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Community loses key members in 2012

A look back at the deaths of prominent residents this year


During the past year, East County lost a rodeo queen-genealogist, two former mayors, a historian, a jack-of-all-trades and an anti-tax activist.

As 2012 comes to a close, The Outlook looks back on the stories and people who defined the past year. Here is a roundup of prominent East County community members who died in 2012.

• Doneva Sheppard, a researcher, genealogist and rodeo queen, died Feb. 24 after battling cancer. She was 75.

Doneva spent countless hours helping families trace their histories as a volunteer for the Troutdale Historical Society. An avid horseback rider, she was selected by the Troutdale Rod and Gun Club in 1951 as its Gresham rodeo queen.

Doneva owned Gresham Western Outfitters on Main Avenue. In addition to her memberships in the historical societies, she was involved in many organizations such as the Western Riders Saddle Club, 4-H and the Cub Scouts.

She was a charter member of the American Society of Tole and Decorative Painters. She also attended Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church. She enjoyed sewing, photography, tole and decorative painting and painting china.

• Gussie McRobert, former mayor of Gresham known for her strong advocacy of her city, died March 8. She was 79.

Gussie served as Gresham mayor from 1989 to 1999, the second woman to hold the office. Her reputation for “saying it like it is” and for never backing down from a fight sometimes led to arguments with city staff, public officials, regional agencies and The Outlook.

Her guiding principle, she said in an earlier interview, was to ask, “Will it matter in 20 years?”

One of Gussie’s first initiatives was to encourage city councilors to take a more active role in decision-making. She initiated the city’s first community-wide program to guide transportation and growth through the year 2020. She also supported parks and open space bond measures.

A registered nurse turned award-winning journalist, Gussie worked as a radio and television producer. Her reports were featured in local media, on Oregon Public Broadcasting and on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition” and “Week End West.”

• Vernon Rathman, a former Troutdale mayor, died Feb. 17. He was 84 and a resident of Sandy.

Vernon served as mayor of Troutdale from 1960 to 1964. He also served as chairman of the city’s first planning commission. He was a charter member of the Troutdale Historical Society and a member of the Troutdale Lions and the Boy Scouts. In 1973, Vernon started Rathman & Sons excavating business, bringing his three sons along.

Vernon enjoyed piloting his private airplane, hunting, golfing and hosting Family Camp for 25 years. He and his wife Martine also enjoyed traveling in their motor home, accumulating 350,000 miles visiting family, friends and NASCAR races.

• Phil Jonsrud, a lifelong Sandy resident and historian, died March 25. He was 93.

The grandson of pioneers who crossed the country from Minnesota to claim land in the Kelso area in 1877, Jonsrud was considered the expert on the history of Sandy and its people.

Jonsrud was a Sandy City Council member from 1956-1964 and served on the planning commission. Since 1974, Jonsrud had been involved with the Sandy Historical Society board of directors as a treasurer, president, historian and eventually a board member emeritus.

Beyond editing the Historical Society’s “Buckboard Tales,” Jonsrud contributed to Sandy’s history with two books, “Whistle Punks and Misery Whips” and “80s Years in the Same Neighborhood.” His third book, “Hometown Sandy,” features 50 stories about Sandy with a picture to go with each. The book was his last gift to the Historical Society, and all of its proceeds will go toward the museum.

• Sherwood “Woody” Davis, a beloved lifelong Corbett resident and businessman, died Aug. 5. He was 69.

A jack-of-all-trades, Woody earned a reputation over several decades as the man to call when you needed a job done fast and done right. He was best known for his open-handed wave as he drove by.

Woody’s diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease in April 2011 and his calm acceptance of it led his family to plan a memorable funeral service, complete with a specially built scarlet pine coffin signed by community members and a restored white 1967 International Harvester diesel engine pickup that was used as a hearse.

• Don McIntire, arguably Oregon’s most famous anti-tax activist, died Oct. 12 from a heart attack. He was 74.

McIntire, the chief sponsor of the 1990 Measure 5, which placed limits on Oregon property taxes, contributed to the shift in school funding from property taxes and local governments to the state income tax.

Supporters said Measure 5 provided much-needed tax relief, especially for senior homeowners, and curbed government spending. Opponents argued that the measure harmed public education.

• Nora Radke, a longtime city of Gresham employee and popular bartender at M&M Restaurant, died Dec. 31, 2011. She was 58.

• Elise Swan, a longtime Gresham resident active in numerous civic organizations, died Jan. 2. She was 87.

• David Odom, former urban forestry planner with the city of Gresham, died Jan. 14. He was 41.

• Seth Dawson, former Mt. Hood Community College aquatic director, died Feb. 15 in a plane crash near North Bend, Wash. He was 31.

• Erna Wolfe, who operated Dick Wolfe Meats with her husband in Boring, died Feb. 15. She was 85.

• Michael Cholbi, a longtime Gresham businessman, chamber of commerce member and community activist, died April 13. He was 85.

• Marvin Ogle, one of the original 13 signers of the petition to establish the education district that would become Mt. Hood Community College and a longtime foundation board member, died April 24. He was 83.

• William “Mac” MacGregor, a longtime sheriff’s deputy venerated as an old-school cop, died May 16. He was 81.

• Cpl. Keaton Coffey, a Marine from Boring, died May 24 in Afghanistan. He was 22.

• Betty Light, a founding faculty member of Mt. Hood Community College and former Gresham city councilor, died June 4. She was 87.

• Terry Fitch, a real estate agent involved in numerous Gresham service organizations, died July 31. He was 77.

• James Oswald, owner and operator of Billiards ‘N Bagels, died Sept. 15. He was 71.

• Wayne Lewis, owner of the Springdale Tavern, died Nov. 11. He was 76.

n Raymond Bechtoldt, owner of Bechtoldt’s Berry Stand, died Nov. 19. He was 90.




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