Portland’s South Park Blocks, a strip of green through the center of the city, links downtown to Portland State University.

Along the way is the Arlington Club, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall – named after Portland’s fine arts matron and former Fountain Gallery owner, the Portland Performing Arts Center, the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Historical Society, St. James Church, the First Congregational Church, beautiful trees and artwork, including George Fite Waters’ Lincoln, Phimister Proctor’s Roosevelt, and the currently missing Rebecca At The Well by Carl Linde.

In the middle, surrounded by tall beautiful green elms is the Peace Plaza.

What! Never heard of it? You’ve definitely seen the biggest part of it – if you’ve walked the blocks.

According to the hard-to-find plaque (pinned the a church day care center across the street) “Peace Plaza includes ‘Peace Chant’ out in the Park Block (sic) and this piece, “From Within, Shalom” which belongs to St. James Lutheran Church. It was dedicated by Rabbi Joshua Stampher of Congregation Neveh Shalom. In memory of Cora Lee Beard Whiteneck, it calls all generations to the pursuit of peace.”

Cora Lee died in Oklahoma back in 1922. Her son, the Reverend Doctor John Whiteneck, a Congregationalist and political optimist, died in 1995.

The pinned plaque includes a poem by Whiteneck, titled Harmony and Peace, which I won’t transcribe. A retired fundraiser, he launched Generations for Peace, which turned out to be a small scholarship program managed by St. James Lutheran.

From Within, Shalom is a companion piece to Peace Chant. Both are granite pomo obelisks, cracked and scarred, very Artforum hip, circa 1980. The artist is Steve Gilman, who made a few more sculptures like this and then found more useful work to pursue.

The larger section of sculpture, Peace Chant, lying akimbo to walking traffic in the midst of the Park Block, is another excellent reason for revisioning public art placements. What can you say about it? Like Shelley Duvall in her heartbreaking performance as Olive Oyl, “He’s Large!”

It’s large, and kids from the daycare like to jump off it. That’s about all one needs say about it.

A large bronze plaque for Peace Plaza is easy to overlook, but hold some clues.

There’s another important addition to Peace Park. It’s the gravestone for Terence O’Donnell, author of the definitive readable history of this state That Balance So Rare; The Story of Oregon, An Arrow In The Earth, and many other books, essays and letters to the Oregonian. He died in 2001. The marker reads, “In honor of historian Terence O’Donnell, consummate storyteller and friend of Persians.”

Friend of Persians? Gravestone in the Park Blocks? Is he underneath? No – his ashes are in a church in Isfahan, Iran.

If you’re a friend of peace – and peace right now – go find and read O’Donnell’s Garden of the Brave in War: Recollections of Iran, a gem of travel writing from one of the very few Americans who has taken the time to understand Iran, return and report.