Former Medford Mayor Jerry Lausmann, who died Friday, opens the Visitors and Convention Bureau in Medford with the help of Huggy Bear. - 1998 file photo

'He will always be Mr. Medford'

Jerry Lausmann, who served as mayor of Medford longer than anyone else, died Friday about 5:30 p.m. at Rogue Valley Manor, according to his daughter Ann Lausmann-Istel.

Lausmann, who was 81, had been in poor health in recent years but his mind was still "sharp as a tack," Lausmann-Istel said.

"He beat the odds. He had a brain tumor for 20 years. He was given six to nine months to live 20 years ago," said Lausmann-Istel, one of Jerry and Donnis Lausmann's four children.

While Lausmann's health had deteriorated over the years to the point he required physical assistance, his death was unexpected, said Lausmann-Istel, who was visiting her father at the Manor and had gone to the cafeteria for dinner when word came that he was in distress.

"I saw him 15 minutes before he passed, and he was doing great," she said.

Known for his sense of humor and involvement in the community, Lausmann and his wife moved into Rogue Valley Manor in the spring of 2011.

"He could do anything with his hands. He was quite brilliant," said Donnis Lausmann, who came to be known as the "First Lady of Medford" for her work with her husband.

"Donnis was just a remarkable companion to Jerry as mayor and always represented the city well in every capacity," said Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler.

In a Mail Tribune article from 1998, Lausmann is quoted as saying his proudest accomplishments were getting youth involved with the city through the Mayor's Youth Advisory Committee, helping start the Medford Jazz Jubilee, making City Hall a friendly place to do business and instituting the invocation before meetings.

"I was the City Council president during his last years as mayor," said Rob Patridge, who is now a local representative for Congressman Greg Walden. "Jerry Lausmann was a mentor to many and a friend to all. He gave people a voice in the city of Medford."

Born in 1930 in Portland, Lausmann was adopted by Anton and Grace Lausmann. When he was 12, the family moved to Medford, where Anton Lausmann started a sawmill that eventually was named KOGAP. The sawmill closed, but the company diversified and continues.

"He had a great love for the people of Medford," said Marv Hackwell, chief operating officer of KOGAP and a board member of the Jerry and Donnis Lausmann Foundation.

"He took over his father's lumber company when his father couldn't run it anymore. We built a large plywood plant here, and then the timber industry went, but he wanted to keep people working. So we diversified and we went into real estate in various places in and out of the valley. Jerry had the vision to do all that."

Lausmann was the mayor of Medford from 1986 until 1998.

"I've worked for a lot of mayors, and he was the absolute best," said Ray Shipley, former Medford chief of police. "I've never known anyone to have such a commitment to the community. I had the privilege and benefit of working for him when he was mayor, and we have remained personal friends since I retired."

Shipley said that he and his wife even stayed with the Lausmanns while they looked for a home, shortly after Shipley was selected as police chief.

"He attended absolutely every swearing-in ceremony that we had for the new police officers and city employees," said Shipley. "He always made welcoming remarks to the new recruits."

An associate for more than 30 years, Sid DeBoer said he first met Lausmann through Southern Oregon University, which they both supported. "He always had a generous heart. He was a big part of getting the Medford Jazz Jubilee going and he was a great mayor," said DeBoer. "He always had a sense of humor and always had time for people. I had a high level of respect for him. He will be missed."

Lausmann twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the 1970s before being elected mayor in 1986. The city's Lausmann Annex was named in his honor in 1998 by Medford City Council.

After graduating from Medford High in 1948, Lausmann spent three years in the U.S. Navy before graduating from Oregon State University. Lausmann and his wife were also known for their support of U.S. servicemen. The Lausmanns would meet every soldier who returned home at the airport, according to Hackwell, and they received an award from the Department of Defense for the practice.

State Rep. Sal Esquivel, who worked as a nightshift foreman at the KOGAP plywood plant starting in 1970 and served on City Council while Lausmann was mayor, remembered Lausmann's sense of humor.

"He always had a joke, and some of them were pretty corny," said Esquivel. "In my own mind, he will always be Mr. Medford. What a great guy, and what a sense of humor he had. He always found some way to make you laugh."

Lausmann leaves behind his wife of 45 years, Donnis Lausmann, 79; four children, Ann Lausmann-Istel, Tony Lausmann, Craig Lausmann and Sharon Smale-Lausmann; and three grandsons.

Arrangements are being made for him at Pearl Funeral Home.

"We are going to miss my husband," said Donnis Lausmann. "He was a wonderful man. I loved him with all of my heart."

David Smigelski contributed to this story. Reach reporter Mandy Valencia at

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