Staff and Board
Rev. Arthur Vaeni
The Reverend Arthur Vaeni began his service as Olympia's minister in August, 2001. He came from Plymouth, New Hampshire where he had served as minister to the Starr King UU Fellowship for fourteen years. Arthur earned his MDiv at Harvard Divinity School in 1987, a M.A. in telecommunications at Indiana University in 1980 and a B.S. at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1972.
His work life includes time in the army, with a telephone company, as a counselor at a mental health center and his personal favorite - a summer job while in divinity school that included driving a Zamboni at an ice rink. Arthur has two adult children. His wife, Sally Gove, teaches writing at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood.
Director of Religious Education
Sara is in her second year as Director of Religious Education, although she has been part of the OUUC community for seven years. She grew up in Seattle, and has been an Olympia resident for eight years. Her background includes being homeschooled, performing in every Gilbert and Sullivan opera at least twice, teaching dance, National Guard service, and running a home daycare. Sara has a Bachelors of Science and a Masters in Teaching from The Evergreen State College. She also has two young children and a few too many pets. In what spare time she can grab, she enjoys talking to her husband, reading a good book, sewing and crafting, gardening, and hiking.
Troy Arnold Fisher
Troy has his BS in Music Education from Chadron State College, in Chadron Nebraska. He did his Masters study in Choral Conducting at Brigham Young University under Ronald Staheli.
During his time at OUUC, the OUUC choir has sung in several other congregations in the Puget Sound Region, Vancouver, Washington, as well as Corvallis, Oregon. The OUUC choir also toured to Romania, Hungary and Austria, on a trip that united the choir with OUUC’s sister congregation in Kissolymos.
In Olympia, Troy’s musical and stage direction have also been seen on the stages of Harlequin Productions, Capital Playhouse, The Abbey Players, Timberline Theatre Company, and Capital High School.
Around the country Troy worked for 12 years as the staff music director for Utah Musical Theatre in Ogden, Utah, six years as the staff music director for the Toledo Rep in Toledo, Ohio, and two years as the staff music director for the Fireside Dinner Theatre in Ft. Atkinson Wisconsin. In addition Troy has also freelanced at the Lyceum Theatre in Columbus, Missouri, Music Arts Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, The Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park, South Dakota, and The Post Playhouse in Ft. Robinson, Nebraska.
Bonnie Guyer Graham
Bonnie began working as the Connections Coordinator in summer 2011. She has been a part of the OUUC community for fourteen years, teaching children’s RE and was a former member of the Family Ministry Team. She has also helped with Green Sanctuary projects for the last several years. Her background includes facilitating enrichment science education classes for children at a science museum, working in a food coop, staying home to raise three children and volunteering in three Olympia schools. In her spare time she likes to read mysteries, garden, be outside at almost any beach, and hang out with kids, sew, and discover new ways to make nightly dinners more interesting.
Darlene Sarkela (a native Minnesotan and 100% Finnish) discovered OUUC through a newspaper ad in 1989. She became the church administrator in 1991. Darlene’s background includes education in sociology and community counseling, Army service, and work with Head Start. She has one adult son and enjoys garage sales, looking up old friends on the internet, and cinnamon toast.
“A new moon teaches gradualness and deliberation and how one gives birth to oneself slowly. Patience with small details makes perfect a large work, like the universe.” - Rumi
Rev. Carol McKinley
Affiliated Minister, Community Minister
The Reverend Carol McKinley, an Olympia resident since 1970, received her MDiv from Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry in 2004. She is a community minister endorsed by OUUC, and serves as coordinator of Washington UU Voices for Justice, a state legislative advocacy network.
She received her BA in English literature and writing from the University of Washington. She has taught English in secondary schools and community colleges, owned an Olympia out-of-print bookstore, and was, in New Jersey, executive editor of the international magazine of the antiquarian book trade. Prior to attending seminary, she was the indexer in the Washington State Code Reviser’s Office.
She has two grown daughters, two almost-grown grandsons, and lives with her partner, Barbara Gibson.
Rev. Eric Ness
Affiliated Minister, Retired Hospice Chaplain
The Reverend Eric Ness is a retired hospice chaplain for Providence Sound Home Care and Hospice. Eric is a Seattle native, a graduate the University of Washington, Antioch University, and Starr King School for the Ministry. Eric is married to Kathryn Ness.
Board of Trustees
Curtis and his partner Wendy have been active at OUUC since 2001. Their relationship with the church began in 1998 when they chose the Sanctuary for their wedding. Since then, they have grown increasingly involved in the life of the church, and found a home in the community it provides.
Curtis is a five year veteran of the Fundraising Committee and twice chaired the Stewardship Drive. He has emerged as the unofficial church cook and stalwart supporter of the Annual Community Dinner. He joined the Board in 2008 and has recently begun serving as a Religious Education volunteer.
Curtis grew up in the Protestant tradition in Texas. He first came to know Unitarian Universalists during his six summers at the Isles of Shoals, Maine, home to both Shoals Marine Laboratory where he studied and worked, and Star Island Conference Center, summer retreat of UU’s.
