Just over three years ago, a dramatic multi-alarm fire lit up the evening sky near Foster Road. Within hours, the home of a nationally-respected nonprofit was in ruins.
The Dougy Center, a groundbreaking organization that helps support grieving families, has gone through a grieving process of its own. Even as the arsonist remains at large, area residents have seen a buzz of activity around the site as the Center rebuilds.
The historic mansion was built in 1922 as the home of Mr. and Mrs. Loren B. Trullinger. It was a unique hybrid, using the broad roof and wide eaves common to the prairie style while also incorporating white columns and other embellishments more common to classical or federal styles. Mr. Trullinger was the brother of the impressionist painter John Trullinger and the son of pioneer A.C. Trullinger of Iowa.
In the late 1980s, the home was given to The Dougy Center, which was rapidly becoming a resource for psychologists worldwide looking for strategies to help families struggling with grief. They would use the space for the next 20 years.
I was privileged to speak with Bev Chapell last year. The former nurse founded the Dougy Center in her living room in 1982 after realizing that there were few resources to help children following the loss of a parent or other close family member.
She told me that while the center has been displaced, it has never stopped being a resource for grieving families. Using temporary space, the Center hasn’t cancelled a single meeting in the year since the fire. Bev told me that while working in temporary spaces they’ve continued to train groups of visitors from throughout the world, helping to create hundreds of similar programs in places as diverse as Africa and Japan.
In the almost 30 years since the Dougy Center was founded, it has helped provide peer support for more than 30,000 children.
Sadly, the fire was the intentional work of an arsonist who is believed to have made at least two previous attempts to set a fire at the Center. After more than three years, the arsonist remains at large in the community.
I spoke to the Fire Bureau’s Captain Greg Wong about the investigation. He told me that the investigation is currently inactive and that investigators have exhausted all tangible leads without identifying either a suspect or a motive for the fire. Although Captain Wong said that he understands the impact that an unsolved crime such as this one can have on a community, he’d like neighbors to know that he’s seen no reason to suggest that there is any further arson threat in the area.
He urged anyone with any information about the circumstances of the fire to call his office at (503) 823-3791.
Meanwhile, the Dougy Center continues its work. The center recently broke ground on its new home at the same site. The new facility is scheduled to open this Fall.