Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Volunteer spotlight: Darryl Hrenko

Darryl Hrenko has volunteered with
enthusiasm and creativity since 2007

A dedicated volunteer since 2007

A scheduled half-hour meeting to get to know Port Townsend Marine Science Center volunteer Darryl Hrenko stretched out to over an hour over tea at the Fort Worden Commons recently.

Darryl came bearing a couple of three-ring binders with sections marked for many of the projects he’s been involved with as a volunteer over the years. Suffice it to say, there is probably not a task or a role at PTMSC that Darryl hasn’t given a try, but his primary interest these days is any project with "a beginning, middle and an end” and he particularly prefers teaching and assisting with the youth education programs.

Among the many occupations this former Army and Vietnam War veteran has held, teaching science at Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland, Ore., remains a highlight.

He found his way to that job after completing his B.S. while working in electronics at the Multnomah County Jail.

“It was a brief walk across the courtyard from the jail to Portland State University, and my boss was open to flex time which made it very easy,” Darryl said about completing his education.

He followed that with a Masters’ in teaching from Lewis and Clark College.

Darryl’s most recent project for the PTMSC has been to create resin casts of European green crab specimens — he brought his two most recent creations with him to tea. The cast specimens will be an ideal way to train visitors and students how to identify this invasive species.

Darryl and his wife Lynn bought property in the Port Townsend area in 2000 and then built their dream house in 2005. Once that project was completed, he began volunteering in earnest and spent 3-4 years as a docent in the aquarium and museum and, since then, has spent time doing SoundToxins research, working on the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, helping assess and fix the aquarium’s hydrophone system, building a necropsy table and so much more, for a lifetime total of over 1,000 hours as a PTMSC volunteer.

He credits his fascination with marine life to his upbringing in Santa Cruz, Calif., and a childhood filled with fishing, swimming and diving “just for the fun of it.”

Darryl opted to join the Army once out of high school as a good opportunity to go to language school and learn a language, in his case, French. After serving for 13 months in Vietnam, he was then transferred back to Fort Bliss in Texas, where he “spent the worst and longest two years of my life.” He disliked Texas so much he volunteered to go back to Vietnam.

He is also very active with a number of other organizations in town, is the leader of Port Townsend’s “best” community garden (in North Beach, near his home) and also volunteers as one of the instructors for the Northwest Maritime Center’s Maritime Discovery program (co-taught with fellow PTMSC volunteer John Conley), which is taught to area 7th graders each spring.

Darryl has also been very active as a youth mentor for the YMCA’s Building Futures program and also works part time at Redfish Kayak here in Port Townsend.

Darryl and his wife are big fans of rail travel, and have notched a couple of cross country trips on Amtrak, with plans to use Rail Canada to visit Nova Scotia in the future.

It was a treat to get to know this dynamic and capable-of-just-about-anything volunteer!

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