It has been said that the measure of a person can be found in the friends they make and keep. These days, however, perhaps the measure can best be taken by the online comments that accompany their passing.
"Val Ogden set the standard for the rest of us to try to live up to. In public service, in life, in friendship, Val's sense of humor, love, and boundless energy touched all of us."
That was one of the many comments posted by readers at Columbian.com following the death of Val Ogden. The former state legislator and tireless community leader died Wednesday at the age of 90, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy in Vancouver and the surrounding communities. It seems almost inadequate to mention that Ogden was named Clark County's First Citizen in 2006; she always was first, because she always put others first.
"The most incredible, inspiring woman I ever had the pleasure to meet and work with."
During a life of leadership and service, Ogden acted as executive director of the Clark County YWCA, as speaker pro tempore of the Washington Legislature, and as an example of a time when cooperation and practical solutions — rather than adherence to strict ideology — were the mark of political success. As Columbian publisher Scott Campbell said, "She was the epitome of a role model for a passionate community member, and especially a role model for a political person. She would let you know in a gentle way if she disagreed with you. And she was always there to advocate for whatever project she was moving forward." Along the way, Ogden always championed rights and opportunities for women and worked for the protection of children.
On the occasion of Ogden's 84th birthday celebration in Vancouver, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire told the crowd, "You're here to thank (Ogden) on behalf of this community; I come on behalf of 6½ million Washingtonians. Because what she's done has left a lot of good here in this community. But what she has really done is left an amazing amount of good across this state."
"Val designed a road map for all of us to follow. Her unrelenting commitment to our community, women's rights and her integrity is held dear in our hearts. She held us up. We owe it to her to continue the work."
That work continued without end, as Ogden most recently was serving on the county's freeholder board, a group tasked with writing a charter to govern Clark County. She also was a longtime advocate for a performing arts center in downtown Vancouver, and it is not a stretch to suggest that such a facility should be named in her honor if it ever gets built.
Through it all, Ogden nurtured a 67-year marriage to her husband, Dan, and raised three children. "She's been a leader in every town she's been in," Dan said. "In Washington, D.C., in Fort Collins, and here. She's been a leader repeatedly. … She was an extraordinary woman."
"Val was truly one who blazed a trail for those of us to follow in Clark County. She leaves a legacy that cannot be matched."
So, if it is indeed true that the measure of person can be found in the friendships they make and keep, then one thing is certain: By any measure, Val Ogden was a giant.