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Gary Rifkin  

Gary Rifkin walked around Coos Art Museum with Executive Director MJ Koreiva, considering the many ways he and his family could honor his stepfather, who had recently passed away.

He had come to see if there was some way he could do that and help the museum at the same time.

"We've tried to honor our family members in ways that will be helpful to others - in a very creative way," Rifkin explained to Koreiva.

Koreiva walked Rifkin around the entire museum, pointing out improvement projects, reviewing the Adopt-An-Art program - even a few antiquated computer systems. But Rifkin, who owns Fiddlesticks toy store at Pony Village Mall in North Bend, kept coming back to the lobby, looking at the "traffic flow."

"You have your volunteers way over there and your guest registry way over here and your donation box, well, it's just sort of in the way," he said "What you need is one area where your visitors and volunteers can interact, hand out information and receive donations - a welcome center.

Trusting Rifkin's years of retail experience, Koreiva agreed. Rifkin met with Jim Davenport, vice president of the CAM board of directors, who fleshed out a design, gathered samples, then presented it to Rifkin.

"Yes, now that is what I can just see my stepfather Tom O'Hara standing behind, welcoming the art museum visitors and talking about art," Rifkin said. "He loved to interact with folks and express himself through his paintings."

Davenport, who handcrafted the Welcome Center said, "I really enjoyed working on this project. Gary Rifkin had such a great idea and I loved creating it."

O'Hara was a World War II veteran who survived the Battle for Leyte Gulf, floating in the ocean for three days before being rescued. After retiring from a long career as an in-house photographer for Lockheed Corporation, O'Hara created numerous paintings, both watercolors and oils, many of which were landscapes. O'Hara felt art connected people and being a "people person," he loved to share his art with everyone he met.

In dedicating the new Welcome Center to O'Hara, Gary and Karla Rifkin said "He would be leaning on this counter, waving you in the door, encouraging you to come on in and enjoy the art. Yes, he would be right at home at this Welcome Center."

Koreiva said Coos Art Museum is very grateful to the Rifkin family for both honoring their loved one and supporting the art museum with the addition of the Welcome Center.

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