Thank you, Rachel Alexander of the Salem Reporter, for writing a marvelous tribute to Ron Eachus: Ron Eachus, "incorruptible" consumer advocate and activist, dies at 76. Here's some excerpts that give a feel for this remarkable man.
Ron Eachus, a steward of civic life in Salem and former utility regulator known for his “bulldog-like tenacity,” died from a heart condition on Saturday, Oct. 14, while hiking in Bhutan.
He was 76.
Eachus worked for over 20 years as an Oregon’s public utility commissioner, earning a reputation as a fierce consumer advocate while helping steer Oregon toward a focus on energy conservation to meet electricity needs. He became an international expert in utility regulation who helped many former Soviet countries transition to privately-owned utilities.
Friends and colleagues described a life filled with public policy and adventure, from his days organizing protests against the Vietnam War as University of Oregon’s student body president to more recent work leading Salem City Club.
“He always did work in the public interest,” said John Savage, the former director of the Oregon Department of Energy, who worked closely with Eachus and ultimately became a good friend. “He had fervent convictions, that was Ron. And he acted on them.”
...After college, Eachus worked briefly for U.S. Rep. Jim Weaver, a Eugene Democrat, but hated being in Washington D.C. He returned to his home state and was elected to the Oregon House, serving from 1985 until 1987.
Eachus resigned midway through his term after being appointed a state public utility commissioner. He held the job until 2001 and moved to Salem soon after his appointment.
...Eachus wrote a column for the Statesman Journal on politics and also wrote for Salem Weekly.
...About five years ago, he joined Salem City Club, a nonpartisan civic group that presents public programs on issues of concern. He was in the middle of his third term as president.
“Ron was on top of everything, much more than any president I know in recent memory,” said Russ Beaton, who will serve out Eachus’ term as interim president.
...Eachus was an avid whitewater rafter who traveled the Rogue River many times and made trips to Alaska and the Colorado River.
Andie Andeen, a close friend, assumed he got into the sport while living on a rural stretch of the McKenzie River outside of Eugene as a student.
She asked him once for his thoughts on living outside the city, expecting him to say something profound about rural life.
“His comment was simply, ‘It was hard to organize protests,’” she said.
...Eachus had no spouse or children but was surrounded by friends in Salem. Andeen and Savage are organizing a public memorial.
Eachus loved Bhutan and was interested in Buddhism, spending time with monks on his most recent trip.
“The fact that he died where he did and was able to be part of a ceremony with the monk body is poetic,” Andeen said.
I didn't know Ron well, but encountered him now and then when our activist lives intersected. Mostly we agreed on issues. Even when we didn't, I found Ron to be a likable guy whose passion for making Salem, and the world, better was evident.
The last time I saw Ron was two weeks ago, when he presided over a Salem City Club meeting. He was his usual positive self. It was sad and shocking to learn of his death. Still, given Ron's love of the outdoors and of travel, dying while hiking in Bhutan was a fitting way to go.