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Gretchen Miller (Kafoury)
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Gretchen Kafoury, who championed affordable housing and women's rights in an expansive political career that gave rise to a second generation, died Friday. She was 72.  

Kafoury, whose career spanned from Portland City Council to the Oregon Legislature, had been politically active since the 1960s. She worked on Sen. Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign and Wayne Morse's U.S. Senate run in 1968.

She soon became a leading voice for women's rights and helped launch the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1970. A year later, she was marching against the City Club of Portland, protesting its refusal to admit women, and co-founded the Oregon Women's Political Caucus.

She became a candidate herself in 1977, winning the seat in the Oregon House of Representatives vacated by her then-husband Stephen Kafoury.

As a state representative, she worked for legislation to expand the role of nurses and to improve the quality of care for hospital patients. She also worked on programs to help victims of domestic and sexual violence and to establish credit rights and job flexibility for women. She served in the Legislature until 1982.

Three years later she was elected to the Multnomah County, where she worked to increase county funding for prenatal care for low-income women, established Portland's first teen health clinic in Roosevelt High School and created primary prevention programs to help attack drug and alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy.

Her daughter Deborah Kafoury, who was elected to the county commission in 2008, is now its chairwoman.

In 1991, she was elected to Portland City Council where she served until 1998.

Colleagues remember her as someone who was drawn to serve the public and focused on building a city that worked for everybody.

"She was utterly full of life and energy and it was exciting to work with her because she was always focused on stuff that mattered," said Erik Sten, Kafoury's former chief of staff who later served alongside her on the City Council. "Despite being a very successful politician for a long time she didn't really care about the politics."

Instead, Sten said, Kafoury got excited when she saw families move into stable homes.

"There's been a lot of good people on the city council," he said. "But she's been one of the ones that Portland was really lucky to have."

Portland Mayor Charlier Hales said the city lost a leader and role model.

"She was tireless in her work with the National Organization for Women, the City of Portland, Multnomah County and the Oregon Legislature," he said in a statement. "She has been a colleague, an ally, a partner - and always the conscience of our community."

Other public officials turned to Twitter to express condolences and celebrate her life.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, wrote that Kafoury was champion of the poor and women's rights, and an outstanding public servant.

Gov. Kate Brown said Kafoury truly understood what leadership meant.

"We will miss her humanity and authenticity," she wrote.

After Kafoury retired from politics, she continued to push for affordable housing and served as a commissioner for the Housing Authority of Portland, which is now known as Home Forward. Just two weeks ago, Kafoury testified at a City Council meeting regarding Portland urban renewal areas.

She also taught at Portland State University's College of Urban and Public Affairs until her retirement in 2008. 

In October of 1998, Kafoury was awarded the mayor's Human Rights Award. In 2001 she received the Spirit of Portland award in recognition of her service to the city.

Born in Walla Walla, Washington, Gretchen Kafoury graduated from Whitman College in 1963 with a bachelor's degree in music. In the mid-60s, she was a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Iran. She then taught English as a second language at Grant High School in Northeast Portland and at Portland State University.

Survivors included her daughters Deborah Kafoury and Katharine Kafoury. 

-- Kasia Hall 

khall@oregonian.com



Kafoury, Gretchen Miller 72 June 23, 1942 - Mar. 13, 2015

Gretchen Miller Kafoury was born June 23,1942 in Walla Walla, Washington, graduated in music from Whitman College in 1963 and received a Masters in Public Administration from Portland State University in 2008. Before moving to Portland she lived for two years in Iran as a Peace Corps volunteer. Gretchen served for 20 years in elective office as a State Representative, Multnomah County Commissioner, and Portland City Commissioner before retiring in 1998. In subsequent years she taught at the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University and served on the board of the Housing Authority of Portland, the Oregon Center for Public Policy, and founded the American-Iranian Friendship Committee. Gretchen was more than a leader and a public servant. She was a rabble-rouser, a mother, a grandmother, a teacher, an organizer, and a friend to the poor. Just two weeks before her death, Gretchen marched to City Hall to once again advocate for affordable housing, never wavering from the compass that guided her life's work. Gretchen leaves behind sister Deborah Bonds (Chris), brothers Webb Miller and Bill Brattain, daughters Deborah (Nik Blosser) and Katharine (Steve Miller), and beloved grandchildren, her "raisons d'etre" Alexander, Jacob and Anna Blosser. Services will be held at 2:00 pm Saturday, April 4 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1126 SW Park Avenue, Portland. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Street Roots, Human Solutions or Transition Projects. A full obituary is available at www.riverviewcemetaryfuneralhome.com

Published in The Oregonian from Mar. 29 to Apr. 1, 2015

Children:  2 Daughters
Grandchildren:  2 Grandsons & 1 Granddaughter
Activities/Hobbies:  Oregon Coast, Reading, Grandchildren
 
After graduation from Whitman College, I headed off to Iran for two years in the Peace Corps. When I returned to Portland, I had gotten the political bug, volunteered for Bobby Kennedy’s campaign, and spent the next thirty years in politics. I became a “politician” myself, eventually serving in the State Legislature, on the Multnomah County Commission, and the Portland City Council. When I wearied on the pressure, I taught for ten years at Portland State University, and retired for good last year.
 
Now life is focused on three wonderful grandchildren, volunteer work for low income housing on the Housing Authority of Portland Board, and plenty of time at the Oregon Coast.
 
As for the nitty-gritty – I’ve had three husbands, a decade each but none since 1998, and two lovely daughters who live in Portland and are very much a part of my life. Wa-Hi seems many lifetimes ago, but I am thinking of many of you during the reunion festivities, and am sorry I can’t be there too.
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Penny Miller (Hendrix)
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Raymond L Miller
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Since graduation 50 years ago I attended Columbia Basin Community College for two years and I have worked as a retail manager for 47 years. I retired last year and I have been married for 48 years. We have lived in Walla Walla, Tri Cities, Longview, Ogden, Idaho Falls, Eugene, Springfield and Gresham. My hobbies are grandkids, photography and gardening.
My wife, Marilyn and I have three daughters, Michelle, Nicole and Kimberly. All three are married, and are college graduates. Michelle has two boys Dillon 15 and Taylor 5. She works for the City of Vancouver as a Chief of Finance. Nicole is an Associate Professor at Portland State University has two daughters, Isabella 12 and Gabrielle 9. Kimberly is a 2nd grade teacher and has a daughter Rebekah 12 and two boys, Caleb 10 and Nathan 8.
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Lou Ann Mindemann
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Deceased - 1954

Lou Ann Mindemann, 11-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Mindemann of Walla Walla died Wednesday at her home after an illness of several weeks.

She was born Jan. 8, 1941 in Seattle and had spent most of her life in this area, having attended Pioneer Junior High School here.  Miss Mindemann was a talented pianist and had been a member of Trinity Lutheran Church.

The Rev. R. Langbecker officiated at last rites in the Trinity Lutheran Church, for which E.R. Krohn was organist.  Singing "Abide With Me," and "I'm But a Stranger Here" was a quartet, members of which were Mrs. Helen Schramm, Mrs. Betty Moore, Miss Evelyn Langbecker, and Miss Shirley Beck.  Pallbearers were Herbert Friese, Carl Krohn, Albert Beck, Donald Schramm, Leo Bartlet and Adolph Beck.  Interment was in the Mountain View cemetery.

(from obit dated 11 Dec. 1953)
Sharon Mishler
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