Helping others, it's just what you do
Around town, Ray Pokorny has his hands in helping countless events and organizations. He’s there to help in a cowboy hat, patched jeans, and often with a tune behind him.
Pokorny helps in many aspects of the Jefferson County community, from orchestrating musical acts at the newly revamped Madras Saturday Market, to helping cook and serve food with the 4-H club at the fair and helping build sets for high school and community theatre and countless other endeavors of the years.
Few in town haven’t seen or benefited from his help, if they know it or not.
Pokorny says that helping is “just what you do.” He credits that mindset to his father, Cliff Pokorny, who farmed in Culver, where Pokorny was raised. “He was always ready to help his neighbors, and that’s what a community should do,” said Pokorny.
He recounts stories of his father stopping anytime a car was pulled over on the side of the road, and always lending a hand during harvest season with their farming neighbors, the Macys.
Pokorny was born in Oregon City in 1947 and moved to Culver shortly after. He reflects fondly on his childhood in Culver when there were about 90 kids. “We had a lot of fun together in our small, close community,” said Pokorny.
Pokorny began attending COCC before being drafted during the Vietnam War, where he served four years in the Navy. After he returned, he attended the University of Oregon, where he earned a degree in Interior Design, and focused on integrating solar energy. Today, he still works on solar projects across the state.
Pokorny moved back to the area after reconnecting with his partner and Madras native Annette Hildebrand. Hildebrand says that Pokorny’s love for the environment is something she sees as a reflection of his care for everything around him.
“When we are out in nature, he is constantly picking up trash from trails,” said Hildebrand. “He so clearly cares about the world around him and the people around him. It’s that care for everyone, no matter their background, their economic level, anything, that makes Ray just so special.”
Pokorny’s love for the world can also be seen in his passion for bringing the community together through music. He’s proficient in instruments ranging from the piano to the accordion and tons in between. They host jams at the house and bring music all over the community. They helped organize the airport music festival, held in Madras for many years.
Pokorny is quite a tinkerer and is ready to find a solution. When directors of the Madras High School play have a vision for the set, Pokorny executes it, bringing the set to life. Director of the Madras Performing Arts Center Shannan Ahern said, “Ray is always willing to help. He gives many, many hours to the MHS Theatre program, building sets and assisting with any needs we may have. He is endlessly creative, musical, thoughtful, and has a good heart — everything you could want in a ‘neighbor.’”
Aside from bringing sets to life, Pokorny also brings laughter to the stage through his performances with the High Desert Community Theatre Guild. He’s been performing with the group for many years and says he loves to share the fun they have with the community.
All the things Pokorny does around Jefferson County would be impossible to list, and so many have stories of the support and help Pokorny has brought them. For Pokorny, it all comes back to being an active member of a community that supports each other.
“I learned to work from my father, and growing up we were always ready to help others. From harvesting to potato picking, we all just jumped in,” said Pokorny. “Seeing that growing up is how it started for me. To a certain extent that’s still done today and makes a community better. Everyone has a different niche, and they do different things, but we’re all working to get things done, together.”