In Memory of Bob Stacey

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Bob at the 2019 1000 Friends of Oregon Tom McCall Gala.

Robert E. Stacey – or Bob, as most called him – was a gift for Oregon. He passed away on September 8, at the age of 72, in his home after a battle with long-term illness. 

Bob was known by so many Oregonians due to his decades of public service and work to protect Oregon and make all our communities better places. Even if you’ve never met Bob, you have seen his handiwork in action. He was also one of the reasons 1000 Friends was so successful in our early years, laying the groundwork for our continuing achievements.

“We have lost one of the guiding lights of Oregons land use system. Bob was always a leader – from co-creating the role of 1000 Friends staff attorney, to serving as our executive director, and then shaping regional planning at Metro. We are indebted to his vision, and miss him greatly” says Nellie McAdams, 1000 Friends of Oregon Board President

In 1975, at the age of 25 and fresh out of law school, Bob was one of 1000 Friends of Oregon’s first employees – along with Henry Richmond as executive director and Dick Benner as the other staff attorney. They were often referred to as the three amigos.

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For 11 years, he served as a staff attorney, litigating cases, setting precedents for the new field of land use law, and protecting Oregon’s farm ranch and forestland. But even in the early days he was still a transportation advocate and he saw how the land use planning system could be transformative for Oregon. 

“In every capacity – personal, professional, friend and family man – he set the gold standard,” [Congressman Earl] Blumenauer wrote. “He will be missed but his impact on our community and our state will continue for generations.”

Even after his time as a staff attorney, Bob was never far from 1000 Friends. He was a board member from 1995–2001 and our Executive Director from 2002–2010, leaving the organization when he won his election to become a Metro Councilor. Bob embodied public service by  working hand in hand with everyone to make Oregon more livable and lovable through land use planning. 

"Bob Stacey’s contributions to the Oregon we know and love today are immeasurable. Bob never ran out of creative ideas on how to protect Oregon’s communities, farms and forests, and how to connect them all together, ensuring that we were woven together as a fabric of this wonderful state… He was a fearless fighter, standing up to bullies big and small… who sought to turn over Oregon’s iconic landscape for their own individual profit and purpose.” —Metro Council President Lynn Peterson

All Eds
Five 1000 Friends’ past Executive Directors, from left to right: Bob Stacey, Robert Liberty, Lynn Peterson (interim), Russ Hoeflich and Henry Richmond.

Mary Kyle McCurdy, 1000 Friends of Oregon’s deputy director, started at 1000 Friends in 1981 and only took a short break to attend law school before returning as a staff attorney. She worked with Bob for over 40 years. 

“Bob Stacey was my mentor and colleague, but most importantly, my friend. I first met him in 1981 when I came to 1000 Friends as the Communications Coordinator. When I left two years later to go to law school, I told Bob that if I could be half the lawyer he was, I will have accomplished a lot. 

Bob showed me that it was possible to be a lawyer committed to policy change without compromise but with compassion. He modeled the importance and joy of always working first with the everyday Oregonians who the land use program is designed to Serve. He is probably the person most responsible for Oregon’s urban growth boundaries, the singular land use tool that has curbed sprawl; saved farmland, forests, and natural areas; reduced carbon pollution from driving; kept development largely out of high-risk wildfire areas; preserved Oregon’s iconic places; and much more. 

But Bob always knew that it is not enough to draw a line – that our towns and cities must be “livable and loveable,” to quote Tom McCall. And Bob worked to make that happen – using his lawyering and his appointed and elected positions to achieve more diverse and affordable housing in all neighborhoods and extensive transit, bicycling, and walking infrastructure. I returned to 1000 Friends as a lawyer in 1990, picking up the urban development and urban growth boundary portfolio that Bob left when he moved on to work for the City of Portland. 

One day while walking in downtown Portland I noticed Bob and one of his daughters, then about 15 years old, walking hand-in-hand down the sidewalk. Not something one sees often with teenagers, and certainly not in public. And I thought, ‘If I can be half the parent Bob is, I will have accomplished a lot.’ My lawyering and parenting are still works in progress, and Bob’s kindness and commitment in all things personal and professional are still my North Star, as they are for the many, many he touched throughout his life.” —Mary Kyle McCurdy, 1000 Friends Deputy Director

Bob is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Adrienne, his daughters Amanda and Hesper, and two grandchildren. 

If you have a memory or story of Bob that you would like to share, click here. 

Read some of Bob’s past work at 1000 Friends: