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Former U.S. representative John Dellenback dies

A community-oriented Medford Republican had lived in the city since 1951

Former U.S. representative and head of the Peace Corps John Dellenback died Saturday afternoon of viral pneumonia at Providence Medford Medical Center. He was 84.

Services are planned for — p.m. Saturday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Medford.

Dellenback, a Medford Republican, had represented the people of Southern Oregon at the state and national levels. He also was active in community and Presbyterian church work.

Dellenback was born Nov. 6, 1918, in Chicago. His father, William, served as a Republican state senator from that predominately Democratic region, said Dellenback's daughter, Barbara Dellenback of Eugene.

John Dellenback served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater. He graduated from Yale University in 1948, then attended University of Michigan Law School. He and his wife, Mary Jane, moved to Medford in 1951. He practiced law here for many years, Barbara Dellenback said.

In 1960, he was elected to the first of three terms as a representative to the Oregon Legislature.

Former Republican Gov. Vic Atiyeh, a longtime political colleague, served in the Legislature with Dellenback during those years. Atiyeh remembers Dellenback as a strong advocate for the people and communities he represented.

Susan AuCoin, wife of former Democratic Congressman Les AuCoin, served as a legislative page while Dellenback was a representative. She was impressed by the dedication he and his wife, who worked as his secretary, showed to the people of the state and their kindness to young employees.

In 1966, Dellenback was elected to Congress. He held leadership positions in education and natural resources, but lost his re-election bid in 1974 after four terms.

Les AuCoin, a retired U.S. congressman and state representative who now teaches at Southern Oregon University, said that Dellenback was extraordinarily dedicated to the people and the communities he served.

He was a person I admired so deeply because of his ethical compass reading, AuCoin said. He knew what was right and he did it. He had a very strong keel that kept him on a moral course. That is rare today.

AuCoin said Dellenback was the only politician I ever knew who never personally asked for a campaign contribution from anyone. He just felt it blurred too many ethical lines.

AuCoin said Dellenback also noted that if his friends didn't think he was doing a good enough job to make a contribution of their own volition, then he probably didn't deserve it anyway.

In 1975, President Gerald Ford appointed Dellenback director of the Peace Corps. He served in that position for two years.

From 1977 until 1988, Dellenback was president of the Christian College Coalition, which grew under his leadership and later became the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.

Dellenback also served on the board of World Vision International, a Christian relief and development organization.

He was a man who believed in a Christian mission, said Joyce DeGraaff, minister at First Presbyterian Church and a longtime friend. He spent much time in retirement promoting the well-being of people around the world because of his faith.

Peter Sage, a former Jackson County commissioner and now president of Medford Rogue Rotary, of which Dellenback was a member, said Dellenback advocated that the club work on problems that seemed intimidating in their immensity: hunger, poverty, disease and war and peace issues.

He was unusually dedicated to taking action to make the community better, Sage said. He inspired people, shaped their responsibility and was relentlessly generous.

Dellenback was a charter member of Westminster Presbyterian Church and served on its original board of elders. He also served on the board of Howard University and Lewis and Clark College. He was involved with the boards of the Community Health Center, ACCESS Inc., and other community organizations.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Mary Jane; three children, Richard, David and Barbara; and three grandchildren.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4459, or e-mail .