October 7, 2022

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Remembering Cliff Gray

10 min read

Todd Boyle: On Saturday morning, July 2, at Theo’s Whirled Pies, at 11:00 a.m., a few of us got together— I think about 20 of us—to memorialize Cliff Gray, a well-loved member of the activist community. And he had moved to Eugene eight or 10 years ago from the Bay Area where he was a labor organizer and activist around housing and other issues for many. So here are some of the memorials.

[00:00:28] Lonnie Douglas: So Lonnie Douglas, I’m with ESSN Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network. And I met Cliff at Our Revolution following the 2016 election. And he was a staunch advocate for housing for people. And sometimes I agreed with him, sometimes I didn’t, but he was always there and always present, not just for the housing issues, but for labor issues and social justice issues.

[00:01:02] And he was a really good organizer and activist in the community. I think he will be missed, but I also think that the work that he did set an example for a lot of people. And I think that his life, he was, you know what I know about him, he was always an advocate for housing and vulnerable populations.

[00:01:31] You know, he could be sometimes he could be a difficult person to have a conversation. but he had a good heart and he was a decent person. And I think hopefully more people will follow that example and hopefully will be more like him.

[00:01:52] Tom Brown: Yeah. This is Tom Brown from ORLC and ESSN. I knew Cliff through Our Revolution Lane County and yeah, everybody knows that he was an advocate for affordable—actually low-income housing. He spent quite a bit of time going to Salem to lobby the representatives there and was very disappointed when he wasn’t able to get rent control on the agenda in the state legislature. He will be missed. He was a great activist.

[00:02:38] Leonard Stoehr: I met Cliff about 10 years ago. My name’s Leonard Stoehr, I’m the representative for Teamsters 206 and the Springfield City Council. I met Cliff about 10 years ago right after I came to town and we quickly got into an argument. But the thing is, Cliff was very passionate about everything.

[00:03:00] I think Todd just got pretty granular about his housing about his thoughts on housing—Cliff cared about everything. He cared about movies. He cared about books. He cared about music, and he had a strong opinion about all of it. And woe betide them that disagreed with him!

[00:03:21] And I valued that. I valued a good argument every time because iron sharpens iron; you always benefit from an argument with a sharply defined and well-defined point of view, even if you disagreed with it.

[00:03:37] Cliff ran for mayor of Eugene on the Solidarity Slate and the Solidarity platform was immensely beneficial to lower-income and working people in Lane County. And I think in a number of ways, it would’ve been, he would’ve been a good thing for Eugene. He would’ve been a very contentious mayor. But he would very, very much have stirred up debate. And I think he would’ve increased engagement in politics in Lane County and in Eugene, and I’m going to miss him terribly.

[00:04:19] Dianne Schafer: My name’s Dianne Schafer. I used to be homeless. I used to be at Opportunity Village and Cliff was very much, he helped me get through that difficult—extremely difficult—five and a half years among other people, some gathered here today. And I can always count on him for a hug. And that’s really, really all I have to say.

[00:04:49] But that does say a lot, I think.

[00:04:53] Katrina Bowser: My name is Katrina Bowser. I don’t really have too much to say. I just helped him on his campaign for City Council a couple years ago.

[00:05:07] Patrick Stearns: I’m Patrick Stearns. I’m probably Cliff’s newest friend, ’cause we just started talking. I joined the Occupy Eugene Library group on Facebook. And we started talking about housing cause I was running for governor in the last primary and he was a (Tina) Kotek (for Governor) supporter. And so over our discussions, I won him over and yeah, and he not only was a supporter and a donor, but he bought me a ticket to the Lane County Democratic Dinner.

[00:05:39] That one where I met you, yeah. So I’m a new friend of his, and I’m honored and he’s given me books about housing that really influenced me. And he’s just been a great, and so he is going be missed. I know I’m the new FNG here, but I just, it’s so cool to see so many people come together for Cliff and he’s going to be missed. And that whole thing about being a bus driver is just so ‘man of the people’— that’s as much contact with people as you can get, being a patient bus driver dealing with all those souls. So he’s going to be missed.

[00:06:24] Kristy Murray: I’m Kristy Murray, and I know Cliff from the Bernie campaign in 2016, and when we were at the Bernie Center at 28th & Friendly, and also from Our Revolution, when the Bernie campaign morphed into Our Revolution Lane County, and we had many discussions, sometimes (like some people have said) were heated, but, like people have also said, his heart was in the right place.

[00:07:00] And just a kind of a funny addition. One time I was on a Zoom call with him and there was some other people and he decided to take us on a tour of his home. And it was the first time I’d seen his house. I’ve never, never been there in person. But anyway, so he showed us his vast CD and DVD collection.

[00:07:28] And many, I mean, it was just amazing how he, cause he’s like people said, he’s really into movies and music and he showed us his cats and described their personalities. And anyway, he had many interests. He was not one-dimensional and I really appreciate his fight for low-income housing because affordable housing isn’t always for low-income people.

[00:08:01] So we’ve got to get the wording right: We need low-income housing for people that are low-income, so low-income based. Yeah. Right. So anyway, I’m really glad we had this get together today and he will be missed.

[00:08:20] Jon Belcher: Hi. I know some of you. My name is Jon Belcher, and I know Cliff mostly through the Neighborhood Leaders Council. Cliff was the unofficial representative of the Trainsong Neighborhood, which had become defunct, and he tried for a long, long time to try to get that off the ground. The good news is, it appears like that’s about to happen.

