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News / Clark County News

Outreach workers share obituaries for those in Clark County homeless community that died in 2023

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: December 22, 2023, 12:35pm

Homeless outreach workers and service providers wrote these obituaries for 18 or the 43 people connected to the homeless communities who died in the past year. (The obituaries are edited for clarity.)

Mitchel (Mountain Man) Calley

Submitted by Adam Kravitz and Jamie Spinelli

I shared lunch with Mountain Man and a lady also sitting on the bench outside of a building where a meeting was going on that day. He welcomed me to the bench alongside them, and we all just did our lunch things, and eventually, all ended up laughing about something random happening on the sidewalk across the street. When we parted, we each said thanks for the conversation and laughs; it saddened me to know that was the last time I would see him. I met Mitch in 2008. He told tall tales of walking miles to his camp but in his stories were lessons about what to do or not do if I was going to make it out there. The things he shared and friendship he gave over the next years was invaluable. Mountain Man was what we call “old school.” He’d been around for many years and was part of many impromptu memorials for people who passed away outside … giving speeches about them from the Esther Short Park stage. He was a strong and prideful man, … often turning down offers of assistance because there were “others who needed it more” than he did.

Anthony Bordelon

Submitted by Jamie Spinelli

Anthony, known as “Noah” on the streets, is another who was far too young to die when he did. He was typically pretty quiet and reserved, but I know that he had a son whom he loved dearly. He spoke of wanting to go to school to become a paramedic and had done some training for that prior to becoming homeless. Sadly, the streets got the better of him, as they often do.

More in This Series

Attendees hold candles Friday, Dec. 21, 2023, during a Homeless Persons Memorial Day event at St. Paul Lutheran Church in downtown Vancouver.Outreach workers share obituaries for those in Clark County homeless community that died in 2023
Homeless outreach workers and service providers wrote these obituaries for 18 or the 43 people connected to the homeless communities who died in the past…
Attendees hold candles Friday, Dec. 21, 2023, during a Homeless Persons Memorial Day event at St. Paul Lutheran Church in downtown Vancouver.Mourners gather for National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day event in downtown Vancouver
Gloved fingers wrapped around candlesticks on Thursday to memorialize the 43 people who died over the past year while experiencing homelessness.

Ron Carey

Submitted by Adam Kravitz

Known for his long, curly blond (white) hair. He cared about others more than himself and would be the first to go help another camper anywhere.

Eddie Cavett

Submitted by Jamie Spinelli

Eddie was a comedian … both in life and as a profession. He always put on a happy, friendly, funny, welcoming face … but it was apparent to me that it was a cover for things he struggled with internally. The last time I saw Eddie was when he was moving into the apartment I helped him acquire after completing treatment. He was so excited to be moving into his own place, and (he) was busy making the property manager laugh as he was signing his lease and getting his keys.

Jess Cooper

Submitted by Adam Kravitz

Jess was a quiet person who stayed curious and usually upbeat even though he struggled with the things inside his head. He will definitely be missed. He loved his time at St. Paul’s and made so many new friendships. He really, really struggled and was happy when he could talk about it.

Samantha Dorsey

Submitted by Adam Kravitz

Sam was the sweetest, kindest girl who should have never been outside.

Joy Gault

Submitted by Laura Ellsworth

Joy was a founding member of the WHO partnership. She was a teacher and was very active in Mill Plain United Methodist Church. Joy was an incredible advocate and constant support for people experiencing homelessness.

Kristy Granger

Submitted by Kristy’s daughter

Kristy was a loving, kind and compassionate person. Even when she was homeless, she would help others. If she saw that another homeless person had less than her, she would happily give what little she had to them. We all could learn something from her example. She was an amazing mother. She loved her children with all her heart. As her children, we thank God that we got to have her as our mother.

Franco Greco

Submitted by Adam Kravitz, Dave Slocum and Jamie Spinelli

Born in Durban, South Africa, he had traveled the world. He loved to be around people and cook really good food for his friends. He had a black cat that he dearly loved. He struggled with drug and mental health issues. He was a smart, dapper man who even when he struggled, he loved community and having others in his life. Franco was a very tenderhearted man. He sought to love and be loved. He was kind, generous and selfless. Just a couple of months before he passed, I came home to a note on my door from Franco. … He knew where I (Spinelli) lived, as do many folks who’ve lived outdoors, because I live on a main road, commonly walked by much of the community, and my car is easy to spot. I hadn’t spoken to him in about a year … since he moved from the place I’d helped him get into to his new place in Hazel Dell. The note said he wasn’t sure if I remembered him, but he was “an old friend,” and he had heard about the work I’d been doing at the city and wanted to get involved and help out in some way, … which is classic Franco. I, of course, remembered him, and I too thought of him as an old friend. I tried for years to track down some of his family … his mom and sisters, in particular … even long after I actually worked with him. I am so saddened by his loss but so grateful to have had so many memorable moments with him.

