Our members

Susan Fries, Lew Bowers, Tom Snell, Jim Oleson, Janet Gillaspie, Sarabelle Hitchner, Tom Bard, Nancy Burgi-Oleson, Jim Swenson
Our early founders: (L to R) Susan F., Lew B., Tom S., Jim O., Janet G., Sarabelle H., Tom B., Nancy B-O., Jim S.

Most of the people who have expressed interest in PDX Commons have led interesting and successful lives. That doesn’t mean wealthy. Some have been professionals, business owners, managers, teachers and nurses. Here are brief bios of our members.

Tom Bard summits Mt. Rainier.
Tom B.

Tom B. has three adult children — two sons and a daughter. All graduated from college — U of O, Willamette U, and Evergreen State — and now live in Bend, Crested Butte, CO, and Burlington, VT. Tom is retired; the majority of his business career was in commercial real estate in Portland. For the last 20 years he was a principle of ScanlanKemperBard Companies, focusing on real estate investment in the western U.S. Tom is divorced. He likes hiking, climbing, cycling, skiing and camping. He also enjoys the symphony, ballet and opera, and he is excited about contributing to our adult cohousing community.

Susan Fries (l) & Lew Bowers (r)
Susan F. and Lew B.

Susan F. has a passion for creating gardens to feed people, both nutritionally and visually. During her 30 years as a nurse practitioner, gardening was her hobby. Post-retirement, she became a garden coach, helping others to actualize their garden visions. Turning her organically-grown and freshly picked garden produce into delectable meals brings her much satisfaction. She’s excited about living in community with friends in order to share cooking, tending a garden, making music and having a ready pool of folks to play board games with.

Lew B.‘s vocation is urban development. He was the Central City Manager for the Portland Development Commission for 13 years. Lew considers himself a “city-maker” and gets juiced by helping to create great places in cities — places where communities can grow. His avocations include road biking, reading history, travel and architectural history. Lew and Susan have been married for over 30 years; they have one daughter who is a professor of classics at San Francisco State. Lew is committed to cohousing because he thrives in community, especially one that is physically proximate.

Jim Swenson and Janet Gillaspie on the Great Ocean Road, Australia.
Jim S. and Janet G.

Janet G. is married to Jim S. Between them they have two grown children. Working on environmental issues since forever, Janet was a legislative aide, a regional manager for DEQ, and has had her own environmental consulting firm for 24 years. Janet loves hiking and camping, cooking, reading, travel to foreign places, and gatherings with friends and family. Janet is a consummate organizer — she makes stuff happen.

Jim S. and Janet have two grown children and two grandchildren. Jim has had several careers: television journalist, public administrator, lobbyist, and writer/director of documentary films and interactive exhibits. Jim’s passions include music, bicycling, camping, cooking, travel, science, electronic design and computer programming. Jim has served on several nonprofit boards and commissions in the Portland area. He’s a graduate of Stanford University who loves to make music with others using voice and guitar.

Jim Oleson and Nancy Burgi-Oleson
Jim O. and Nancy B-O.

Jim O. and his wife Nancy fell in love with Portland visiting their schoolteacher son from their home in Pacific City, OR. Jim had been a public school teacher in Oregon until his retirement, and he still substitutes on occasion. Hiking, car camping, bicycling and kayaking bond him to the great Oregon outdoors. Jim and Nancy also have a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren in Bellingham, WA, where they first became acquainted with cohousing. Jim liked joining PDX Commons in the formative stage — he and Nancy really like planning and design. Jim also enjoys singing in groups and playing the harmonica.

Nancy B-O. retired as a speech pathologist focusing on intervention with children in the early grades. She stills work-part time in that profession in Tillamook County. Nancy’s favorite activities pretty much align with Jim’s. In addition, she volunteers with the local food bank. She  has an interest in Living Space Design, based on the “Not So Big House” initiative. Participating in the making of the PDX Commons community was extremely appealing to Nancy.

PDX Commons cohousing associate members.
Sarabelle H. and Tom S.

