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Abby's Pizza purchased by Lone Rock Resources

Abby’s Legendary Pizza has been purchased by Lone Rock Resources, according to a joint press release sent out by both companies Wednesday afternoon.

Lone Rock will purchase 100% equity ownership of the 36 pizzerias throughout Oregon and Washington, including the five Douglas County locations.

“We are very excited with this opportunity to further our commitment to this area and continue Abby’s commitment to its customers,” said Lone Rock Resources CEO Toby Luther. “We fully appreciate the long-term operation, experience, and growth of the Abby’s business. Over the past three years we’ve visited every Abby’s location and have fallen in love with the high-quality employees, loyal customers and family-oriented business model.”

The companies plan to continue Abby’s 57-year-old brand, staffing and locations.

“Their investment will take the company to even greater heights, and provide our one-thousand employees more opportunities to grow within the company,” said Mills Sinclair, one of the principal owners. “We’ve been working with Lone Rock for three years and we all believe this means Abby’s will continue to be headquartered in Roseburg for generations to come.

“This is the beginning of the next chapter of Abby’s,” Sinclair said. “I have no doubt Abby’s will continue to thrive and grow in Roseburg and throughout the Pacific Northwest, just as we have since Abby Broughton and Bob Harrell started the company in 1964.”

Lone Rock Resources is a family-owned company founded in Roseburg in 1950. Originally timber based, today the company has a variety of investments and employs over 110 in Douglas County.

Abby’s operates 36 restaurants in Oregon and Washington, with five of those in Douglas County. The restaurant was founded by Roseburg residents Broughton and Harrell. The company will celebrate its 57th anniversary this year.

Graduation rates increase statewide, Roseburg High School's goes up by nearly 10%

A little over 86% of students who started at Roseburg High School in 2016 graduated in 2020, a nearly 10% increase in graduation rates since last year.

“For four years we’ve really been working on this system and I think this is what we’re seeing the work of the full system coming together,” Roseburg High School Principal Jill Weber said. “We know about the students before they even come into our school, we support them from the first day they’re here, and we support them all the way through until graduation. And we’re very excited to see where the graduation rate from last year is.”

Roseburg High Schools also has a graduation guide and five counselors, one who came on at the start of the current school year.

Weber said the school hopes to continue the trend by expanding summer school options, to help the students who have struggled with distance learning.

“This year has really challenged us in a lot of ways and challenged the kids in a lot of ways,” Weber said. “We’re going to have to look at our system differently now that we’ve gone through this first semester distance learning. Some kids have thrived in the settings and other kids have really struggled. We’re going to have to look at how to support the kids have been struggling to ensure that we do support them to that graduation in four years.”

Weber said 90% of the current Roseburg High School seniors were on track to graduate in September.

The district’s alternative school, Rose School, is expected to move into the high school at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. The graduation at Rose School was 17.14% at the end of last school year.

“We’re excited to bring in the students from Rose and get them to be part of our system,” Weber said.

As Rose School moves over, so will the GED program which will give students enrolled in the program a chance to participate in electives offered at Roseburg High School.

“We’re going to be giving them more options within the building, because of bringing Rose into this,” Weber said. “We know there isn’t one plan that works for all kids, but instead we’re looking at 1,500 different plans to support all the kids in the different ways they need. And I think bringing Rose will allow us more opportunities to do that.”

The graduation rate at Roseburg’s other public high school Phoenix School was 31.17%. The overall graduation rate for Roseburg Public Schools was 68.1%.

Throughout the state the graduation rate was 82.6%, a 2.6% increase from last year. Jon Wiens, director of accountability and reporting for the Oregon Department of Education, said the increase reflects an additional 3,500 students with a high school diploma statewide.

Days Creek, Elkton, Glide, North Douglas, Oakland, Reedsport and Sutherlin school districts all had graduation rates above the state average, while Camas Valley, Glendale, Riddle, South Umpqua and Yoncalla were below the state average. Winston-Dillard School District was below the state average as a whole, with 80.21% of students graduating in four years, but the Douglas High School graduation rate was 89.02%.

Despite being below the state average, Winston-Dillard, South Umpqua and Yoncalla all saw their graduation rates increase in comparison to the 2018-2019 school year.

Many schools saw increases this year, but according to many officials the impact of COVID-19 guidelines had little to do with that.

“The statewide emphasis on our underserved students paired with targeted, localized programs by schools to meet their students’ needs,” Oregon Department of Education spokesperson Marc Siegel said. “By focusing on equity and consistently partnering with our school districts we are able to boost student performance.”

In April 2020, the state announced that all students who were on track to graduate would automatically graduate and others would be graded on a strictly pass/fail system.

“I would say it had a very small impact,” Weber said. “Graduation isn’t a result of March, April and May. Graduation rates are the results of four years worth of hard work.”

Of the 13 school districts in Douglas County, nine saw graduation rates increase, three decreased and Riddle stayed exactly the same at 75%.

In addition to the graduation data, the Oregon Department of Education also release dropout data. Statewide the dropout rate was 2.38%, while this increase a little bit for the county to 3.37%.