Carl Libhart

Submitted by Dave Slocum

Carl loved dogs. He borrowed a veterinary dog anatomy book so he could study the muscles, and then he became a dog masseur.

Jose Manuel

Submitted by Jamie Spinelli

Jose was a kind, sweet, helpful man. He lived at Safe Park when he passed, and he was always offering to help people work on their cars or in any other way he could. He was such a hard worker — picking up any odd jobs he could. He had recently signed up for ESL classes, and never missed an opportunity to yell “I love you” across the parking lot. He brought a smile to everyone’s face, and he is dearly missed by his Safe Park family.

Daniel Mata

Submitted by Dave Slocum

Daniel was from Southern California. He moved up to (the) Vancouver area to take care of his sister. When she died, he was left homeless. He spent the last few months trying to get back to his family in California. He didn’t make it. He was hit by a car one early morning in November. Judy had fed him a really good meal the afternoon before. He was trying to find enough money for a ticket home.

Christopher Mee

Submitted by Jamie Spinelli

Chris entered Hope Village with terminal cancer, but (he) actively participated in that community to the best of his ability, until he needed to move to hospice. He was a very quiet man who seemed to not have much to say, but (he) left this message on the office wall at Hope Village, “Thank you, Hope Village, for everything you’ve done for all of us. You guys are awesome. Please don’t ever forget that! God’s peace & love, Chris Mee.”

Ben (Dreads) Muther

Submitted by Adam Kravitz and Jamie Spinelli

Ben was a sweet and gentle guy who battled things we couldn’t see. Known as “Dreads” by many, because of how he wore his hair, but (he) became locally famous as “The Mill Plain Guy” by hundreds of community members who came to look for him for many years along the Mill Plain corridor. … Someone even made a Facebook page just to post about sightings, sweet stories and experiences with him, and sometimes messages of concern if he hadn’t been seen in a while. He had a daughter, whom he loved and took care of the best he could. He rarely accepted help or gifts from anyone, unless it was butterscotch candies, he loved butterscotch candy.

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Jimmy Payne

Submitted by Pastor Linda Marousek

I met Jimmy shortly after I moved to Vancouver in 2006. I walked past the indoor farmer’s market after dark one night, and Jimmy’s mosaic, “Thirteen Views of Multnomah Falls,” just shined out of the darkness in the closed building. By the time I tracked Jimmy down, he had loaned the piece to a friend, but he went and got it and brought it to my workplace in his van. He introduced himself as “Jimmy Payne, Regional Tile Artist.” I bought the piece and became a fan of Jimmy and his work. I would see his work every now and then, so I always knew he was still around: the jeweled cross shining out of the mosaic flames, which showed up at a charity auction; a sailboat propped up on a window ledge at the shelter at St. Paul. I actually talked to Jimmy again in the winter of 2021, when he stayed in our shelter at St. Paul during the coldest part of the winter. He retrieved some of his work from his mom’s house here in Vancouver, sold me a couple more pieces and put up a display of his work on the walls of the shelter’s hospitality room. I talked to a few Vancouver natives about Jimmy’s work and learned a few things about his sometimes difficult life. That’s OK. My walls still shine with his work. I am very sorry that he is not here with us anymore. But his work is. Thank you, Jimmy. We miss you.

David Pomeroy

Submitted by Adam Kravitz and Dave Slocum

David was a very kind person who always had a smile and tried to say something nice, even though he had a lot of major health issues to complain about. He used to play drums when (he was) younger. His motto: “I am so much more than meets the eye!” David’s smile could diffuse any situation.

Russell (Red) Renfro

Submitted by Jamie Spinelli

Red was a heartbreaker, but not in the typical sense. He was smart, capable, resourceful and such a hard worker who also didn’t like to ask for help. He was so young, and (he) had experienced so many hard things at such a young age. He deserved a better shot than he was given, and I cherish the couple of times he let his guard down enough to accept a little kindness.

Todd Wagner

Submitted by Dave Slocum

Todd was always kind. He had a wry sense of humor. He was a real food critic and was very comfortable telling you if your cooking was good (or not). He struggled with drug issues.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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