Members of the public are invited to celebrate the life of Ralph Brown, the former Cornelius mayor, Hillsboro schoolteacher and principal, and Forest Grove school board member, later this month.
Brown was 76 when he was reported missing last spring. He suffered from memory problems late in life and drove away from his home in Cornelius on the afternoon of May 16, 2021. One of his children briefly reached him via phone that night. After that, he was not seen or heard from again.
A celebration of life will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at Harleman Park in Cornelius, followed by a free concert in the park. Well-wishers are asked to bring their own chair or blanket.
Brown wore many hats over the course of his career in public service.
He was hired as a middle school teacher in the Hillsboro School District in 1970. Over the course of his career in Hillsboro schools, Brown worked at several middle schools — as a teacher, then later as a guidance counselor and administrator.
He retired from the Hillsboro School District in 1997, working briefly after that as an AmeriCorps supervisor in the Forest Grove School District and then as a teacher supervisor at Lewis & Clark College from 2002 to 2007.
After first being appointed to the Cornelius City Council in 1973, Brown served two stints as mayor of Cornelius, from 1975 to 1977 and then from 1995 to 2002.
Brown stepped down as mayor after he was appointed to serve out the unexpired term of former state Rep. Jim Hill in 2002, representing Oregon House District 29 for several months. A moderate Republican, Brown ran for a full term, but he lost in the primary to conservative Mary Gallegos, Hill's sister, who went on to serve a single term in the Legislature before being defeated by Democrat Chuck Riley in 2004.
Brown himself bounced back to win election to the school board in the Forest Grove School District in 2007, serving a single term before he lost reelection to Kate Grandusky in 2011.
While that marked the end of Brown's political career, he remained active in the community. An avid runner and sports booster, he served as president of the Cornelius Booster Club. He continued to follow local and state politics, moderating a candidate forum at Centro Cultural de Washington County in 2018.
Brown was interviewed by Pamplin Media Group in early 2021, just months prior to his disappearance, for a feature article on his career in public service and volunteerism. He was honored that same year as one of Pamplin Media Group's Community Heroes.
Brown is survived by wife Carol, son Daryle and daughter Laurie Saunders, as well as five grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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