Meet The Newmans

“We were out riding bikes one evening, and rolled by the place,” Lee began. “And we said, ‘Wow, that building is really cool, someone should do something with it.’”

It turns out that Lee and his wife Lisa were destined to become that ‘someone’.

Lee and Lisa have roots in this community, Lee having grown up in the area before leaving for college and further career growth. After many years of bouncing around Oregon from Waldport (on the central Oregon-coast,) to Eugene, and even a few years in Vancouver, Washington, the Newmans returned to Ontario on a personal call.

“I was asked by Dave Waldo to come back and help with the operation of the business; it was an easy decision because both my parents, Lance and Dorena, worked for Waldo insurance for many years in Nyssa,” Lee offered. “At Waldo,
I’m Chief Administrative Officer and I support the business management side of things. Working there really fits in with my professional interests of working with a close-knit team and being involved with the strategic direction of an organization. Outside of work, though, I’d say I have two creative interests which are construction and music. Both are the creative ways
I express myself, and this restoration project we’re working on right now, besides being the biggest project I’ve ever tackled, really connects all of my (and Lisa’s) interests. It’s something we’re really proud to be a part of.”

Lisa, on the other hand, grew up in Michigan. She spent some time in this area in the late 90s, though, working
as minister of their fellowship, which gave her some first impressions of the place she would eventually call home.

“This is our third year back,” Lisa said. “It’s easy to live here, it’s just a great lifestyle, and such a convenient place to live. We have everything we need.”

By day, Lisa works as a full-time Speech Therapist for the Malheur ESD, floating from schools in Adrian one day, to Vale Middle School another, and then to early-intervention here in Ontario. Her original career path was working in health-care, but she took the opportunity to work in schools upon moving to the Treasure Valley to round out her professional skills. Since then, she’s been enjoying the positive impact she can have in her students’ lives.

In her free time, though, Lisa loves art and creating things with her hands. She feels happiest while painting, working with paper or fabric, or creating something beautiful to give away as a gift.

“My favorite thing is Thursday nights when we get a group of friends together to paint,” Lisa said. “And we’re all just learning and don’t have any kind of teacher, except we watch videos or paint from photos sometimes. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years and years, and now that we’ve got the new space, it can be a reality.”

That space, the same one the couple rolled by on their bikes, was a derelict building in need of some serious TLC, perhaps even a wrecking-ball. But the Newmans took their experience of home restoration, plus their vision for a functional event and art space, and rolled-up their sleeves, getting to work on their biggest project to date.

“Look, we’ve done lots of renovation projects before,” Lee revealed. “In fact, during our 15 year marriage, we’ve lived in seven different homes, always with some amount of restoration happening before moving on to the next. We didn’t really do it to ‘flip’ the homes, it just ended up that way. Anyway, with this space, the vision evolved as we’ve been working on it. It’s about a 9000 square-foot space that we thought might be great for weddings, or great for hosting musical acts. From there, we also knew we wanted some kind of art gallery, and also a studio for creating the art. For me, it has been my dream for year to have a designated art space for Lisa because I know that is what makes her so, so happy. It’s hardly worth mentioning, but

I am also a novice singer/songwriter, so having a musical space for that function is also important.”

It seems that both Lee and Lisa have great creative aspirations, but are very modest and private about this artistic aspect of their lives.

“Lee has got a lot of talent and he’s a really great writer!” Lisa exclaimed.

Lee laughed, and then responded, “I think that really we’re just fans of each other. She’s self conscious about her artwork even though I can see that it’s really great and I want to show it to others.”

“I don’t do it for the show, I do it for the process,” Lisa continued. “When I’m making it, it’s for the enjoyment of making it.”

The Frosty Badger, what the couple have decided to name their renovated event space, is the embodiment of the Newmans in a lot of ways. Their passion for art and music, their affinity for extensive construction and rehabilitation projects, and their connection to the betterment of the community all converge in this one, continually improving space. But it hasn’t been easy.

“It was in such shambles,” Lee confided. “The building was completely derelict, every window broken out; we found all sorts
of evidence of squatters in the building, so it had to be completely rehabilitated. It has been a lot of work, but we recently hosted our first real event there: a creative harvest dinner, where it was a lot of the folks that have been involved in some way with this project. We had over 60 people there where we displayed some artwork, crafts, leatherwork, quilting that people had worked on while the space was still not finished. We also had some musical performances. It was a great way to celebrate the space and open the door for more public involvement.”

Lee and Lisa are still morphing their ideas about what the space should be used for. One thing is certain, though: they are ready for the community to be creative and to use the Frosty Badger in ways that will benefit and enrich them.

“We don’t have any events planned at the moment besides little parties,” Lisa commented. “A couple neighbors are going to do a birthday party, and maybe we’ll start having some open-mics or art and craft gatherings. There is so much potential, and I think over time we’ll be able to establish this place as a great artistic and expressive space.”

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