Sarabelle H. retired from her career as a banker with Bank of America in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her finance and management skills are invaluable to PDX Commons. She also has a lifetime of love for the out-of-doors. She worked as a park ranger for the federal government and taught whitewater canoeing, winter camping, and woodlot management. She also was a fundraiser and administrator for a small college in Vermont. Sarabelle plans to pursue her interests in birding, paddling, running, fiber art, and thriving in an intellectual and social environment — and she’s always looking for a good game of bridge.

Tom S., Sarabelle’s husband, had a career as a teacher, college administrator and business manager. When he and Sarabelle moved to the west coast, he worked as a software test engineer for Hewlett Packard. More recently he helped lead the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and today serves on its board. Tom is also a birder and an avid outdoor enthusiast. Having worked as a project manager on various efforts in the past, he brings key management skills to PDX Commons. He enjoys working collaboratively with others to support the community.

Nina Nielson and Roger Blythe
Nina N. and Roger B.

Before joining PDX Commons, Roger B. and Nina N. were restoring a 100 year-old home in northwest Portland. Both are still employed — Roger is a professional financial and investment adviser now specializing in long-term care issues; Nina coordinates nursing care in a skilled nursing care residential project. Roger is also an internationally certified sommelier.


Margaret McCue takes a hike in the Swiss Alps.
Margaret M.

Margaret M. is our first international member, excited to be relocating in early 2018 from her home near Zurich, Switzerland. Margaret’s roots lead back to Portland, where she worked in the early ’80s with member Janet Gillaspie at the Department of Environmental Quality. She later held a position with the EPA in Chicago. Most recently, she has been the head of risk policy and governance for a global insurance company based in Zurich. Naturally, hiking is one of her interests, along with reading, writing, traveling and keeping track of her two children, one in the Bay Area, the other in graduate school in Denmark.

Eliza Wood Livingstone
Eliza W. L.

Eliza L. and Clarke B. lived in a condo in NW Portland’s fashionable Pearl District but were ready for more community. Eliza spent much of her life in health care and is a psychiatric mental health practitioner. She particularly focused on maternal/child health and parenting education. Eliza authored the book Living with Colon Cancer: Beating the Odds about her own personal journey.



Clarke Bingham
Clarke B.

Clarke B., now retired, was a partner in one of the oldest and largest construction companies in Oregon, builders of many of the state’s mega-projects. Clarke and Eliza now also manage their beautiful bed and breakfast in Victoria, British Columbia.







PDX Commons Cohousing
Debbie K.

Deborah K. grew up in Seattle.  She moved to Portland to join PDX Commons after spending about 40 years in the San Francisco Bay Area (Berkeley, Oakland, Santa Cruz). There she developed skills in large format photography, lived in cooperative houses into her late 30s, studied city and regional planning, and worked for a firm evaluating social programs for federal government agencies, states, and nonprofit organizations. She has a daughter living in Denver who is still in her 20s and helps keep Debbie young at heart. Current interests include reading novels, spinning wool and knitting, and various artistic and craft projects.

Karen Erde
Karen E.


Karen E. recently retired from her physician practice and embarked on a six-month journey around Central and South America. While with the Multnomah County Health Department, she specialized in adult chronic diseases. She has taken her medical expertise on service trips to Africa and Nicaragua. Karen is an outdoor enthusiast who hikes and fly-fishes. There is a steelhead out there with Karen’s name on it, and she aims to find it.



Stacey Roberts and Mike Lassner at the UN in NYC.
Stacey R. and Mike L.

Mike L. and his wife Stacey R. joined us from Urbandale, Iowa, where Mike retired from a 35-year career as a molecular biologist and plant geneticist. Prior to that he was at UC Davis as a post-doctoral fellow. Now he has time for another real passion — wind surfing. He couldn’t have come to a better home base, because nearby Hood River is one of the premiere wind surfing centers in the U.S. Mike and Stacey are also international travelers.

Stacey R. is originally a New York City gal who developed an interest in plants. As a child, she developed a strong interest in plants, insects, biology and outdoor life. She earned a BS degree in Agronomy at Cornell University and started a professional life mostly in the agricultural field and laboratory research. She specialized in rice — not cooking it, but growing it. Stacey has a penchant for hands-on interests, including putting her hands on a 110-year-old house, deconstructing it and putting it back together close to its original glory.

Annie Lehman
Annie L.

