In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey does not realize what a wonderful life he has or how the wonderful life he has lived has touched so many people in so many ways with even the smallest of actions. Unlike George Bailey, sometimes people know what a wonderful life they have been blessed with living. Such was the case when former Forks Mayor Richard Haberman called me in the spring of 2012.
He had left me a message on my phone, saying he had some stories that needed to be told and wanted me to write about it in my West End Neighbor column for the Peninsula Daily News. He wanted everyone to know how much he loved his life in Forks, how he loved and admired the people of Forks for who they were, but what I didn’t know was he didn’t have much of that wonderful life left to live.
Richard was born in Ellensburg and raised on his grandfather’s farm. He remembered times were not great during the Depression but he had it better than most. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the service.
After serving in Korea, he spent a year back on the farm but it just wasn’t for him so he got a job at Boeing.
Standing in a line one day waiting to get in to work he decided that standing in lines wasn’t for him either. He had heard that Bell Telephone was hiring seven guys, no previous experience required. Owning only one pair of pants, a white shirt and black shoes he wore the same outfit every day, soon the other workers thought he was a supervisor because of his unvarying attire and they began asking him questions.
He would go the Bell library and look up the answers, before long he was noticed by higher-ups and things were looking good. Richard said, “I thought I was on my way to owning the company.”
Then Boeing suffered big lay-offs and signs went up saying. “Will the last person out of Seattle turn out the lights.” Richard didn’t turn out the lights but instead got another job. He ended up at Neah Bay installing microwave equipment that replaced phone lines that snaked through the trees over Burnt Mountain and local phone reliability was greatly improved, something Richard was very proud of.
Soon, Richard was offered a job with Peninsula Telephone in Forks. Maury Hull was the owner and Richard recalled what a wonderful person he was to work for. When approached for the job, Hull asked him how much he was making and Richard said a dollar more than what was reality. He was hired on the spot and said he always had wondered what amount he could have said.
It was 1961 when the Haberman family moved to Forks.
Arriving in Forks with Richard was Ginger, whom he had married the day after Valentine’s Day 1957. The Habermans built a house and their family in Forks began to grow. Ginger worked for a time as a nurse at the Forks Hospital and together they helped fundraise and build the new Catholic Church. Richard, in time, became the official groundskeeper for the church.
Eventually Richard left the phone company and bought into the local cable company. All the while he volunteered for the fire department, was a Lions Club member, served on the city council and eventually became mayor.
Meanwhile Ginger was living her wonderful life when in 1971 she began an effort called the Disaster Relief Committee that eventually would become the Clothing Bank. Over the years the facility grew from a small space to the larger facility that is in operation today at 81 Bogachiel Way in conjunction with the Forks Food Bank and Windfall.
In addition to providing clean clothing for locals, clothes were shipped to Mexico, the Ukraine and Puerto Rico.
Ginger was featured in numerous articles over the years but she gave credit to the people of Forks saying, “The spirit of the people is tremendous, when someone needs help, there is someone to help.”
Richard died on June 12, 2012, just a few weeks after I interviewed him, the cancer that he beat five years before won this time.
Recently Ginger has had some health issues of her own and has left Forks to be closer to her daughter, and while others have picked up where Ginger left off, her generous gift of her time to the community of Forks will be hard to match.
Thank you to Richard and Ginger for their wonderful lives that they shared with Forks.
For those wishing to write to Ginger, her address is: Ginger Haberman. P.O. Box 1706, Polson, MT 59860.