Raymond C. Horn

May 6, 1943 - April 7, 2024

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Raymond C.  Horn


A Life of Enterprise, Community Purpose, and a Sense of Fun

Ray Horn, former co-owner, publisher, and editor of the Clackamas County News, a predecessor to today’s Estacada News, died April 7 at a Portland care facility. He was 80.

Ray’s life was a colorful tapestry of engagements in teaching, journalism, business ventures, and civic activism, mostly in and near Oregon, and sometimes all at once. Inquisitive and enterprising, Ray tackled everything with seriousness of purpose leavened by a puckish sense of humor. He was a student of everything he did and a caring mentor to those he brought into his ventures.

Ray was born May 6, 1943, in Seattle to Chester C. and Florence G. Horn. Chet was a defense worker for Boeing who later served in the Army as World War II began to wind down. Shortly afterward, the Horn family moved to Salem where Chet grew up. An enterprising youngster, Ray had a paper route, made and sold sand boxes to families with young children, and played bugle for hire at funerals and other occasions. In 1961 he graduated from North Salem High School where he lettered in track as a short- and middle-distance runner. Going on to Oregon College of Education in Monmouth, now Western Oregon University, he graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in education.

Ray began his post-college career in 1966 as a Peace Corps volunteer. He first taught English-as-a-second language to students at an eastern Nigeria teachers training college. When the Biafran civil war broke out in 1967, he was evacuated amid the chaos with other Peace Corps personnel and reassigned to Liberia where he taught English and social studies at an elementary school in the rural Zorzor District. Presaging the provocative local journalism of his later newspaper career, he helped Zorzor students start a community newspaper which attracted the attention of government officials and a charge of sedition (subsequently dropped). He also wrote a proposal that brought the district a U.S. aid grant for a steel and concrete river bridge to replace a wooden structure repeatedly washed out in heavy rains.

Surviving malaria and a viper bite in Liberia, he returned to the U.S. in 1968 to teach modern problems and coach track at Astoria High School where his athletes broke five school records. A year later he joined the U.S. Teacher Corps as a team leader in Bethel, Alaska, recruiting and training Alaska Natives for careers in elementary education. In 1971 he worked as a staff writer for the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, now Education Northwest, developing training programs for community college and trade schoolteachers to improve their work with culturally diverse students.

Ray began his journalism career in 1972, honing his craft in reporting, editing, and photography at a succession of community publications in Moses Lake, Washington; Hermiston, Oregon; and North Portland. In 1976 he bought into and turned around the financially struggling Estacada weekly, the Clackamas County News, which he ran for the next 15 years.

The paper covered a typical range of community stories, from city council and school board meetings to high school sports to civic events, but it also did serious features and investigative reporting. It twice won awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association for investigative reporting, and once for spot news photography.  It also won two awards from the Oregon Education Association for education coverage. A 1982 Oregon Journal feature story on Ray and the paper was headlined, “Community newspaper keeps readers on their toes.”

Ray had a tender side, using the paper’s reach to find new homes for hurt or abandoned pets. He also brought his sense of fun and provocation to the paper. He doubled its circulation with stunts like making himself available for a pie in the face as an added benefit of a new subscription. Under the send-up pseudonym Sidney Mort, he regularly authored The Mort Report, a column that ranged from satire to serious policy criticism. His opinion pieces occasionally stirred the ire of local officials. He famously received a cease-and-desist letter from a staff attorney to Vice President George H.W. Bush for using the senior Bush’s likeness in an advertising promotion. That was more grist for The Mort Report.

Ray and his co-owners sold the Estacada paper in 1991 to Bill and Pat James, who sold the paper in 2000 to the Pamplin Media Group. The next several years Ray worked as a freelance writer and photographer During that time he founded and later sold a monthly magazine in Oregon City, all the while maintaining a thriving business shooting hundreds of weddings.

From 1999 to 2008 Ray owned and operated Mojo’s Coffee Den on the site of an old gas station at the corner of Stark and 28th in southeast Portland. It was no accident that customers found Mojo’s a perfect setting for coffee drinks accompanied by music, thoughtful conversation on issues of the day, and Ray’s gift for listening and storytelling. And there were promotions. One was poetry nights. Another was Anybody but Bush Sundays, where Ray pledged 10 percent of sales to the eventual Democratic nominee against incumbent George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. Later, with the arrival of other coffee outlets in the area, diluting the market and squeezing revenue, Ray sold the shop and went into his next career phase, working one-on-one with independent adults struggling with cognitive deficits and life skills.

Ironically, Ray himself suffered strokes in 2022 that caused memory impairment and required placement in assisted care. Although his short-term memory suffered, his personality did not. He retained his thoughtful temperament and quick humor until the end. He is survived by his brother Bob Horn of Lynnwood, Washington. He is missed by a lifetime of friends and colleagues.

Cremation is provided by Omega Funeral and Cremation Service in Portland, Oregon. A celebration of life is planned, but details are pending and will be added at the Omega website when they are firmed up.