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Life of beloved city councilor Denise Bacon celebrated in high school gym on Sunday

PMG PHOTO: MEGAN STEWART - Hundreds gathered in the gymnasium at Newberg High School on Nov. 13 to celebrate the live of Denise Bacon, who died on Oct. 21.

The late city councilor Denise Bacon was a friend to all.

Her celebration of life on Nov. 13 reflected that diversity. A police officer, a pastor, a former mayor, a city councilor, an author, representatives from various local nonprofits, a former student and even a Rotarian from Kenya paid tribute to Bacon in a packed Newberg High School gym.

Bacon, 56, died on Oct. 21 after battling with lung complications for weeks.

"She's everywhere and in everyone," husband Chris Moore said.

Over 400 people gathered to celebrate Bacon's life, most wearing bright and colorful attire, just as Bacon requested. Bacon

"The whole concept of today was intended to be a celebration," friend Shannon Buckmaster said. "Denise wanted a party … (But) it's hard to stand up here. I miss her. I know you do also, and I know you were touched by what she did and who she was … It's difficult to sit with the grief, yet I'm going to ask you to find that spot of joy."

A true humanitarian, Bacon held countless altruistic roles. Most notably, she served on the Newberg City Council from 2009 until her death, but she also aided organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Community Prevention & Wellness Fund, Yamhill Community Action Partnership, Yamhill Watershed Stewardship Fund and Newberg Rotary Noon Club, to name just a few.

She also co-founded the Newberg-Dundee Police Foundation and established the local nonprofit Nurture Newberg, which sought to highlight kindness in the community over negativity. Even her job as a field coordinator for the Ford Family Foundation centered around helping others.

"This was her dream job as she was thrilled she was going to get paid for what she was willing to do for free," a press release about Bacon's celebration of life said.

But serving others wasn't always easy on Bacon, who suffered from her own chronic health issues, including an autoimmune disorder.

"Very few people saw the physical toll it took on her …," Chris Moore said. "Basically, her body was at war with her heart, but it was everything she loved to do …"

One of those loves was working with kids. Judy Robinson, her co-advisor for Newberg Interact Club, recalled Bacon stated firmly on multiple occasions that students ran the club, not adults, and all they, as advisors, should do is provide support and encouragement.

"Denise brought out the best in kids," Robinson said. "She let them know their worth. When drawing out the kids and their ideas, she would often say, 'No idea is a bad idea.' In so doing, she gave them permission to explore their ideas, and some amazing ideas became more than amazing projects."

One of those projects funded high school scholarships for 65 impoverished children in Kenya, 13 of whom secured full scholarships.

"Words alone can never be enough to express how invaluable this scholarship opportunity is for these children," Emily Bakhitah, a Kenyan Rotarian and founder of the organization Rise to Shine NIC, said in a statement read during the event.

Bakhitah, unable to attend the event in person, described Bacon as "an angel on Earth." In June, she visited Newberg and spent time with Bacon, who greeted her at the airport with the "warmest hug" and even threw her a going away party at the end of her stay.

"I feel so much pain because she told me once her health improves, she will come to Kenya," Bakhitah wrote. "I have so much to share with her. I know she will be very happy to see so many children go to school. I will toil very hard to make sure that happens through the foundation I run."

Bacon left a positive impression on her students, as well.

"She believed she could better the world and then she did," Lee Hinkle, a former Newberg Interact Club president, said. "I want to live my life with the same love and kindness that Denise taught me to have … May we all carry your wonderful spirit with us as we continue to better the world in your absence."

A common theme in each speech was how Bacon made everyone she met feel special.

"I've come to learn after her passing though, through talking with many of you, that I was not unique," Councilor Elise Yarnell Hollamon, who considered Bacon a mentor, said. "Everyone in this room probably felt special to Denise because we were. We all were."

Buckmaster concurred: "Denise saw the best in everyone. She saw the best in us on our worst days, in the crankiest moods, on the latest nights. And she still saw our best."

Perhaps most impressively, "she saw the best in those with whom she disagreed ...," Buckmaster added.

This is the way Bacon hoped her fellow Newberg residents would strive to view each other.

"I think that it is not a coincidence (that her celebration of life is on World Kindness Day) but rather an invitation from Denise to us, as people who adored her, to engage in kindness over division," Hollamon said. "And most importantly when it's uncomfortable and inconvenient."

"I doubt there is one area of our community that Denise has not touched in a positive way," Robinson said. "She will be missed terribly but we believe her influence will not be forgotten. Nothing would please her more than all of us honoring her memory by continuing our efforts to see the good in all and work toward a united, caring and productive community."

She is survived by husband Chris Moore; children Stacey Koch, Brandon Carson and Joshua Moore; brother, Ken Bacon; seven grandchildren and parents Ken and Maria Bacon.

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