Giants of philanthropy leave county example to follow

Four 'talented, committed' First Citizens died in 2010

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter



When Dollie Lynch died, she’s the one who gave flowers, as a way to welcome those who would be entering this world.

Along with Mary Granger, Ray Hickey and E.W. “Ed” Firstenburg, she was one of four prominent philanthropists to die this year after sharing another distinction. All four had earned the title of Clark County First Citizen during a span of five decades of civic involvement.

“It is unlikely that we will ever see over such a short period of time the passing of such a talented and committed group of philanthropists,” said Rick Melching, executive director of the Community Foundation. “Collectively and individually, their compassion, generosity and leadership serve as examples for all of us who remain. Their loss will be felt by our community for many, many years to come and we were fortunate to have them among us.”

Mary Granger died Nov. 27 at the age of 78. She was Clark County’s 1987 First Citizen. Granger was a key founder of the Community Foundation, which has raised and distributed $90 million in 26 years for Southwest Washington agencies and programs.

Granger also started the local “I Have a Dream” organization. Since 1995, the project has provided opportunities for students from low-income neighborhoods at Washington, Hough, Harney, and Martin Luther King elementary schools.

The sponsor-funded program has helped 330 students prepare for, get into and graduate from college. With the final group of students in their senior year of high school, the program’s graduation rate so far is 85 percent. And half of those graduates go on to higher education, said a program official.

Ray Hickey died April 14 at the age of 82. He was Clark County First Citizen in 1997. Hickey was former owner of Tidewater Barge Lines. It was a classic example of working his way up to the top, after Hickey started out making $10 a day as a deckhand.

Hickey contributed more than $20 million to support local projects and causes. In 2005, the Oregon Philanthropy Awards gave Hickey the same honor that had gone to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Northwest retailing legend Fred Meyer and the heirs of Henry Ford. With its humble beginnings, Hickey’s philanthropic career matched his professional life.

“I started as a kid when I contributed to Boys Town,” Hickey told a Columbian reporter a few years ago. “I saw their ad: ‘He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother.’ And I put a dollar bill in an envelope.”

E.W. Firstenburg died Aug. 21 at the age of 97. Firstenburg, founder of First Independent Bank, was named Clark County First Citizen in 1962. But some of his most significant community work was still ahead of him.

Ed and his wife Mary, who died in 2009, made a milestone donation of $15 million to Southwest Washington Medical Center in 2005.

At the time, it was the largest single gift by living donors to any cause in Clark County.

“He redefined philanthropy at that level, encouraging others to give very large gifts,” Melching, with the Community Foundation, said.

And it wasn’t the first time the Firstenburgs set a charitable benchmark. In 1986, they contributed $100,000 to the Community Foundation. It was the largest gift the foundation had received at that point.

Dollie Lynch died Oct. 2 at the age of 84. In 1992, Dollie and Ed Lynch became the first couple to share First Citizen honors.

The Lynches have supported a wide array of causes, including the Fort Vancouver National Trust, the Community Foundation and the Southwest Washington Medical Center Foundation.

She contributed to a special project just before her death, a therapy garden at the hospital’s Family Birth Center. During a visit to the garden in September, Ed Lynch said, his wife had a suggestion.

“She said, ‘You need some rhododendrons. And they’re in my yard,’” Ed Lynch said during the dedication.

So three rhododendrons were transplanted from her garden at home to the landscaped courtyard now known as Dollie’s Garden.