Women Who Lead: 2018 Honorees

Angie Sremba, Newport
Marine Science Researcher, Youth Swim Coach, Mentor

Angie is starting her 10th year as coach for the Newport Swim Team. At the same time, she recently completed her Ph.D, through Oregon State University at Hatfield Marine Science Center last June.

Her research has led her to explore the 20th century’s commercial whaling impact on South Atlantic great whale populations, primarily the Humpback and Atlantic Blue Whale, using molecular markers to assess genetic diversity. As an undergraduate, Angie studied Gray Whales on the West Coast and Mexico.

Under her leadership, the Newport Swim Team has almost doubled to 50 swimmers in 2018 and has become competitive in the state. Angie was recognized as the Oregon Athletics Coaches Association Boys Swim Coach of the Year, with 7 consecutive district titles. While the girls had their best finish in the district, 7 of her athletes have gone on to collegiate swim teams, and several of her student athletes have returned to be Newport High School assistant coaches, paying forward the knowledge they learned from Angie to their next generation.

This is what happens when a coach can encourage athletes to believe in themselves—a coach who is an inspiring role model and a great life teacher.
Carol Van Strum, Five Rivers Rd
Environmental and Social Justice Activist, Author

Carol has received the international David Bower Lifetime Achievement Award presented at the University of Oregon Public Interest Environmental Law Conference last March 2018.

She has authored numerous books, including “Bitter Fog,” which led to changes in national forest policy. Carol has received numerous awards for her fierce activism to protect the environment and for her social justice work.

In the 1970s and 80s, she led the fight against the use of Agent Orange in Lincoln County. She continues her vital work as a member of Lincoln County Community Rights to ban aerial pesticide spraying. Her continued activism includes fighting the US Navy’s attempts to weaponize our coastal waters, national forests, and other public lands for weapons testing and war games.

Carol is honored for her endurance, her good heart, and the will to defend the truth no matter what cost.
Heather Fortner, Toledo
Artist, Teacher, Veteran

Heather is best known locally as the “Fish Artist.” Heather is world renowned for her Gyotaku, Japanese fish prints created from real fish, ink, and Japanese papers. Her techniques are recognized for technical excellence and artistic natural presentations. She also works with seaweed, nature prints, and eco dying. Students find her workshops to be truly inspirational.

Heather has donated an Octopus print and an “Octopus Garden” workshop. She has authored a Seaweed Cookbook. She’s also been a foster mom for numerous animals to prepare them for permanent adoption.

She is a Marine Biologist with a degree in Natural Sciences, U of Hawaii. People may not know that Heather has been a deck hand, a commercial fisherman, and a 1st Mate in the Merchant Marines. Heather’s last service was in the Middle East during the Iraq War 2003.
Jeanne St. John, Newport
Human Rights Activist, Educator, LGBTQ Advocate

Jeanne started her resistance activism in high school fighting against HUAC, House Un-American Activities Committee. She helped lead the first statewide teachers union strike in Arizona to secure more school money. She did the same work to fund schools in California.

Along with her colleague, Kae Bates, Jeanne also taught acupuncture for 8 years to more than 50,000 people in 40 states and internationally. An outcome from these workshops was being recruited to work for LCSD, and eventually becoming the principal of two schools. One curriculum she introduced in Lincoln County was the Olweus Anti-Bullying program.

She and her wife, Kae Bates, led the establishment of the first PFLAG chapter (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) on the Oregon Coast following the suicide of a gay student at Newport High. Jeanne has been an early outspoken advocate and community educator for LGBTQ youth. Jeanne also re-established and directed Newport Peace Village, a summer day camp to teach non-violent confrontation.

Jeanne has donated a night at her lovely cottage on the Yaquina Bay Rd. overlooking the river.
Joanne Kittel, Yachats
Advocate for Human Rights, Environmentalist, Historian

Joanne has been a tireless advocate of women’s rights and all who are vulnerable, especially indigenous people. She has volunteered with MSP, Children’s Advocacy Center, Crossroads, Lincoln County Community Non-Violence Program, and the Domestic Violence Council. She has chaired the “Gang of Five,” sometimes known as the Yachats Trail Committee. Along with her late husband, Norman, she developed the Amanda Trail on her own property to honor the legacy of a Native American woman who was forcibly relocated on the Oregon Coast, and the Ya’Xaik (pronounced Ya-hike) Trail systems in South County. These both depict local First Nation History. Her conservation passions have placed her leadership roles with Lincoln Land Legacy and View the Future. She has donated a permanent conservation easement to preserve 27 acres forever. Joann is a true Trail Blazer.

Professionally, Joanne is a trauma-based psychotherapist, which helped her research and write the historical truth about indigenous peoples on the Central Oregon Coast.

Joanne adds that her leadership accomplishments could not have happened without the passionate partnerships of others.
Nancy Campbell Mead, Depoe Bay
Retired Judge, Social and Political Activist

New to the Oregon Coast, Nancy talked with a few other women about rejuvenating the local chapter of NOW in 2012. In the years since, the retired judge and lawyer from Portland has been an activist in health education, domestic violence, firearms abuse, the environment, and much more. She led the formation of the nonprofit NOW chapter foundation from money raised at the celebration of women in 2013.

Nancy also works at the state and national levels of NOW to promote the goal of moving women into equality, and she has contributed strong support for the Oregon ERA marriage equality push before the Supreme Court legalized same gender marriage across the nation.

Nancy serves on multiple boards, including the Women’s Foundation of Oregon. Her activism began in high school when she volunteered to help in a program with Down syndrome children. Nancy considered becoming a special education teacher, but her path took her into the field of law. She graduated from Lewis & Clark and worked as an attorney, which led to her appointment to the Washington County District Court in 1988. She was elected as a Circuit Court Judge until she retired in 2006.

She loves to travel. One of her most outstanding trips—and most memorable—was on a bicycle across the country from Bandon, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia. She was 64 years old at the time.

Nancy was awarded Oregon Woman of the Year by Gov. Kate Brown. We are glad she chose to return to the Oregon Coast and to live in Lincoln County.

Nancy is truly a woman who leads by example and with her whole heart.
Traci Flowers, Newport
Homeless Advocate

Traci is a passionate advocate for the homeless and the most vulnerable in our community.

In her younger years, she was taught to give everyone a second chance, and maybe even a third or fourth chance. As a child, she would seek out classmates who were struggling or who needed a friend. Traci believes this is what has formed her call to service.

Five years ago, she began running the Hazardous Weather Shelter in the winter months. Last year, she began to serve in a larger way at “Grace Wins Haven” day shelter and community resource center, of which Traci is the founder and inspiration. It is a place for those who need a meal, a backpack, a computer terminal, a kind word, an address, or a pair of dry socks. Her dream is a permanent shelter to keep vulnerable community members safe in the most challenging situations.

Traci believes change can come with stability, grace, and compassion.
Virginia Gibbs, Newport
Social Justice and Animal Rights Advocate, Author

In Newport, Virginia is recognized primarily for her advocacy for our Hispanic community. Before moving to Newport, she founded the Northern Iowa Humane Society, which is continuing as a successful animal shelter. She is a docent at Hatfield Marine Science Center, where she has a special fondness for octopuses.

She is a professor emerita of Spanish. Virginia wrote “Shattered Dreams,” a true history of an ICE raid on an agricultural processing facility in Postville, Iowa. She is part of the national search to create a fair immigration system. She has been a large presence at Centro de Ayuda as a translator and as part of the Immigration Information Response Team.