[00:08:46] So that’s a legacy that Cliff has, that will live on, I hope. And of course there was always the discussions with Cliff about low-rent housing, and he and I didn’t always agree, but we could discuss cordially and that’s rare these days. And I greatly appreciate that, and miss Cliff a lot.

[00:09:06] City Councilor Emily Semple: Hi, I’m Emily Semple, City Councilor, Ward One.

[00:09:11] I’m grateful for this meeting and that it will be on the radio. I’m sorry that I missed you the first time live. I think Cliff and I knew each other on the periphery for, I don’t know how many years, but not up close and in person until we were both running in the same campaign. And Cliff approached me and we would meet at Full City and have a cup of coffee together for about an hour.

[00:09:42] And I would give him all my tips and tricks about how to campaign and we’d talk about issues. And it was such a friendly, quiet, calm part of my weeks. And I really appreciated his friendship and support.

[00:10:02] I was in that crash with the brain injury and lots of things fell away and I did not get to hang out with him again, but he is a soft spot in my heart that has added to my life experience. And I’m so grateful to be able to tell you that.

[00:10:22] Susan Caldwell: I’m Susan Caldwell. Cliff and I shared a love of plants and flowers and cats and the wilderness. More than anything, although we were politically aligned definitely, but that was our main tie. So I was very, I’ve been very sad, but I kind of knew something was wrong and I stayed with him for about a month last summer when I didn’t have a place to stay.

[00:10:50] And I really appreciated that. I’m so sorry. So, and the reason I’m late is, I have, sorry, I have Cliff’s cat now. Mocha. And Mocha got away this morning when I was trying to get out the door and got lost in the building, which is not funny. And we finally found her down in the basement. So that’s why I’m late.

[00:11:12] So anyways, that’s all. And I appreciate you all being here. This is very meaningful and he would’ve really appreciated this. Thank you.

[00:11:22] Kristy Murray I just want to say that Susan Caldwell, who just spoke, was a great friend of Cliff’s. You guys were like two buddies that palled around all the time. He was, you each had each other’s backs all the time.

[00:11:38] And I just really always thought you, you guys had a great friendship.

[00:11:45] Ellen Furstner: I’m Ellen Furstner and I knew Cliff through all our actions, through mainly Bernie, Our Revolution, and so on, like a lot of people here. But my memory of Cliff is mostly sort of a personal one. We live in Marcola and have gardens and he used, he came over a few times and photographed flowers and our animals and the birds and the bees.

[00:12:14] And we had a Fairy Festival for Occupy Medical, a fundraiser, and he was there, took a lot of photographs and I’d really like to see some of those photographs, but I don’t know how, but he just really enjoyed coming out there. Like Susan said, he had a love for plants and animals and he was just very happy to be at our place.

[00:12:41] And that’s kind of how I remember him and wanna remember him.

[00:12:46] Lon Otterby: Okay, Cliff, this is Lon Otterby. I’m remembering my walks across the Golden Gate, looking for you on your cush job there, driving that bus. But I only saw you twice in all the years I was down there, and I saw you much more up here. Thinking of you, thinking of you and your new golden gate and whatever you’re finding for yourself now, today.

[00:13:15] Thank you so much for your friendship and everything that you did for all of us here in Eugene. See you, (I’ll) keep thinking of you buddy. Bye-bye.

[00:13:30] Charlotte Brandt: This is Charlotte Brandt and I met Cliff when we were working to elect Bernie in 2016. Cliff was a dear man. I will greatly miss his hugs upon greeting. And we shared a love of flowers and our cats and his great work for social justice, his enthusiasm for people, and the good in people.

[00:14:07] And I will just miss him greatly.

[00:14:09] Rebecca: Rebecca. Okay. So how I met Cliff? Chili cookoff, I got a basket of stuff from Saturday Market for a raffle thing, and Cliff won it. And so I introduced him myself to him and asked Cliff, what are you going to do with that 10 pairs of dangly earrings in there?

[00:14:31] And he didn’t know. But he called me and invited me to go to this group that met on Tuesdays, it was a lot of women—and I would describe Cliff as definitely a friend to women—and he brought the basket and he just let the ladies there, have at it. And we subsequently argued politics a lot, cause we weren’t on the same page there.

[00:14:58] And we volunteered a lot and I would say things went a little south for Cliff with the Democratic Party. That happened. But he would still come out and help me with stuff. He actually volunteered quite a bit. He was a very generous donor to not only the Democratic Party, but lots of campaigns.

[00:15:26] And I can see people here who know that I also had affinity with Cliff around film. We loved film and he introduced me to Leonard’s fabulous film group that really got me through COVID. And we also loved cats.

[00:15:46] Todd Boyle: This is Todd Boyle. Cliff was definitely present on every issue that I ever talked with him about, and we argued about middle housing most of all, and our main difference was: I thought that if housing is deregulated and greater density was allowed, then this would result in people being able to build cheaper housing.

[00:16:08] And he adamantly disagreed. He said that the way forward is really only through the public sector, and that is by getting better funding for public housing and that all my efforts to help to liberate ADUs and middle housing would only result in greater gentrification and actually increasing the housing costs of lower income people. And that is the game that is now in play. Stay tuned for that game. It’ll be running for the next few years.

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