However, Roseburg High School had 10 students drop out which accounted for a rate of 0.64%.

“I’m just so excited about that as well,” Weber said. “It shows that we’re making sure our kids are staying with us that we’re holding on to them.”

Lexi's amazing journey: Cat lost on Oregon camping trip makes it home to Arizona with the help of some human friends

Lexi is an ordinary house cat who, as far as her family knew, didn’t even know how to hunt.

So when the McMillan family of Gilbert, Arizona, lost her at Thielsen Forest Campground about 6 miles from Diamond Lake in August, they feared she wouldn’t make it.

But somehow, this little gray-and-white, long-haired cat survived a grueling autumn in the wild. In September, she came within one mile of a raging wildfire that devastated the area. By November, she was clinging to life through a heavy snowstorm.

But this month, she was returned to her family in Arizona thanks to the actions of concerned citizens who stepped in to help a cat in need.

Lizzy McMillan said Lexi’s a good traveler — she walks on a leash, rides in a backpack and happily stays in a camper — but she escaped while the adults were distracted. They were hopping in and out of the truck while attempting to execute a 45-point turn to pull their travel trailer out of a campsite that was just too small for it.

Lexi’s people noticed the cat was missing a few miles down the road and returned to look for her, staying an extra day in hopes of finding her.

But they had no luck.

McMillan said they didn’t think their pet would survive.

“God love her, she is a sweet cat, but she is terrible at being a cat,” she said. “One time we had a mouse in our old house and she was not even interested.”

But Lexi had one thing going for her. Her family had a microchip implanted when she had been spayed.

More on that in a minute.

Exactly what Lexi did during the rest of August and September is unknown. But by late October, Oregon Department of Transportation workers based at the Lemolo maintenance shop off Highway 138 East about a mile away were reporting having seen a stray cat in the area. She was first spotted about a mile from the shop, 2 miles from where she was lost, and later on the shop’s grounds.

Among his other duties, Oregon Department of Transportation maintenance crew member Chris Southwick is one of the people who runs those snowplows that keep the highway open in the winter.

Southwick said he and other employees who work at the Lemolo shop started bringing food for the cat they knew was out there somewhere, but it never seemed to eat anything.

Then one day around Thanksgiving, Southwick saw tracks in the snow at the station — fresh cat tracks.

The tracks wandered off toward the corner of the yard where several pieces of equipment were parked. The tracks ended at a truck.

“So we opened up the hood of the truck that was there, and there it was sitting on top of the engine trying to get warm. So I grabbed it,” he said.

The cat was so weak and hungry she couldn’t run away.

So Southwick brought her inside and gave her some food.

When his shift was over, he took Lexi to his Glide home. She rode on his lap.

“It kinda let out a sigh and went limp and passed out, it was that tired,” he said.

For the next three days Lexi did little but sleep, waking only to eat and drink. Finally, she got healthy enough to come out and wander around the house.

Lexi — who Southwick was calling “Snowy” at the time — fit in well with his family and its two cats, two dogs, chickens and fish.

But Southwick thought about how sad his kids would be if it had been their cat who was lost.

And he wondered if she might have a microchip that would identify the cat’s owners. So he took Lexi to Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center to find out.

She did have a chip, and so the next leg of Lexi’s journey was about to begin.

Saving Grace Cattery Manager Brooke Winterholer said the animal shelter reached out to the McMillans.

Then they began reaching out to see if anyone was headed to Arizona.

Saving Grace volunteer Janice Quist, as it turns out, winters each year in Surprise, Arizona, about an hour from Gilbert, where the McMillans live.

Quist wasn’t leaving until early January, though, so while Lexi waited, she was foster housed with volunteer Michael Hall, Winterholer said.

She said it was fun to be part of this family reunion.

“That’s what we’re here for. Those are the stories that make everything worth it,” she said.

Lexi traveled out of Oregon the same way she’d traveled to it — in a camper.

“She was so good the whole way down in our motor home. She was obviously used to traveling,” Quist said.

Along the way, she had yet another companion, the Quists’ 13-pound Havanese dog.

Quist said the dog was more skittish of Lexi than she was of him.

Once they arrived in Surprise, Lizzy McMillan’s husband, Andy McMillan, drove down to pick up Lexi.

He put the cat into a clear cat backpack and hauled her out for the last leg of her journey.

There was yet another surprise in store for Lexi, though.

In the months since they lost Lexi, the family had moved to a new home.

The people were the same, the furniture was the same, but it was a different place.

Waiting at home, completely unaware that Lexi had been found, were three children.

Maxine McMillan, 10, had received Lexi as her fifth birthday present.

She and her brother Everett, 7, and sister Violet, 4, were not told the cat had been found and was on her way.

Lizzy McMillan explained they feared it would be doubly devastating for them if the cat were to be lost again on the way.

It was the hardest secret they’d ever had to keep from them, she said.

The kids’ reaction when they first saw Lexi, brought in inside the backpack, was priceless.

“The kids just went ballistic. They were so excited and couldn’t believe that she had been found,” Lizzy McMillan said.