Ann L. was raised on the East Coast and  lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 years. But she is not new to Portland. She graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School and then ran the Hollywood Law Center. Later she was a policy expert on women and girls with the City of San Francisco. Annie still runs Zimmerman Lehman, a consulting firm for nonprofits founded by her late husband, Bob. Cohousing has been a deep interest of hers for many years.



Joanne F.

Joanne F. is a business professional currently working at Daimler Trucks (Freightliner). Originally a Jersey girl, she has considered the Pacific Northwest home for the last 25 years. Joanne has an adult daughter, Phoebe. She enjoys gardening, cooking healthy foods, canning, travel, camping, hiking, photography, attending music festivals and being actively involved in the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Tom Needham
Tom N.

Tom N. is a sixth-generation native Oregonian, retired from a career in corporate financial risk management. As a long-time member of a Unitarian fellowship, he gained much experience in how an intentional community works, and in honing his skills as an aspiring amateur philosopher. Being retired means he has more time for his favorite activities —   exploring Oregon on his bike, struggling to become a better tango dancer, and continuing his many years as unofficial uncle to children of family and friends.




Cathy R.

Cathy R. was a CPA who relocated to Portland from Seattle. Over her career, she worked both in public accounting and as Chief Financial Officer for some private businesses. Two of Cathy’s children live in Portland along, with a couple of her grandchildren.

Colleen Mitchell, Fresno, CA
Colleen M.

Colleen M. joined us from Fresno, California, where she retired from California State University, Fresno, as a reference and acquisition librarian. Colleen has family in the Pacific Northwest. Her interests include travel, medieval architecture, art, reading, languages, hiking and gardening. Colleen has applied her librarian experience to PDXC’s in-house library as well as our email newsletter. collection.


Floulkrod Oshin photo
Jo F. and Tode O.

Tode O. joined us from our own neighborhood, where they lived for many years. Tode says he has lived within a mile of PDX Commons’ site in four different houses since the late ’70s. He chaired the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association for two years in the early ’80s and has contributed regularly to the PDX Commons newsletter, introducing the community to neighborhood amenities. Tode, who retired from working for the City of Portland, is a keen cook and photographer, and he enjoys traveling.

Jo F. works for the City of Portland. She has spent 25 years in public service in finance, budgeting and accounting. Jo is a voracious reader and enjoys theater, the arts, swimming, gardening and traveling. She’s a big sports fan, especially of baseball. Tode shares Jo’s love of baseball and coaches Little League.

Brauer-Rieke sm
Gretchen and Dave B-R.

Gretchen and Dave B-R. are long-time Oregon residents, from Eastern Oregon to the coast and then to the Portland area in 2007. Dave serves as Bishop of the Oregon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, still keeping a very busy work schedule that involves frequent travel. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, biking, playing the piano, and perhaps creating something.

Gretchen is a retired nurse-midwife and nurse-educator, now working as a Certified Advance Care Planning Facilitator, offering workshops and presentations on end-of-life planning through CodaConversations. She loves hiking  and is always looking for new trails to explore with her hiking dog, Polly. Gretchen and Dave backpacked across Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 and lived to tell about it. They have three adult children and are delighted to have grand-babies to spoil.

Hinda Cole
Hinda C.

Hinda C. joined us from Seattle, where she retired from a career in human resources. Originally from Illinois, Hinda  has a masters degree in labor and industrial relations. She has been a volunteer for SCORE, a not-for-profit organization that provides support to small businesses through one-on-one counseling and workshops. Hinda’s son, daughter-in-law and two of her grandchildren live in Portland, which was an impetus for her to move here. Hinda enjoys swimming, yoga, movies, socializing, gardening and reading.


Cross country skiing is one of Marsie's many avocations.
Marsie M.

Marsie M., born in Cleveland, OH, gradually worked her way west. She lived in Denver, CO, for 30 years, then Newport, OR, and finally Portland,  where she felt like she had arrived home at last. Marsie has two married sons and four grandchildren, the light of her life. One son recently moved with his family to Seattle, and the other lives with his family in Portland. Most of Marsie’s career was as a school library media specialist at a PreK-12 alternative school. She also worked as a reference librarian in a public library and a real estate broker on the Oregon coast. Marsie is happy to be living in community, playing, eating, working and figuring out how to be a part of this world together.

