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Councilor Blair mourned: 'She loved the city'

Karen Blair, the only woman on the Medford City Council, died Wednesday after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 61.

"She fought it bravely," said Greg Paul, her lifelong friend and former husband. "She passed away in her sleep."

Blair was diagnosed with cancer last fall and had been attending council meetings less frequently in recent months, though her condition appeared to be improving.

The City Council has made a request to Gov. John Kitzhaber's office to allow the lowering of flags to half staff next Thursday in memory of Blair.

Born in Medford on Sept. 26, 1952, Blair graduated from Medford Senior High School in 1970.

She took office in 2011 and represented the residents of Ward 2 in southwest Medford.

Blair was a travel consultant who worked in Arizona before returning to the valley and becoming a real estate broker in 1996.

During her time in office, she pushed for greater public safety, more local jobs, smaller government and local control.

Blair served on various city committees and commissions, including Housing & Community Development Commission, Landmarks & Historic Preservation Commission, Citizens Planning Advisory Committee, Budget Committee, City Grants Committee, the Jackson County Committee for Citizen Involvement, the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors and the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service.

Blair was an advocate for public art as well as the preservation of Medford's historic district.

"She put herself out there for the city, though she was a private person," said Paul, who knew Blair for 40 years. They married in the 1970s, eventually divorcing.

"We've always stayed friends," the 65-year-old Medford resident said. "We always managed to find each other at some time."

Paul was Blair's caretaker in recent months, tending to her during the night while hospice took care of her during the day.

"It was a hard thing to go through," he said. "At least she was at home until the end."

Rep. Sal Esquivel, who was a distant cousin of Blair, said, "I was very, very proud of Karen. She stuck by her principles. It takes a lot to do that."

Esquivel, who said Blair never had children, was a very private person even with him.

Still, she came to him for advice on decisions she faced with the City Council, he said.

"She just needed the information to make up her own mind," Esquivel said.

Stacey Boals, principal broker at Keller Williams Realty, said she admired Blair's business abilities and considered her a close friend.

"She was outspoken," she said. "She would tell you what she thought about something."

When Blair decided to run for public office, she spent every weekend knocking on doors in her ward, Boals said.

"She ran for public office without any money, and she won by a landslide," she said.

Councilor Dick Gordon said he met Blair shortly before she was elected to office in 2010.

"She had a perspective about life in Medford that I didn't have," Gordon said.

Blair gave Gordon insight into a socioeconomic group that he was previously not familiar with, he said.

"In order to do my job, I needed that perspective," Gordon said.

Until last month, Blair stayed active in learning about the issues facing the city, Gordon said.

"She loved the city, and she loved being on the council," he said.

Councilor Eli Matthews said, "She was a great woman. She took this job very seriously."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

Councilor Blair mourned: 'She loved the city'