle was a solid performer and someone easy to be around, which I guess isn’t always the case,” Corina said.

There was talk of him receiving sergeant stripes, but Corina was unsure if he would have re-enlisted to take advantage of the honor.

Tending to “his” M-ATV in Afghanistan, Kyle developed a passion for mechanics and hoped to study and become either a aircraft mechanic, a pilot or a police officer.

Once, when he was home on leave in Keizer, a local police officer was in his neighborhood on an investigation and stopped to talk with Kyle while he was out working on a truck. After the chat, Kyle went inside and told his mom that the officer had said to get in touch after his tour ended to see about becoming a member of the police department.

On his most recent trip home, Kyle purchased a Harley Davidson motorcycle with some of his savings from the service and the bike was a source of immense pride.

Last week, Corina and Henry sent him a video of them revving the bike to tease him about it being in Keizer while he was in Texas. When Corina didn’t hear back from him, it was her first moment of concern.

“He loved our homemade pizza and even when [Henry] sent pictures of that he would call and say, ‘Gee, thanks, Dad,’” Corina said.

According to the information she had Friday morning, Kyle was last seen on base Sunday morning and then didn’t show up for formation on Tuesday, Nov. 13. The family was notified later that day of his death.

During his time at McNary, Kyle most enjoyed pottery and sculpting classes and working as a student aide in the counseling department.

Kyle was also a member of the McNary boys bowling team. Jocee Freeman, a member of the girls bowling team, got to know him as a fellow enthusiast of the sport.

“He was a great person, a phenomenal person, warm and funny. He also had this cute little hop he did on the approach [to throw the ball],” Freeman said.

He became a fan of tattoos after graduation, with three of them that held special significance. He had a chestpiece of a Norwegian crest, a nod to his father’s heritage and family connections. He and brother Tyler both had the word “Bror,” the Norwegian word for brother, inked on them. Kyle had the calvary scout sabers added to his. The third was a snarling burger on his right arm, a tribute to his Army nickname Burgerland, a variant of Bergeland.

While he was quite proud of his time serving overseas, Kyle remained humble about the experience, Corina said.

“He didn’t want to be known as a veteran because he hadn’t seen some of the action that others had,” she said. “He was very young and hadn’t yet realized what the sacrifice meant even though we felt it at home.”

Kyle also had an affinity for zombies and rode the wave of the recent resurgence in the movie monsters.

“He had all these books about Zombie etiquette and other things,” Corina said. “I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but we all went to go see Zombieland when it came out in the theaters and had a great time the rest of the week talking about the movie. He would get this great big belly laugh about the silliest things. We were proud of him because he was a good person. The things I will miss have nothing to do with him being a soldier.”

The family was still making arrangement for services, but City View Funeral Home was handling arrangements and a burial at Restlawn Cemetery was planned. The Keizertimes will update as details become available.

Kyle Bergeland celebrated his love of zombie lore during his first halloween in Texas.

Next step is in limbo for contaminated land


Of the Keizertimes

The site of the former Keizer Kleaners wil l likely be vacant a while longer.

As detailed in the Keizertimes two years ago, contamination clean-up has been ongoing at the former dry cleaner site at Manbrin Drive and Cherry Avenue. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently concluded a year’s worth of monitoring at the site, which was bought by Mancher Properties LLC from Marion County in 1984.

Bryn Thoms with DEQ said there is still some contamination at the site, but efforts by DEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got rid of much of the core problem. Instances of perchloroethylene (PCE) were first found by the city in 2002, as well as tetrachloroethene (TCE).

“One of the administrative pieces to this year’s worth of monitoring is to determine if the DEQ will do anything else at the site,” Thoms said. “We’re done at this point with the work we should be doing. That’s the way we’re leaning right now. We have to sit down with Keizer (officials). The city wants the water in that area cleaned up and ultimately the DEQ does as well.

“The concentrations of the contaminations are low enough, it’s not worth using our resources on it,” Thoms added. “I need to sit down with folks here and figure out the next step, but I don’t think we’ll be going much further.”

A complicating factor has been getting past and present land owners to pay for clean-up work.

“Normally we would have the property owner pay for all the work and do the work with our oversight,” Thoms said. “In this case, the current owner has claimed innocent victim status. We haven’t gone too far with that. We haven’t finalized the responsible party piece. We haven’t done much on that end. We couldn’t find past operators to do the work.”

Ben Bednarz, who manages properties for the family’s Mancher Properties, confirmed his dad bought the property as a vacant piece of land from Marion County in 1984. He said contamination issues were unknown to his family at the time of the purchase.

“We’ve filed paperwork for an Innocent Purchaser Defense with the EPA,” Bednarz said. “We are innocent bystanders. The general approach of government is to go after the current property owner. As far as I know, they haven’t done anything. As far as the original dry cleaner owners, we haven’t met them. The government hasn’t pursued them, as far as I know.”

Bednarz said the lot used to be bigger, but was altered when Marion County demolished the former dry cleaning facility.

Bednarz added his company has “put out substantial money” for a consultant and DEQ to do work on the property, though he declined to specify just what the amount was.

“We didn’t have any plans for the property when my dad bought it,” Bednarz said. “It’s a pretty small piece by itself. It just sits around until someone develops the whole corner. It’s about half the size of the lot that was there originally.

“The scary part is you have a huge legal impact and potential for enormous expenses that could send us to bankruptcy,” Bednarz added. “That is scary. We are a green family. I drive a hybrid and we have solar panels on our other buildings. Being connected to pollution is disappointing.”

Bill Lawyer, Keizer Public Works director, said the city used to use wells by the property until the DEQ informed the city of the contamination in 2004.