Curtis works as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Puget Sound coastal habitat restoration. He and Wendy share a love of outdoor activities, sometimes missing Sunday service for time in “God’s Great Green Cathedral.”
Jack was born in Bamberg, Germany and moved with his parents to Tacoma, WA in 1951. He spent his formative years in the San Fernando Valley and Orange County California and graduated from San Fernando Valley State College (now known as Cal State Northridge) in 1971. Jack met his wife Karen on a blind date not long after his graduation, when he was teaching and coaching at a local high school. They have been married for 39 years and have a son, a daughter and four grandsons. His professional years were spent in retail grocery management with Ralph’s Grocery Co., Fred Meyer and Safeway. Jack also was general manager of a Harley-Davidson dealership for a short period of time. He joined OUUC in 2007 and not long after started serving on the Pastoral Care Team and Worship Arts Committee, while also singing in our choir. Jack says he joined this congregation because it is so open and welcoming, a tradition that he has found holds true in every UU congregation he and Karen have visited in their travels. He also enjoys the Religious Education aspects of the church, in particular, “Building your Theology,” “This I Believe” and “Articulating your Faith.”
Myra Barker has been involved in the Olympia UU Church for about 11 years. She has served as greeter, been an RE teacher, and most recently participated on the Worship Arts Committee for four years, serving as a celebrant, speaker, and committee chair. Myra believes that our congregation’s commitment in accepting one another and encouraging our spiritual growth truly does change our lives.
Mark was born on Long Island in 1951. Life took him then to Utah, California, Montana, back to Utah and, finally, 14 years ago, to Olympia, where he works for Intel. Along the way he met and married Ilona Hruska, earned a PhD in Computer Science, and became father to his daughter, Anna. He has been a part of OUUC some four years now, initially introduced to it when Anna, as a member of Troy’s “Krazy 8,” sang as part of the Mother’s Day service. His first contribution to the congregation was as kitchen help for a UU Voices gathering. Since then, he has served as an usher, Circle of the Spirit facilitator, chief bean counter for Books, Brownies, and Beans, lackey-of -all-trades for the Auction, and fledgling tenor in the choir. He is eager to expand his service to OUUC, where he has discovered his voice, re-awakened his spirit, joined a warm community, and made some wonderful friends.
Penny became a Unitarian 34 years ago after being raised a Methodist in Nebraska. Questioning religion seems to be in her blood. Her family lines became Protestant as soon as Protestantism took hold in Kent and Sussex, England, and the German Rhineland. By the 17th and 18th centuries, these families moved to the colonies of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, respectively, searching for a safe place to freely express their faith. She has served this congregation in Worship Arts, Children's Religious Education, the board, and as the first director of religious education. She has particularly enjoyed the Circles of the Spirit groups, serving coffee, and the auction and community dinner kitchen crews.
Penny is a self-employed small business owner for the past nine years. She has been a technical writer: writing grants for an Indian tribe; and writing National Register nominations for a state historic preservation office. A major joy of her life was being a wife and mother; she has two adult sons.
Penny’s interests focus on history and culture: She enjoys traveling, researching her family's history, and reading mysteries and memoirs. Her local community is based in OUUC.
Des McGahern has been a member of OUUC since 2005 and has served on the Worship Arts Committee and the Personnel Committee.
Pat came to sing in the OUUC Choir in 1998 and found her spiritual home. She feels truly supported in her journey to find meaning, truth and spiritual growth at OUUC.
In addition to being a choir member, Pat served four years on the Space Committee that completed the first phase of building construction and is now working with the committee on the next phase. She has co-facilitated Small Group Ministry/Circles of the Spirit groups and worked on the Landscape Subcommittee of Buildings and Grounds, the Green Sanctuary Committee, as a Program Council Representative, and as Aesthetics Committee Chair.
Pat has recently retired as a Program Manager for the Department of Commerce where she managed state-wide housing repair, weatherization and lead-based paint programs for low-income families and contracted with twenty-six community action agencies and housing authorities. To her service as a OUUC Board member, she brings extensive experience in program management, problem solving, policy and grant writing, budgeting, communications, technical housing issues, and contractor education.
Pat’s other interests include hiking with the Trotters, gardening at her home, developing her small photography business, and traveling with family and friends.
Steve joined OUUC in the early 1990s. He found himself teaching middle school RE that year and learned a lot about UU history and practice. In the late 1990s, he served on the Board and helped update the Board policy manual. While on the Board, he went to leadership school which was a transformative experience. Steve and his wife, Christine, moved to Saipan in 2003 and returned in 2009 to be closer to family and friends, especially the OUUC community. Steve has been active on the Buildings and Grounds Committee, Disaster Preparedness Committee, and the 2010 Stewardship Drive. He would like to help the Board and congregation transition to the new organizational structure. He would also like to continue getting to know more members of the congregation because UUs are such interesting and committed people!