Ed Zumwalt, Milwaukie's first volunteer of year, dies
In 2012, Milwaukie City Council presented its first Volunteer of the Year Award to Ed Zumwalt as "proof that volunteering keeps a person young."
Zumwalt, 92, died on March 23 from complications of pneumonia following a series of heart and lung issues over the past few years. His recent health problems hadn't stopped him from his favorite volunteer activity, beginning to organize the Scott Park concert series, hopefully being held for its 20th summer in the amphitheater behind the Ledding Library; Zumwalt had been securing tentative commitments from musicians for concert dates pending the lifting of COVID-19 group-activity restrictions.
Called by city officials a "tireless force of energy and passion," Zumwalt had been involved in the city and the Historic Milwaukie Neighborhood District Association since the mid-1990s. A co-founder of downtown First Friday and farmers market events, Zumwalt was a member of the nonprofit group Celebrate Milwaukie Inc., which coordinated countless other community events.
Zumwalt also served on the Library Board, the board for the Ledding Library of Milwaukie Foundation and the political action committee for securing public approval in 2016 for higher property taxes to build a new library building, which opened this year.
Joe Sandfort, a librarian in Milwaukie starting in 1979 who eventually retired as library director in 2011, said Zumwalt had a wonderful sense of humor, big heart and knew how to make people comfortable with being uncomfortable.
"In the 1990s, Milwaukie came very close to losing control of its library to Clackamas County, and from that time Ed became my role model in terms of how to rally community, get messages out and develop relationships," Sandfort said. "He could oppose what people were doing, but those people would like him, and that was a special gift that had."
Zumwalt was a prolific speaker at public meeting and frequent critic of the city's relations with TriMet and Metro in published statements in the Clackamas Review. He had been planning to submit a letter to the editor of the local newspaper at the time of his death.
In his other public statements, Zumwalt had said that volunteering was personally rewarding for him and encouraged everyone to get involved in their community.
"(If) everyone could contribute two hours a week or even two hours a month, they will help make this a better community," Zumwalt said after being named "Volunteer of the Year."
City Council named the perpetual award in Zumwalt's honor, and each subsequent year's award recipient's name is displayed in the lobby of City Hall, alongside Zumwalt's.
Zumwalt was born Aug. 25, 1927, in Hong Kong, because his father worked for the American Express office there. The family moved to Sellwood when Zumwalt was 2 or 3.
Zumwalt's career was in sales, largely logging equipment. In 1968, Zumwalt moved to Milwaukie, where he raised six children: Nancy Zumwalt Wittig, Bill Zumwalt, Dan Zumwalt, Donna Zumwalt Cooper, Jim Zumwalt and John Zumwalt. He is also survived by seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
The Zumwalt family is planning to schedule a celebration of life when public gatherings are deemed safe again. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Ledding Library Foundation at 10660 S.E. 21st Ave., Milwaukie OR 97222.