BY STEPHANIE ESSIN
Every Sunday and Tuesday Rick and Kathleen Struza take off work together and spend the day taking care of their animals. Their family consists of 3 chickens, 4 dogs, 7 or 8 ferrel cats and 2 indoor cats. The work gets dirty taking care of their farm, and their clothes get dirtier. The mud caked on the side of your jeans, the grass stains on your shirt and the cat hairs that can’t seem to be brushed off are Kathleen’s specialty.
Two miles away from their animal farm is a dry cleaners. Inside of the building is buzzing with industrial size washing machines and dryers. Suspended from the ceiling are long racks of clothes pressed to perfection and wrapped neatly in their plastic bags. Kathleen Struza is hard at work unloading and reloading the machines, never stopping once to look at the clock or to take a breath.
Her father bought The Cleanery when she was 14, and it became her job ever since. For 30 years she has worked at The Cleanery in Eugene, and now, the business is hers to run. The Cleanery has several locations. One in Santa Clara, one near W.11th in Eugene, and one in the Goodpasture Neighborhood. She has several employees and stresses the importance of production and good quality to each and everyone of them. “She expects the best out of everybody, including herself,” says Gail Marsh, an employee of Struza for a little over two years.
When Struza was six-years-old, her family moved to a pig farm in Lyons, Oregon from Portland where her father held another job at a bottling company. Her dad wanted to get out of the industry, and had an opportunity to invest in a dry cleaners.
When she was 14, they moved to Eugene and as the business grew, Struza was right there working. She went to high school at North Eugene where she ran track and cross country. “That was my passion in high school,” said Struza. During her high school years, her life was strictly school, practice and work. She went to practice after school everyday, then to The Cleanery where she would work until 10:00 at night. She would often spend the downtime at The Cleanery working on homework. She didn’t party or drink in high school, instead, she put her passion for track and cross country and her job at The Cleanery first. “I didn’t hang out with the ‘stoner alley’, as I liked to call it,” said Struza.
She was a working student athlete, and at a very young age she learned the value of responsibility and good time management. Her passion for track and cross country still hasn’t stopped. Today she runs 5Ks, and stays in shape doing occasional road runs. Every year she does the Turkey Stuffer for Thanksgiving. The Turkey Stuffer is a 3.1 mile course held every year in Springfield, Oregon. Last year, Struza ran under number 1,086 and finished 788th out of 1,254.
Struza is a community leader. She says that her policy is to help those who are less fortunate, and willing to work hard. If there is some one who is going to a job interview and doesn’t have a clean suit, Struza will clean it for free.
She gives hours of her time away, for nothing in return but the good feeling of helping someone in need. Every year, The Cleanery takes part in the Coats for Kids drive. They collect hundreds of coats each year that they clean for free and donate towards the drive. This requires Struza and her employees to work long hours into the night. Struza uses her facility at The Cleanery to give back as much as she can.
Struza’s older sister, Jacqueline Bowker comes yearly to visit her. They went to an Oregon basketball game during her recent visit, and Bowker says she was so impressed by how personable her sister is. “It is so nice to see that my sister knows people and takes the time to talk to them and make them feel appreciated,” says Bowker. She describes her sister as a very personable community leader that makes an effort to get to know people in the community.
Kathleen may come from a farm, but she knows better than anyone how to get stains out of clothes. The passion and dedication behind Struza drives her ability to help the community, run her own business, take care of her animals and yes, get even the toughest stains out.