Family, friends remember Lynn Newbry

Talent orchardist Lynn Newbry, a powerful Republican state senator in the 1960s and '70s, is being hailed as a wise and fair-minded public servant who worked constructively on both sides of the aisle for the common good. Newbry died Wednesday at 88, his family said.

Wheelchair-bound with a broken leg, Newbry was celebrated June 10 in Talent by more than 100 friends and family who recalled his life and accomplishments.

Ron Newbry of Olympia, Wash., son of Lynn and Charlotte Newbry, noted that, after the living memorial earlier this month, "he said that was the nicest thing anyone ever did for him, and he requested no further services."

His ashes will be interred beside those of his parents at Perl Funeral Home in Medford.

"From my earliest years, my dad put the highest priority on integrity and character, as did his father and his father," said Ron Newbry, a lobbyist for nonprofits in Washington. "He always said if you're honest with people and treat all dealings with the highest integrity, you can hold your head up, and he always did."

Lynn Newbry served nine years on the Talent School Board, then was appointed in 1961 to the Oregon Senate, replacing Edwin Durno, who was elected to Congress. Newbry joined a coalition of conservative downstate Democrats and Republicans who ruled the state Senate for many years — with Newbry as co-chairman of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. He was defeated in 1974 by Lenn Hannon by a margin of 47 votes.

After leaving the Legislature, he served as a director of Associated Oregon Industries, a director of the Valley of the Rogue Bank, on the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission, the State Parks 2010 Citizens Committee, the Oregon Transportation Commission and the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association.

"It's a sad, sad day," said former congressman and Oregon House Speaker Bob Smith of Medford, who served with Newbry in Salem. "I so admired him. He was a hero of mine. He told me you must always tell the truth. That way, you don't need a good memory."

At the June 10 living memorial, Medford City Councilman Al Densmore, who served in the Legislature with Newbry, spoke of the old days before lawmakers had staff or offices and would do all work "on the floor," where they got to know each other.

"We all respected one another," he said. "A lot of the present political folks could do to learn from the example Lynn set."

In long committee hearings, Densmore said, Newbry would sometimes draw cartoons that people, including governors, would collect. Densmore brought one, framed, which made sport of Democrats, and he presented it to a thankful Newbry family, who until then did not have an example of his art.

"What a loss," said former state Rep. Leigh Johnson, who served with Newbry. "He was such a fine, fine gentleman, good colleague and my mentor. He and (Democratic Grants Pass senator) Debs Potts set many a precedent, leading by example, with Republicans and Democrats working together."

Lynn Newbry is survived by his wife of 68 years, Charlotte. He was a 1941 graduate of Ashland High School and served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, returning home to help his father in the family orchard and fruit-packing business, eventually taking over.

He is survived also by three grandchildren, Matthew, the husband of Washington state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry; Rebecca (Turi) of Irvine, Calif.; and Christopher, a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Janea Newbry said her grandfather was "as humble as they come, a true statesman who gave to his family, community and state, inspiring me to set aside party and help people and do the right things. His wife, Charlotte, worked right beside him every step. They were the dynamite duo and their lives brimmed with all the good stuff: love, honor, dedication, family and hard work."

Lynn Newbry and other Ways and Means members wore meat-cleaver tie tacks, symbolizing the way they pared down bloated budgets. Janea inherited Lynn's tack, "and I wear it proudly, still," she said.

Christopher Newbry said, "My grandfather was the most honorable man I have ever known. He helped put me through college, and his advice and the example that he set in how to live an honorable life has helped get me to where I am.

"I will be watching the Fourth of July fireworks ... from the south lawn of the White House. How cool is that? My success is due in large part to my grandfather. I will forever be grateful to him and will carry his memory with me for the rest of my life."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.


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