Two longtime leaders leave legacies

Community mourns deaths of former Camas fire chief, Port commissioner

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The Camas-Washougal communities lost two longtime public servants this month.

Former Camas Fire Chief Deloy Little, who worked with the Camas Fire Department for more than 30 years and served as its fire chief from 1972 to 1981, died July 11, at the age of 90.

One day later, on July 12, Bill Macrae-Smith, who served three terms as a Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner, died in Eagle, Idaho, at the age of 77.

Commissioner helped complete major projects at marina, Washougal waterfront

“He was a good guy,” David Ripp, the Port’s chief executive officer, said of Macrae-Smith, who served as a Port commissioner from 1984 to 1987, and again from 2010 to 2017. “He was great to work with and dedicated to the Port. He definitely will be missed.”

Washougal resident Martha Martin described Macrae-Smith as “a very kind man and knowledgeable.”

“He took time with everyone so they felt special in that moment,” she said. “He was my friend, and I will miss him.”

Macrae-Smith helped oversee capital growth of numerous warehouses in the Port’s industrial park; a complete Port office remodel; and construction of the Steigerwald Commerce Center and new docks, pilings and head walks in the Port’s marina.

He also was instrumental in the development of the Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail and Waterfront Master Plan Vision.

“The last few years have been very productive for the Port,” Macrae-Smith told the Post-Record in 2013 while announcing his re-election bid. “We recently completed major projects at the industrial park, the marina and the airport. These are projects that will attract new businesses as well as enhance the safety and enjoyment of the Port’s properties.”

He resigned from the commission during a meeting in February 2017, saying that other commitments had become too great for him to be able to fulfill the requirements of his position, and that he wanted to make room for someone who had more time and energy to devote to the job.

“Macrae-Smith has been an integral part of a very accomplished board,” Ripp said in a news release issued in 2017 after Macrae-Smith’s resignation announcement. “His expertise and knowledge have aided the Port’s ability and effectiveness to create jobs, infrastructure and recreational opportunities for the community.”

Macrae-Smith, who lived in the Camas-Washougal area for 45 years, retired as the owner of Paragon Mortgage Realty. He began his career in finance in 1966, eventually becoming vice president of Washington State Bank and Riverview Community Bank.

Macrae-Smith served in the Army Reserves and was a member of Toastmasters, Zion Lutheran Church Council and the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce. He is survived by wife Jeannie Macrae-Smith, two children and seven grandchildren.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 10 at Zion Lutheran Church in Camas.

Ripp and Port commissioners John Spencer, Larry Keister and Bill Ward spoke about Macrae-Smith at their July 15 board meeting.

“He was a monumental force on the commission when I served with him,” Ward said. “He could discuss a point and look at all aspects, and many times I was thinking, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ He was an excellent man from a character standpoint. He was very intelligent as far as getting wise counsel.”

“I came to the commission meetings for a long time as a citizen, and Bill always included me in the discussions and made me feel comfortable,” Keister said. “He made me feel that I was part of the group. He explained a lot of things to me that helped me understand why the decisions that were being made, and that was very important. I will miss him.”

Fire chief remembered as visionary with deep love for Camas community

When people remember former Camas Fire Chief Deloy Little, they recall a visionary community builder who fought to improve the way Camas’ first responders handled emergency medical calls.

“He was a great person to have as chief,” Monte Brachman, a former city of Camas employee and volunteer firefighter who was recruited by Little to join the Camas Fire Department in 1973, said of Little. “He was positive, upbeat and encouraged volunteers and employees to strive to the next level.”

Retired Camas Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Hochhalter remembers Little as a visionary chief responsible for ramping up the department’s ability to respond to medical emergencies.

“Deloy, in my opinion, was very progressive for the time. He and some others came up with this plan to cooperatively set up an ambulance agency to help pay for ambulance vehicles and paramedic staffing,” Hochhalter said. “It was a novel way of doing it … and it doubled our staffing.”

The addition of paramedics to the fire department, funded through a voter-approved levy in 1979, meant the department’s two paid firefighters and two paid fire captains no longer had to stop and pick up volunteers trained as emergency medical technicians on the way to an ambulance call.

“Before that, we had to call a volunteer in to ride in the back of the ambulance while a paid firefighter or fire captain drove the vehicle,” Hochhalter said, remembering the days when the firefighters would call volunteer firefighter Paul Runyan at his downtown Camas Runyan’s Jewelers shop and tell him they would pick him up in front of the jewelry store on the way to an emergency medical call.

“Deloy saw this wasn’t a practical solution, so he was searching for ways to provide better service to our area,” Hochhalter said.

After voters approved a levy at 25 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value in 1979 to pay for the addition of four paramedics to the Camas Fire Department, Hochhalter said the department was better able to respond to emergency medical calls. In 1979, there were 688 ambulance calls, according to the city of Camas’ history of its fire department. By 1980, that number was up to 831 calls.

By the time Little retired in 1981, the East County Paramedic Service had formed, covering emergency medical calls in Camas and Washougal, as well as in Fire Districts 1 and 9 outside the cities’ limits and covered nearly 100 square miles.

“(Little) was always a big promoter of improving the EMS system in East Clark County, and he made some big improvements,” Brachman said.

He added that the former fire chief was the type of leader who led by example.

“I remember when we got the first ‘jaws of life’ tool, I rode with (Little) to a wrecking yard to practice with it,” Brachman said. “The chief was more of an administrative position, but he was out there with the volunteers, practicing.”

Brachman and Hochhalter both remember Little — a 1949 Camas High School graduate who went to school with Hochhalter’s father and lived on Prune Hill for most of his life with his wife, Marjorie, and their children — as a man who truly cared about his community and his firefighters.

When Brachman told Little he was nervous and didn’t feel confident enough to go out on medical calls after training to be a volunteer firefighter and level-one EMT, the chief told him something he’d never forget.

“He said, ‘If you weren’t nervous or concerned, I’d be nervous about you going out there,'” Brachman said. “He really encouraged me.”

Hochhalter agreed that Little was an empathetic and encouraging chief.

“He was very thoughtful and just an all-around nice guy,” Hochhalter said of Little. “He was probably the best boss I’ve ever had.”

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