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Chaplain and his 'granola girl' make their move to Oregon





They were loading up their belongings into a moving van under a broiling sun Wednesday afternoon. The temperature was well over 100 degrees, but Father Joel Maiorano and his wife, Heather, agreed Hays has been a pretty cool place to live.

"Bittersweet," Joel Maiorano said of leaving Hays today for Medford, Ore., where he will be director of pastoral care at Rogue Valley Manor, a large retirement community and hospital.

"The people of western Kansas are just phenomenal," he said. "Good people, good to the core, they're just good-hearted people.

"With the relationships we have here, and the people I've met at the hospital, the people I met in ministry, the people I met at the university I served, just the best of the best."

Joel Maiorano, 44, started out approximately seven years ago as a part-time chaplain at Hays Medical Center, and moved up to become director of pastoral care at the hospital. His wife has split her time raising the couple's two sons, Michael, 8, and Gian, 3, while also providing life spiritual counseling for both ministers and lay people.

Heather Maiorano, 39, is from Portland, Ore., now just four hours away in the family's Prius.

"I will be a lot closer to my family," she said.

Heather was in seminary in San Francisco when a friend played matchmaker, introducing her to a preacher whose job was to fill in at churches when the pastor was gone. That was 13 years ago. The preacher was Joel, and they have been married 12 years now.

Living in the wide-open spaces of the High Plains was an adjustment at first, Heather said. But she has enjoyed the pace of living in Kansas, realizing the difference after visiting back home.

"We would fly back to Kansas, and you would just feel yourself decompressing," she said. "The pace is more genuine, I think."

At the couple's Hays home, a rain barrel sits near the house. That's all environmental-conscious Heather with her Pacific Northwest roots, said Joel, who grew up in Detroit.

"She's the granola girl," he said with a laugh. "I'm just obedient."

After today, their house in Hays is home no more. The family's turtle is making the trip, but the two cats won't. No worries; they have found a home with family friends.

About 10 years ago, Heather asked Joel about some day moving to Oregon.

"I jokingly said maybe in 10 years," he said.

So today Joel, Heather and kids -- and their turtle without a name -- make the trip to the cooler climes of the Pacific Northwest.

They leave one home, seeking to make another.