If you’ve lived in the Portland metro area for, oh, say the last 16 years or so — and you’ve ever turned on a TV — you’ve likely spent time in the engaging company of Helen Raptis, co-host of KATU’s long-running morning talk show, AM Northwest.
Spot Magazine recently did just that when we were invited to stop by the Vancouver cul-de-sac home Raptis shares with her husband of 21 years, David Schmitke. The rest of the family includes dogs Callie and Nola and cats Gus and Ella. The husband and big red cat Gus remained absent during our visit, but we do have solid proof that both are permanent happy members of the household. We can also confide that one of the two missing chose to hide under the bed during our visit, remaining elusively out of sight.
Any visit to the Raptis-Schmitke household includes copious amounts of quality love time with Goldens Callie and Nola. Both rescues from the Oregon Humane Society, the pair is prominently featured on the walls of the home in a beautiful artwork by local photographer Joni Shimabukuro. Nola, closing in on 15 years, is happy to offer a warm greeting and then settle in to enjoy the conversation with one, sometimes both eyes closed. Callie however . . . well, she enjoys a more “active” role with company. Rescued from a puppy mill where she spent her first years in a cramped cage deprived of love and attention, Callie is now happily making up for those years of lost hugs and cuddles. With a beautiful face and wistful eyes, she’s impossible to resist stroking her head — especially since it’s likely in your lap for the duration of your visit.
Helen, every bit as warm and friendly in person as she is on TV, leaves KATU each afternoon and heads to her cozy art corner at home, where it’s clear that her talents go well beyond that of an award-winning media professional. And by award-winning, we’re talking Emmy — specifically one for 2012 regional - Feature Segment.
And this award was no fluke — this seasoned television professional has been in the industry in one capacity or another since she was 19. Starting out as a receptionist at KING-TV in Seattle fresh out of high school, she worked at stations in Montana and Eugene until 1993, when she joined KGW in Portland. KATU wisely snared The Roving Redhead in ’98, and Portland audiences have since appreciated and enjoyed Raptis and her current co-host Dave Anderson. A 13-year breast cancer survivor, Helen among the fortunate who can say, “I love my job; it’s the best job ever. I will be at KATU as long as they keep me.”
Now about that art corner, which boasts a garden view on one side and a big-screen TV on the other and where with brush in hand, Helen creates captivating works of art. What started as a line of greeting cards has expanded into commissionable acrylic on canvas pieces that simultaneously possess simplicity and intricacy. Helen started her expressionism with kitchen art — eggs, toast, fruit — and has since expanded to include animal portraits, such as the one shown here (blue-hued Murphy is the beloved dog of KATU co-worker Carl Click). Helen’s clever and formative use of colors causes the open guilelessness of her work to sparkle with sophistication. Her work can be found at R. Blooms of Lake Oswego, where you simply enjoy, or become the proud owner of a Helen Raptis original.
Successful career, happy marriage, devoted animal caretaker, talented artist — could there possibly be a spare moment in the life of Helen Raptis? Oh, you betcha. Starting in March Raptis will appear in Triangle Productions’ Next Fall, returning to the theater in a strong supporting role as the mother of one of two young gay men in a committed relationship who find themselves turning to family for moral and spiritual support.
Helen and her husband Dave are advocates for Oregon Humane Society and the Humane Society for SW Washington. They also work with Ridgefield-based Second Chance Companions, hosting the organization’s annual fundraising event. The couple knows and lives the depth and value of the human/animal bond.
Here’s another little tidbit you’ll enjoy. What does Helen do while painting or hanging out with her pups? In her own words, Helen “is addicted to TV.” Not being on TV — watching it. Current favorites include the likes of American Horror Story, Orange is the New Black, Mad Men, Masters of Sex and a host of other guilty pleasures she doesn’t feel a bit guilty about. She does draw the line at certain reality shows, preferring what her husband calls the “Murder Murder, Kill Kill” genre. Don’t let the halo of red hair fool ya: this girl has her saucy side.
The shoe pictured is about the last shoe you’d expect Helen to wear. In fact she wore them only once, during a Las Vegas vacation. Ouch! — what’s worn in Vegas stays in Las Vegas.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance, this year Dec. 9th at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Marty Davis is a Portland writer and event photographer. She live in North Portland where is she closely watched over by Shasta, a bossy Aussie Shepherd. She is herded on a daily basis.