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Citizen's View: Remembering 'a friend of mine'

So often in life, a person’s death can overshadow their entire journey. I’d like to write concerning the life of Greg Zagel, longtime Lake Oswego resident and, I suppose I could say, a friend of mine.

I met Greg while my family lived at Oswego Pointe Apartments. He was friendly, eccentric, well-traveled and interesting. He would smile and wave when we passed by, and eventually he started to open up to my husband and me about his life, travels and interests.

Greg was born into a poverty-stricken, blue-collar family in Pennsylvania, and when his parents died he was sent to South Africa to live with his eccentric uncle, a bon vivant who instilled in Greg a love of travel, luxury and excitement. Greg played Rugby competitively in South Africa and went on to be a successful businessman who traveled the world extensively.

His favorite place was Iceland, which he said was full of the nicest and most beautiful people and sights, and he was quick to offer a travel recommendation for just about any country in the world. He showed me his albums of travel photos and we swapped stories about adventures in Europe and South America — a fan of luxury hotels and fine dining, Greg’s eventual return to poverty later in life would prove to be especially galling.

Greg was a novelist who was dedicated to the idea that blonde women and cheeseburgers were life’s greatest joys. He wrote two massive (and delightfully tacky) novels, which I read in entirety, and he had plans for a third. I never saw him be rude to anyone, and most people at our apartment complex regarded him with the same kind of offbeat fondness you would give to an odd uncle.

I’m deeply saddened that Greg’s whole interesting life would be reduced to his standoff with the apartment complex we both called home, and to losing his lifelong struggle with depression in such a spectacular fashion. I don’t purport to know everything about him, and perhaps what he told me wasn’t all true, but what I did know about Greg is that he was a kind, decent person who brought me chocolate from a trip to Europe, and that he had suffered unfairly at the hands of fate throughout his life.

I ask that you join me in remembering a man who was intriguing, cultural and truly unique. And who really loved a good cheeseburger.

Madeline Marin-Foucher is a resident of Lake Oswego.