Thursday, April 10, 2014

The passing of Val Ogden, a woman who paddled her own canoe

Yesterday afternoon, our community lost Val Ogden, a selfless leader, an advocate for children, women, the homeless, blind students, people coping with mental health issues. Serving six terms in the House of Representatives, she rolled up her sleeves and went to work for all of us. She made a difference right to the end, at age 90.

For me, Val was the epitome of a woman paddling her own canoe. She inspired me to be strong through difficult, life-changing challenges. But I never told her how she inspired me. And now it's too late to tell her.

Along Vancouver's Columbia River waterfront trail is the Val and Dan Ogden bench, donated by the Ogdens. It's fitting that the bench looks over the bronze sculpture of Ilchee, the Chinook woman known for paddling her own canoe.

I didn't want Val to think I was some nutty stalker. But here's what I wanted to tell Val:

Thanks to you and Dan for providing that bench near Ilchee. I've spent hours there, thinking, searching for strength and answers, scribbling in my journal, looking for ways to reach my potential. Thank you for inspiring me to be strong to get through the hard times, to dig deep, to make a difference, to find joy.

Yesterday I called friends Holly Chamberlain and Charlie Mitchell, told them the news of Val's passing and asked if they'd walk along the Columbia River with me to visit Val and Dan's bench. Holly cut yellow and red tulips from her garden and set them at the plaque below the Ogden's bench.

We talked about the difference Val made. Then we stood in front of Ilchee and watched a glorious sunset.

1 comment:

  1. "We live on in the hearts an minds of those who knew us" says the Kadish, Jewish prayer for the dead. Our lives and our community are better for Val, who not only gave in so many ways, long and well, she was also humble, kind and approachable. Thank you for a beautiful and fitting tribute to her.