Remembering John Wilson
Troutdale resident John Wilson helped organize the annual Troutdale Cruise-In for the last 15 years. This upcoming year Wilson's presence will be notably absent.
Wilson died Friday, Feb. 15. He was 62.
Wilson ran the cruise-in with Troutdale General Store Owner Terry Smoke. The pair became good friends when Wilson's daughter started working at the gift shop and restaurant 15 years ago. The two bonded over a shared love of classic cars.
"John was like the brother I never had," Smoke said. "That was the way a lot of us felt about John. He was so good and caring about you that he felt like he was family."
Smoke fondly recalled Wilson's keen sense of humor.
"The biggest thing about John was his laugh," Smoke said. "You could pull that laugh out of a crowd."
Wilson was always easy to spot at the summer car show, decked out in his brightly-colored Hawaiian shirts.
Wilson is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren.
He married Paula Cleary on July 3, 1982. They were living in Jacksonville, Fla., at the time.
John was working for Minolta Corp., a camera manufacturer, and the company transferred him to Oklahoma in 1983 and to the Pacific Northwest in 1991, when he and Paula bought their Troutdale home.
"He was a wonderful person," Paula said. "And a wonderful parent and grandparent."
John came to work for Pamplin Media Group in 2011 as an advertising representative for the Clackamas Review and Oregon City News. He transferred to The Outlook office in September 2016.
"John kept us laughing with his sharp sense of humor," said Steve Brown, publisher of the The Outlook. "But John was more than a funny guy. He was a professional who was damn good at his job. And I was impressed by his commitment to his community — whether as a volunteer or as a local elected politician in city government. Things were never boring when John was involved."
Wilson was a member of the The Kiwanis Club of the Columbia Gorge; he served as a Boy Scouts Troop Leader and volunteered on the West Columbia Gorge's Chamber of Commerce's Government Affairs Committee.
His involvement in the community led him to seek a seat on the Troutdale City Council, which he won in 2012.
Wilson brought his colorful fashion sense to City Council meetings too.
Former Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust recalled John wearing "ultra colorful ties and shirt combinations" to council meetings.
"Dress-wise he stood out," Daoust said. "You could count on John to be colorful."
In his role as a city councilor, Daoust said Wilson brought level-headedness and passion for making the city a better place.
Wilson was among the councilors who voted favorably for contracting with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office — absorbing Troutdale's Police Department — in 2015.
"I respected him a lot and valued his opinion. He was usually right most of the time," Daoust said. "I always relied on him if he wanted to stand up for something, and not to back down. That's what immediately comes to mind. He was always taking charge of things."
Wilson and Daoust, along with other city councilors and Troutdale staff members, also helped lay the foundation for the Amazon Fulfillment Center, 1250 N.W. Swigert Way, in Troutdale.
"We made the financial arrangements for them to move into the distribution center," Daoust said. "They built it after we were off council, but we set the stage for them to come in.
"That just points to his community involvement on multiple fronts was as good as it gets. I'll miss him tremendously," Daoust added.
Former state lawmaker Matt Wand worked with Wilson on legislative issues, and they served together on Troutdale's Budget Committee.
"John Wilson was a great man with a big heart," Wand said. "He served our community tirelessly and selflessly for many years. He was a true friend who will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to his wife Paula and their children for their sudden and unexpected loss."
Troutdale Councilor Randy Lauer posted a condolence on his Facebook page the day Wilson died.
"I know I'll miss his friendship, kind words, phone calls, and his passion," Lauer wrote. "We didn't always agree on things, like how the Chevelle was a waaayyyy better Chevy than the Corvette, but through thick and thin, discussion and argument, I could always count on John for his mentorship when I needed it. You'll be missed."
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