Claudette S.

Claudette S. joined PDX Commons from NE Portland. Originally from Minnesota, she has called the Pacific Northwest home for the past 50 years. As a Registered Nurse, her career has spanned various practice areas. Now she works just two or three days a month since retiring nine years ago. Participating in volunteer medical campaigns to provide primary care in developing countries has been very rewarding for her. Claudette’s interests are eclectic. For her, it’s sometimes more about the people she’s with that the activity itself. Travel, outdoor activities, performing arts, and volunteering are high on her list. She also really enjoys a good joke!

Karen and Paul J.

Paul and Karen J. joined the community from southwest Portland and their cabin in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon.  Karen is a retired community college instructor, and Paul is a retired phone company engineer. Karen was born in Portland and Paul in Southwest Washington. After retiring, Paul and Karen spent 12 years as volunteer community organizers for a national non-profit. In addition to travel and long stays in the mountains, they enjoy golf, bridge, fly-fishing and becoming Southeast Portland foodies. They have two children and one grandson.

Trudy H.

Long-time Portland resident Trudy H. retired from a career in corporate communications, including a position at Kaiser Permanente’s regional headquarters. Before her communications work, she practiced social work after earning an MSW from Portland State University. Retirement gives Trudy time to pursue outdoor activities like hiking and camping. She has also developed a serious interest in photography and is a member of a meetup group called Women Learning Photography Together. Throughout her life, she has dabbled in folk guitar, drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelry-making, mountain-climbing, river-rafting and more. At age 57, she got serious about cycling and logged more than 10,000 miles.

Claire W.

Originally from California, Claire W. is considered a pioneering modern midwife. Retired from Emory University’s School of Medicine as a professor emeriti, Claire still consults for health systems as her travels allow. She recently participated in a 110-day Semester at Sea voyage around the world with 650 undergrads and 70 life learners. Claire enjoys theater and the arts, reading, gardening, and most of all, bridge. She moved to Portland to be closer to family and feels good about downsizing to a smaller footprint in a walkable urban neighborhood, living in a developing community of new friends.


Fran R. and Robin V.

Robin V. moved to Portland two years ago with her partner Fran. Now retired, she has had a colorful and varied past that included teaching, lecturing, leading women’s groups, leading immersion experiences in India and Indonesia, and much more. Robin raised three children in a Manhattan apartment where she enjoyed an interactive, mutually supportive relationship with her neighbors. Now she gets to enjoy her eight grandchildren and their parents. She also likes music, movies, art, ceramics, camping, walking on the beach, walking dogs, gardening and feeding people – as well as questions, rituals, and people who ride the bus (and those who don’t).

Before retiring, Fran R. worked in social work and special education, helping children, homeless families, low-income people and those of different ethnicities. Fran enjoys nature and camping, modern classical music, film, performance art and children who are described as “problems.” Fran says the best way for her to feel part of a community is by doing things with other members. Perhaps perceived as shy, she gladly pitches in to help. She is a good listener and organizer, and she looks forward to learning more about other members’ traditions.

Steve F. and Karen M.

Karen M. and Steve F. have been married for 29 years and have two adult children who they hope will visit often. Karen grew up in Chicago and Steve grew up in New York. They met in Alaska where Karen was working for Alaska Fish and Game and Steve was working for the city of Anchorage. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, they raised their family and continued hiking and traveling in between working and commuting. Karen retired from a career in drug development, mostly working for small startups. She enjoys tutoring adult literacy, gardening, book clubs and making pottery. Steve retired after 39 years as a transportation planner. Both love hiking, camping, cross-country skiing and other outdoor activities. They are looking forward to more world travel and again exploring Oregon, where Karen went to graduate school in wildlife science, and Steve started his career at Tri-Met.

Kate U.

Kate U. has a 30-year background in organizational development and its related skills. She holds two masters degrees – in public health and counseling psychology. For the past 10 years she’s had her own practice in strategic planning, team building and leadership coaching.

Alongside her professional chops, Kate loves hiking, poetry, reading, exploring new places and spending time with friends. She is committed to living in community and appreciates finding the humor in life.




























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