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Loved ones gather to remember French, celebrate his passion and dedication to community

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Siblings Kami, Keith and Karli French unveiled a new bench in downtown Gresham dedicated to their late father and former city councilor Kirk French. Former Gresham City Councilor Kirk French had this knack for being everywhere all at once.

As an elected leader and community member you would bump into him all across Gresham. French would volunteer at the Arts Festival and sit in during committee meetings; he built playgrounds in Rockwood and played baseball with youths in the summer; and he had a green thumb, nurturing natural areas and trees.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Kirk French"My dad always said that being a councilor was the best job he ever had," said Karli, his daughter. "Well maybe just behind being a grandpa."

Even after dying last year, French's influence continues to be felt. And during a ceremony Thursday afternoon, May 12, his loved ones, friends and former co-workers made that presence just a little more tangible by unveiling a new bench dedicated to his memory at the corner of Fourth Street and Roberts Avenue in downtown Gresham.

"This tribute is the best thing my father could have come up with," said Keith, his son.

A plaque beside the bench reads "Kirk French 1949-2021, Councilor 2013-2018." It also includes a statement he lived by, "We can make a difference."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The unveiling ceremony for the bench in Kirk French's honor was attended by family, friends and former colleagues.French moved to Gresham in 2007 and was first elected to City Council in 2014, after previously filling a vacancy. He was known for his hands-on approach to leadership, and by some counts he attended more than 800 public events after he was sworn into that first full term — though his former colleagues, many of whom attended the ceremony, mused that number might be low.

"He was a public servant, not a politician," Keith said.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Kirk French was known for attending all sorts of events and volunteering his time as an elected official. During his final year on the council, French oversaw the launching of Gresham's Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a program aimed at dealing with low-level code violations. In the first-ever gathering, in which volunteers aided a homebound resident in the North Central neighborhood, French was there doing his part. He rolled up his sleeves, cut back out-of-control foliage, removed trash and leaves, and cleared the sidewalks.

For French, that was the right thing to do.

"This is all about helping people in our community," he told Pamplin Media Group that afternoon. "We can make a difference."

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