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Cynthia Downes Lord

Cynthia Downes Lord passed away December 29, 2015. She was born May 7, 1921.

Mom’s happiest moments were probably camping, skiing, and exploring the Oregon Coast. She just had to be “out of doors” (in her slightly Bostonian accent). As a teenager and young woman, she would regularly disappear with groups of mostly males up into the mountains of New England, as few woman shared her taste for strenuous mountain camping and skiing before the age of lifts.

Her father was an architect and amateur piano player, her mother a modestly successful artist.  Their life was somewhat Bohemian. She would fall asleep most nights to the sound of “Pop” and a friend playing Mozart in the basement. As a young woman she began to suspect she might never fully adapt to the Bostonian life (Pop’s ill-fated attempt to arrange her coming-out ball being a case in point), and decided to come out to Berkeley, Calif. to do graduate work in literature.  She met Irving at the International House where they loved to dance. With the help of a few trips to the Botanical Garden, they decided they were compatible (Mom later took an M.A. in English Literature).

With young children Alfred, Tracy, and Alcyon (‘Kate’), the family came to Ashland in 1960. Mom immediately got involved in community affairs.  She helped to organize the Ashland chapter of the League of Women Voters and was the only woman in a group of outdoor-oriented gentlemen who were planning the creation of the Mt. Ashland ski resort. She was active in art groups in the Rogue Valley and would often bring the children to watch the Shakespearean Festival rehearsals.

One of the more vivid memories of our childhood was our parents’ spontaneous decisions to take off into the woods camping or hiking.  We would come home from school on Friday to find the Volkswagen half-packed and a dog or two in back panting with anticipation. After memorable trips to the Oregon coast with family friends in the early 1960s, we purchased a parcel of land near Gold Beach where we passed some of our happiest and most poignant times. In the 1970s she began to focus on environmental activism, becoming part of the land use planning movement that resulted in Oregon’s renowned Senate Bill 100.

She was a supporting member of the Nature Conservancy, Native Plant Society, Audubon, Sierra Club, and many other groups. For decades she opened the doors of her home for meetings, letter-writing campaigns, and fundraisers to help these and other organizations. She was an early activist for the Bear Creek Greenway, and wrote briefs for an extenuated but finally successful suit against a massive “destination resort” just beyond Oak Knoll. Mom was a dedicated philanthropist. She donated the land that is now Glenwood Park in Ashland. A gift from her allowed the Nature Conservancy to secure public access to the lower Table Rock. She purchased and donated a core tract of old-growth forest for the Conservancy’s Nesika Beach Preserve on the Southern Oregon Coast.

Mom organized and led hikes with the Sierra Club into her 80s, and was an on-and-off gardener, but fervent when the spirit moved. She launched the first annual Lamb Roast party in 1984 at which many friends old and new have gathered to drink wine and enjoy lamb in late summer.

She is survived by her brother Al Downes now of Florida, her three children, and two grandchildren, Hannah and Eric Archambault. There will be no funeral as she wanted only a party at her death. Kindly make any donations in her name to S.N.Y.P. (Spay Neuter Your Pet) or the environment protection group of your choosing.