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Reeve Hennion remembered as civic leader

Reeve L. Hennion, the unofficial mayor of Buncom and a Rogue Valley community leader, died early Monday after a three-year battle with brain cancer. He was 67.

Mild-mannered and thoughtful, the owner of a tiny ghost town in the Applegate Valley was known in recent years as the chairman of the Jackson County Planning Commission, of which he was a member since 1997.

While fighting glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive brain tumor, he only missed a few meetings, still taking the time to delve into complicated land-use documents.

His wife of 45 years, Lyn Hennion, said her husband's interest in the community was well-known. "He's going to leave a big hole here," she said.

A senior vice president with Umpqua Investments, she said she plans to continue living at the 100-acre ranch in Buncom.

"That's home," she said.

A memorial service will be held for her husband at 2 p.m., Sept. 25 in Buncom, which is at the corner of Little Applegate and Sterling Creek roads.

Jackson County Commissioner C.W. Smith, a liaison to the Planning Commission, said, "Reeve had an unbelievable ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. He went around with the best intentions to do the right thing for people."

Smith said that over the years Hennion provided great insight on many of the issues facing the county.

"It's a big loss for us to lose somebody that is so civic-minded," he said.

Shortly before his death, Hennion spent many of his last days involved in the local community, even watching the August Planning Commission meeting on TV and discussing the issues with vice-chair Don Greene beforehand.

Greene said he marvelled at the attentiveness and dedication of his friend.

"He was a community civic leader," he said. "He was a servant too, such a humble guy. He did everything with grace and kindness."

Greene said Hennion was actively involved in meetings and the only indication that he had health problems was a slight speech impediment.

"During this period when he had this journey with brain cancer, he was sharp as a tack," he said. "Things just came out a little slower."

A resident of Jackson County since 1984, the Hennions' ranch includes the remnants of the abandoned mining town of Buncom. Hennion was dubbed the "mayor" of Buncom for his work to preserve and promote the little ghost town.

Born on Dec. 7, 1941 — Pearl Harbor Day — in Ventura, Calif., Hennion went on to work for United Press International for 22 years before coming to Jackson County.

In an obituary that he prepared before his death, Hennion wrote that he covered many of the top stories of the '60s, including the Berkeley free speech movement and the Cesar Chavez farm worker movement. He was a bureau chief in Hawaii, then an editor in San Francisco in the '70s, supervising the coverage of the Patty Hearst kidnapping. He later became western division manager for UPI in San Francisco.

Hennion came to Oregon as vice president of California-Oregon Broadcasting. He later founded Viatech and Keypoint Services.

He served on nearly two dozen boards and organizations over the years and had worked simultaneously on seven commissions, committees and foundations. He was a member of the Rogue Community College Foundation board, the Rogue Valley Area Commission on Transportation, the Southern Oregon Historical Society board and the Jackson County Roads Committee, to name a few.

He is survived by his mother, Evelyn, of Medford; two sons and their wives, Douglas and Laurie Hennion of Eugene and Jeffrey and Betsy Hennion of Pitsburgh, Pa.; a sister, Judy Harza of Campbell, Calif.; and five grandchildren.

The family suggests tax-deductible donations be made to the Hennion Family Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, 818 W. Eighth St., Medford, OR 97501. The money will be used for Rogue Community College scholarships for single mothers and early childhood programs.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

Reeve Hennion keeps the brush cleared around his home on the Little Applegate River. The Quartz and Squires fires made him pay more attention to how he was protecting his home from wildfires. Craven