What Wally Would Want

The Blue Pearl – by John Oberdorf

Today would have been my father Wally’s 74th birthday. It has been just over a decade of mourning his death. Too soon to have lost a father and friend.

I can’t help but reflect on all that has happened that I missed out in sharing with him. My stories would have been told, over a pint, to anyone who would listen at Sam Bond’s or High Street. He made me larger than life. He was my biggest fan, my most avid reader, and always encouraged me to do and be more.

He was delighted to vicariously travel through my adventures, inspired in part by his early adventures in Latin America, and also reminded me of my grounding along the way. He warned me to be cautious of my voice, when I wrote my post called “They Hate Us“, back in 2008, pointing out how badly we had failed the people of Afghanistan. Thirteen years later, it seems my predictions held true. He was also right to have worried for my safety.

He was very proud of my work in the DR Congo, intrigued by my love of Africa. My post on my up close experience with conflict minerals inspired him to respond, with this advice, which I found eerily after his death:

I highly recommend against snorting or injecting any of the conflict minerals. Just a hunch.

Wally Jones
Celebrating Wally

In his passing, the ladies of his life coined the phrase, What Would Wally Want, or What Wally Would Want?, depending if it was a statement or a question. There is no doubt that Wally would have been rearing for a party this year. December 7th was always an excuse for a mid-winter party. He threw epically fun parties.

In lieu of a party this year, my biggest fan now – my husband, Adam – surprised me by sending over my tribute song, Dancing at a Funeral

I listened to a slightly slower acoustic version of this, practically on a loop, to grieve his passing. I see that the video below happens to be 10 days after we learned of his passing.

In tribute, we enjoyed kefir and croissants. That was a traditional breakfast of choice at The 5th Street market, though ours were always day old. It is the taste of my childhood, and will always remind me of Wally.

Dancing at a funeral would definitely have been Wally’s style. I recall learning about the concept of a Wake at The Wow Hall, during the time he was dating Mountain Girl, Gerry Garcias wife. I recall being intrigued at the concept of celebrating life rather than grieving it, though that didn’t make the grieving process any easier, it seems.

The Blue Pearl

In honor of the spirit of Wally, today I purchased a collector’s art piece, The Blue Pearl, from the most recent art gallery show at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, from an exhibit aptly called – The Traveler, by John Oberdorf

It was a serendipitous purchase, grabbing the piece as it was being wrapped up to leave, and giving us the opportunity to meet the artist, who of course reminded me greatly of Wally. For some reason when I first fell in love with the piece, I had an intuition that he would.

We are delighted to have the art, and connect with John as a person, planning to take him out to lunch. In our correspondence with him today, Adam shared that it was priceless that every time I see the painting, with him in vicinity, I spontaneously reached out to hug or kiss him. As he said, “Priceless”.

John’s response shows why I am attracted to his art. He shared, “When we talk about all that is behind this and the path that I have found myself on, you will gain insight into this way of bringing ideas into physical reality.” He also shared a Rousseau quote that echos back to my journey as well.

I am not made like anyone I know. If I am not better, at least I am different.



Here is a fun video from the Lincoln City Cultural Center about the exhibit. Go inside John Oberdorf’s The Traveler art exhibit with Krista Eddy, Visual Arts Director



  1. Doug Curry on December 8, 2021 at 9:26 am

    I knew Wally for a long time (not as long as you did!) and he was a good friend of mine. I think of Wally often, and always in a good way. It made me feel good to read your piece. Thanks.

    • Miel on December 10, 2021 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks Doug! Wally had a way of making people feel great. Glad I can pass that on in the world!

  2. Rich Aaring on December 9, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Miel,
    I think of Wally occasionally. You may not remember me – I am a member of the yacht club. The club lost four guys in a relatively short span of time: Phil Klingensmith, Dan Weber, Mark Fortier, and Wally. All about the same age. Three with cancer. All four were just Characters. Originals with no others like them. Thank you for posting here every once in a while.

    • Miel on December 10, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Rich. I can’t tell you how much our connection to the Eugene Yacht Club transformed my thinking about the world. Not only in my love of the water and sailing, but also in my broader place in the world. Richard Johnson now happens to be a neighbor in our community on the coast as well, so that was a fun yacht connection to make. Feel free to follow along my adventures!

  3. Karen Stingle on December 14, 2021 at 9:40 pm

    I was so glad to connect on the phone with Miel and Darcy the day after Wally’s birthday. I spent time with his sister Carol on his actual birthday and she caught me up on your lives, including that you (Miel) will be going to Antarctica soon to do some scuba diving. What an adventurous young woman you are!

    I’m sorry it took me so long to connect with you both through my big change – I have been in a lot of chaos, having moved out of 4th Street after a total of 29 or so years of living there. It was very hard to leave there, and yet I knew I had to do it, and I was under some time pressure, so it has taken me awhile to get caught up with important people in my life – and I am still living in limbo.

    The next to the last time I saw you girls was when you came to 4th Street when we had a gathering to honor ten years since Wally passed. At the time you both realized it might be the last time we would have such a gathering there, at the place that was so important to both Wally and me. I think you saw it coming more clearly than I did. Then with no Country Fair this year, I am glad I was at least able to visit both of you on my way home from the Okanogan in June when I escaped from the “heat dome” – seeing Darcy in Portland, and Miel in Lincoln City (where I was relieved to be actually cold!).

    When my difficult housemate moved out in May, by August I hadn’t found a housemate due to the changes in how the place was being run, so counter to Robert’s vision, so I made a quick decision to move out of there, which meant 30 days of frantic downsizing, followed by a breather in the Okanogan before returning to my life in limbo, waiting to get into YaPoAh Terrace. I apologize that it took me so long to share my story with you both.

    Wally’s birthday, December 7 (1945, he actually would have been 76 this year), will always be special, as will April 20, the day we lost him in 2011. There isn’t a day that I don’t think of him in some way. When I need consoling I go to Sam Bond’s and have my half pint of beer, sitting at the table near his photo on the wall for comfort and company – I go there with a friend like Jean who also loves him.

    I love both of you beautiful daughters and appreciate being able to share our sadness of having lost Wally and our love of all he means to us. Thank you for still keeping me in the family in spite of the geographical distances between us. You are always in my heart.

  4. Ravi ~ Darcy Rose on December 16, 2021 at 6:55 am

    I feel tears of joy on my cheeks. I’m reading in the bath, one of Wally’s favorite places. Now, at 44, I understand his desire in a way that I didn’t as a child.

    I look forward to seeing the Blue Pearl in person and hopefully meeting John on a visit to the coast too.

    And, yes, even after a decade, the loss of Wally is still present. Laughing out loud to him snorting conflict minerals comment made me totally laugh out loud and wonder how many laughs we’ve missed out on in his absence.

    But I am also eternally grateful for how his passing really woke me up to my true higher self and the unconditional Love and Light that we are here to share.

    Thank you for sharing and I am excited to vicariously share your/our journeys. 🙌🙏💝

Leave a Comment