Sandy community remembers Les Geren
The Sandy community is mourning the death of local businessman and active volunteer Les Geren, sending condolences to his wife and business partner Kathy Geren, daughter Roz Rushing and their family.
Geren died Sunday, Sept. 12, after fighting an infection caused by flesh-eating bacteria for which he was hospitalized last week.
Geren, 71, was well loved in the Sandy and Boring communities as co-owner of Geren's Farm Supply and as an active volunteer.
Geren was born in Medford and grew up in Eagle Point.
While Geren didn't marry his wife Kathy until they were in their 20s, the couple met as bandmates in high school.
"They both played in the band: Mom the flute, and Dad the trumpet," said Rushing. "Then he decided to switch to the French horn so he could sit beside the cute blond. My dad apparently from the beginning was a flirt and of course eventually won Mom over and they were never separated after. Mom lost her best friend (this week)."
Les and Kathy were married 51 years and have one child and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Geren joined the Navy while in high school and upon graduating was shipped off to serve in Vietnam. He served in the Navy reserves until 1973. Geren was an alumnus of Oregon State University.
He and Kathy moved to Sandy in 1974.
Geren taught agriculture at Sandy High School for 10 years, where he was also the FFA advisor, taking many teams to national competitions in that time.
He then became a substitute teacher because his daughter was in school and "because she loved having him there and her friends loved it, too," said Rushing.
Geren also taught at Clackamas Community College for a couple of years before he and his wife bought the feed store from Karl McDermed in August of 1981 and changed the name to Geren's Farm Supply.
Geren and his wife have owned and operated Geren's for 40 years, serving many animal lovers and farmers in the Sandy area with a smile and often a funny anecdote or joke for the road.
Geren had a heart for giving back to the community that has supported his family business for so many years. He was a longtime member of the Sandy Kiwanis Club, helping out annually with the Christmas Basket Program for families in need and with the summer Cruise-In breakfast and car show. Through the family business, Geren also hosted a special visit with Santa in December for children with sensory processing issues or autism.
"They were/are still trying to sell (Geren's)," Rushing said. "That's what makes this even more heartbreaking. They were so looking forward to retirement and travel."
The Gerens have sponsored several events over the years, for preschools and churches to FFA and 4-H clubs. And besides the Kiwanis, Geren also served with the Shriners, the Sandy FFA Alumni, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Freemasons.
Shannon and Martin Montgomery, known best for coordinating the Sandy Mountain Festival, got to know Geren best in the past 15 years serving side by side for the Kiwanis, though they met him as their agriculture teacher while attending Sandy High.
"He was a big influence in our lives," Shannon Montgomery said. "We send much love and our condolences to Kathy, Roz and the girls (his beloved dogs)."
Another part of the community affected by Geren's passing is the business community.
Khrys Jones, executive director of the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce, said her phone had been ringing all day Monday, Sept. 13, with calls about the Gerens and questions of how people can help Geren's family.
Jones herself has known the Gerens for more than 30 years, since her parents began frequenting the farm supply store for their horses' feed and tack needs. Jones is also a close friend of Geren's daughter Roz; their families did many activities together and enjoyed many a barbecue in each other's company. Jones said her daughter actually calls Geren "grandpa" and loved his burgers — even though, he often joked, they were out of a box.
"Everyone's heartbroken and feeling for the family," Jones explained. "The Gerens have tons of friends. I'm personally just devastated. My family has been friends with the Gerens for years and my mom worked at Geren's (years ago)."
DJ Anderson, a fellow Sandy Kiwanian, knew Geren for 30 years and said it was a shock to hear about his passing.
"You talk about a guy who's going to be missed, it's Les Geren," Anderson explained. "How many people learned to work and had their first job at Geren's? Les was always the first one there working (for Kiwanis events) and the last one there to tear down. I personally am going to miss him, and the banter we had, greatly."
Geren left big shoes to fill, Anderson added, saying "I think (Les' absence) will leave a big hole in the community."
"You always knew where you stood with Les, but he had a heart of gold," Anderson explained. "You always knew Les was in the room. He's a staple in the community. Everybody knows that name."
The family is encouraging those who'd like to honor Geren's memory to make a donation to the Shriner's Hospital at lovetotherescue.org or the Sandy Kiwanis Club at sandykiwanis.org in his memory.
Geren is survived by wife Kathy Geren, daughter Roz (Chris) Rushing, grandson Dakota (Iris) Rushing and Shelby (Sam) Mauldin, two great-grandchildren and his two dogs.
"We want to thank all who have reached out and shared your condolences and prayers," the family posted to the farm store's social media on Monday. "We are enjoying reading your memories and seeing your pictures."
Details about a memorial service have yet to be announced.
"My dad never met a stranger," Rushing said. "He may not have ever remembered your name, but he would remember the story about how he met you, or what sport you were involved in, what animal you raised, what your grandma's name was; he had a knack for remembering a face and story."
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