“We sense that ‘normal’ isn’t coming back, that we are being born into a new normal: a new kind of society, a new relationship to the earth, a new experience of being human.” –Charles Eisenstein
NOTE: This was a profile for a journalism class, but the story is too good not to retell here.
Patrons of the Fox Den Eatery would be surprised if they knew about the background of the clerk behind the counter. Beth Wellborn is a petite five-foot-four-inch tall mother of three who works nights at a local lottery retailer/deli in Roseburg, Ore.
Customers are wise not to let her size fool them because she does not fit the paradigm of a person working that job. She has a combined ten-years experience working in aluminum and wood products manufacturing . During her stint in those industries, she gained experience as a machine operator and learned how to drive over sized mobile equipment, but what is most surprising is that she’s a certified underwater welder and a volunteer firefighter.
Wellborn always had a predilection for physical work that is typically dominated by men. She enjoys the challenge of proving herself in a situation where she can break the stereotype of petite woman. After suddenly becoming unemployed due to lay offs, she decided to turn the job loss into an opportunity to pursue her life long dream of becoming an underwater welder. To further that goal she researched schools and read up on becoming a commercial diver. Wellborn became a self-taught welder by working on projects around her home and started skin diving – an underwater dive without the air tanks – to gain experience in the water.
In late 2009, Wellborn loaded up her 2001 Jeep Cherokee, took $20,000 cash from her 401k, and drove to Erial, N.J., where she enrolled for classes at the Divers Academy International commercial dive school. After an intensive six-month course she graduated with her certification in SCUBA, rigging, and underwater welding; Wellborn then went to work for Precision Marine (PM) as a commercial diver. Her first underwater welding job was a four-hour project on a platform extension in the Elisabeth River Estuary in Portsmouth, Va. She also worked on dismantling wreckage, reinforcing docks, and repairing vessels in shipyards along the Eastern Seaboard.
As a young girl Wellborn wanted to be a commercial diver, and now she is one. Wellborn’s sister, Rose Wellborn, recalls that, “It was a tough time with her back there because I had her youngest son. It was hard on Beth being away for so long during the training, but she loved learning the job….”
Due to family issues Wellborn returned to Oregon. She took a job at the Fox Den Eatery and joined the Oakland Rural Fire Department (OFRD). The ORFD is an all-volunteer force that responds to emergency calls for the city of Oakland and surrounding rural areas. They meet weekly for communication meetings, gear checks, and training. Wellborn hopes that she can utilize her experience as a commercial diver to help better the ORFDs response to water-based calls. She says, “If I can’t do underwater work here [in Oregon] then I can still get in the water and maybe use my skills to help somebody….” Wellborn hopes that by volunteering with the ORFD she can make contacts that may lead to becoming a rescue diver or develop into other commercial diving opportunities. In the mean time she will continue to break the paradigm of petite women by responding to emergency calls with the ORFD.