“We stopped using those wells right away,” Lawyer said. “At the time we made the detections, we started testing all city wells on a monthly basis.”

Thoms said the DEQ has spent about $300,000 to date working on the property. EPA and DEQ employees dug up some of the contaminated area and inserted soil probes.

“Around the source area, it did a good job dropping the PCE levels,” he said. “The amendment (EPA) added was helping. Removing the heart of the problem was also good. We probably reduced soil vapor in the building adjacent as well. It was really good action that took place. The plume will still be there for a while, but we hit the source hard. It won’t be a fast change. It will be several years yet.”

Bednarz doesn’t seem to be in a hurry for work to be done on the property.

“At this point we have no particular plans at all, except we hope it gets cleaned up,” Bednarz said.

McNary alum seeks to kickstart his film

A still from Zeek Earl’s next film, Prospect, shot in Washington’s Hoh Rainforest.

Of the Keizertimes

Once upon a time, Zeek Earl was a fresh-faced McNary High School student who passed the time he wasn’t in school or playing sports heading out with his friends and video camera to make movies.

When a classmate ended up battling cancer, Earl offered to screen one of his early efforts to raise money and help cover the costs of treatment. A standing-room-only crowd packed the Ken Collins Theater to support their friend and Earl’s effort.

“Growing up in Keizer, I always felt there was a creative space available. Part of it was growing up on a two-acre farm, another part was dad being a shop teacher. Jason Heimerdinger gave me my only formal film school training, but it was great because he took it seriously and he was determined to teach us that. His support and program was part of that whole creative space,” Earl said.

These days, Earl is a veritable case study in how to do a lot with a little and he’s hoping Keizer will help him raise the money to take the baby steps necessary to fund his first full feature.

Since leaving McNary, Earl went on to study English at Seattle Pacific University after deciding film school wasn’t a sure-fire path to making movies.

“I looked into a lot of them, but it seemed like most of the people who graduated had jobs serving coffee on a set somewhere,” Earl said.

He graduated with his degree in 2008 just as the recession hit and job opportunities weren’t beating down his door.

With extra time and some barebones equipment, he started entering online video contests offered by corporations looking for cheap content for an ever-growing number of websites.

“They’d put up a couple of thousand dollars in prize money and get 50 or 60 entries. I started doing those and I started winning, then I started making a living off of doing those contests,” Earl said.

He made enough to set up his own production company, SHEP Films, and produce promotional videos for a living. That was in January 2011 and the success of the company gave Earl and his writing partner Chris Caldwell the seed money for their first narrative short film, In the Pines.

“I was reading about alien abduction and there’s a sociology professor who was studying it as a phenomena and what stood out to me was that there were cases when it wasn’t a negative experience and people were trying to figure out how to reconnect with their abductors,” Earl said.

The film tells the story of a young woman seeking to reconnect with the alien lifeforms that abducted her and her hike to the place where she tries to make contact. Earl along with a crew of two and the actress spent four days in the woods filming.

Earl on set with actress Callie Harlow.

They submitted the film to several festivals including SXSW (South by Southwest), a major festival that takes place every spring in Austin, Texas. Earl got a call a few weeks later.

“For the first five minutes, I thought I was talking with Southwest Airlines. I had just gotten a new credit card from them a few weeks before. It was vague and awkward then, “Oh, omigosh, AAAA,” Earl said.

At SXSW, Earl got to rub elbows with other newbie and veteran filmmakers and discovered just how much they’d accomplished with In the Pines.

“It was like we were from different worlds, the next cheapest film was made for like $15,000 and we’d made ours for $3,000. They didn’t understand how we got away with that, but we were able to use the cameras and equipment we’d bought for the business,” he said.

In the Pines went on to win the award for Best Sci-Fi Short at the Eugene International Film Festival last month.

The experience with In the Pines at SXSW left Earl and Caldwell hungry for the next big project, another short film titled Prospect that will act as their calling card for securing funding for a full-length feature.

“It’s the story of a father and his daughter prospecting resin created by insects in the ground on a toxic alien planet,” Earl said.

Through a website called Kickstarter (see sidebar), SHEP films is seeking pledges that will add up to $18,000, enough to see the new short film through to completion. They’ve already raised more than $5,600.

Earl plans to make use of macrophotography to make Washington’s Hoh Rainforest, near Mt. Olympia, seem like alien terrain.

“I love how when you look at something closer than the human eye can see it, it adds a very alien feel to it. It takes you out of your everyday experience with what you’re seeing and makes it even more alien,” Earl said.

Earl is raising some of the film’s stars, milkweed bugs, in his garage.

Since he already owns the equipment necessary to make the movie, the pledges will go directly to the cost of making props, paying crew and actors, and fees for filming in the rainforest.

Pledging on the Kickstarter site ends Dec. 8. Video and stills from the early production can be viewed there.

He’s hoping that the people of Keizer can help him realize the next chapter in his evolution as a filmmaker. After all, this is where it started.

“I took an unusual route to get to this point, but making narrative films has always been my dream. It’s weird to reflect on it and realize where it all started, but I’m thankful for all of it,” Earl said.

What is kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a way to pledge support for creative projects online.

Supporters of any given project can securely pledge any dollar amount to help get it off the ground.

The project planners set a certain amount they are hoping to raise and, if the project reaches that goal, The project’s backer’s are charged via credit card. If the fundraising goal isn’t met the cards aren’t charged. In return for pledges, the creators typically offer some sort of reward for different donation levels.

Zeek Earl is seeking to raise $18,000 to fund his company’s new movie, Prospect, and he’s raised more than $5,600 to date.

To pledge support for Prospect, click here or search using the term: prospect.