Memorial Set For Vera Katz

Photo: KATU

A public memorial will be held for former Portland Mayor Vera Katz Sunday, January 28th.

It’ll be held at the Portland Art Museum at 2 p.m.. Doors open to the public at 1:15 p.m.

During her tenure as Portland’s longest-serving woman mayor, Katz spurred the city to make unprecedented investments in the arts. The Portland Art Museum was the first of several art institutions to receive substantial city funding.  

“Vera understood the value of a world-class art museum to the soul of her city,” said Brian Ferriso, Executive Director of the Portland Art Museum. “It is our privilege to open our doors to pay tribute to this urban visionary who dedicated her life to making her community a prosperous, welcoming and beautiful place.” 

An introvert with a populist touch, Katz died on December 11, 2017, at the age of 84 due to complications from leukemia and kidney failure. Elected in 1972 to the Oregon legislature, she became the state’s first woman speaker of the house (and only the second in the nation to lead a state house of representatives), serving what was then a record three terms. In 1993, she became Portland’s third woman mayor, leaving office in 2005 after three terms. Upon her retirement from 32 years in public life, The Washington Post’s David Broder saluted the “feisty” Katz as “one of the pioneers and pacesetters for the women’s movement, education reform, health care and urban planning.” 

Because his mother was known to shy away from pomp and circumstance, Katz’s son, Jesse Katz, said the event will be an unpretentious and uplifting tribute.  

“Mom always said that the most important thing to her was to make a difference,” said Jesse Katz, a Los Angeles author and journalist. “Based on the condolences I’ve received these past few weeks, I can see just how many lives she touched—how profoundly she inspired others to do more and be better.”

Katz also thanked his former Lincoln High School classmate, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, whose office has generously been collecting condolences. Staff have received letters from as far away as Suzhou, China, expressing the Portland Sister City’s gratitude to the woman who bridged an ocean by bringing their culture to Portland with the Lan Su Chinese Garden.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations in Vera Katz’s honor be directed to Lan Su Chinese Garden, or your favorite local arts organization or public school foundation. 


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