Former Oregon City Mayor Don Andersen served tirelessly
Don Andersen, a former Oregon City mayor, is remembered for his amazing work ethic and various lasting contributions to his community.
The former Oregon City School Board member, OCHS staff member, Gardiner Middle School wrestling coach and OC Optimist Club president died July 7 of kidney failure.
In 1962, Andersen started his career at Gardiner as a social studies teacher who also coached football and wrestling. In 1972, he moved to Oregon City High School, where he worked as a coordinator to get students employment experience.
Due to the mutual respect that he had for kids and that kids had for him, he placed countless students in jobs and careers throughout the Oregon City School District, which extends beyond city limits to Jennings Lodge, Redland and Beavercreek.
"There were a lot of kids that went to school here who got jobs from my dad, and a lot of them retired from the job that he got them," Donny Andersen said.
After Don Andersen's death, the city and school district flew a U.S. flag over City Hall and OCHS in his honor to be presented to his family. Gov. Kate Brown authorized U.S. flags in Oregon City to fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on July 13.
Anderson only used his political positions to help others. He was fond of saying that one of his top reasons for being mayor was to be able to glad-hand business people at ribbon-cutting ceremonies so that he would have local business contacts for his students.
Former City Commissioner Rocky Smith Jr., whose mother worked in the same office at OCHS while Smith was in high school, said that Andersen's family encouraged selfless behavior that sought to better the next generation of Oregon City. Andersen was Smith's great-uncle.
"Everything he did was generated by schools and helping kids," Smith said. "I've found it's very rare that people run for City Commission or mayor who are very clear about just doing it to help the city, and he was definitely one of them."
Andersen was born April 5, 1932, in Alberta, Canada. He moved to Oregon City in the late 1940s after his father landed a job at the paper mill in West Linn. Andersen worked at the mill on and off with his father between the ages of 16 and 26.
Andersen married his Oregon City High School sweetheart, Joan Smith, two years after his graduation in 1950. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and then graduated from Portland State University.
Andersen served on the Oregon City Commission for two terms between 1979-85 and enjoyed his time serving as the city's appointed mayor in 1981 and '85.
"If he took a job, he finished it and did it well," said former Oregon City Mayor John Williams, who knew Andersen well.
Many citizens recall that Andersen would only take on a project if he believed it would bring about a good change for the people of Oregon City. Once he took on a project, he would stay focused and put in whatever time and energy was necessary to make the improvement for the city and its people.
Andersen was instrumental in the creation of the Richard Bloom Tots Park, 802 Sixth St. More recently, Andersen gathered 300 signatures for successfully lobbying City Commission to restore the stop light at the corner of South End Road and Lawton Road.
"He wasn't afraid to ask the tough questions," said his daughter, Denise Rolen.
After retiring from the school district in 1991, he was elected to the Oregon City School Board, where he served for 12 years to put children first and help support teachers. He said his most important accomplishment was helping persuade voters to pass a $67.5 million bond to build a new high school on Beavercreek Road.
Andersen continued volunteering on the Mountain View Cemetery Board and putting in countless hours of time with the Oregon City Optimist Club, which he loved for its commitment to local youth.
His grandkids said that "grandpa" may have been Andersen's greatest job title. He loved and supported his grandkids by "slipping them a little cash now and then" and by taking them to his bow-hunting cabin in Eastern Oregon, or by treating them to a plane ticket to his cabin in Alaska for a fishing adventure. The great-grandkids had a special place in his heart, and he left vacation homes to his grandchildren.
"They'll be lots of memories of him at the vacation homes and new memories to be created," said Denise Rolen.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Joan Andersen; his children Denise Andersen Rolen (Roger), Debbie Rutledge (Rick), Donald Andersen Jr. (Jennifer); his sisters, Beck Smith and Dixie Livingston (Al); his grandchildren, Andy Rolen (Desiree), Morgan Fetzer (John), Donald Andersen III (Chelsea), Bailey Andersen and Tanner Rutledge; and his great-grandchildren, Nora, Reed and Brooks.
A service is scheduled at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 13, at Oregon City Evangelical Church, 1024 Linn Ave. A reception will follow at the Pacific Crest Ballroom (Oregon City Elks Club).
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be sent to Oregon City Optimist Club, PO Box 1301, Oregon City OR 97045.