In Memoriam: Roger Gates

The following is published in the July 25 edition of Street Roots. Please leave any stories you would like to share and goodbye’s on the Street Roots Blog. We will be publishing comments in the next edition of the newspaper on August 8.

Street Roots is working with family and friends and will be announcing the time and date of a memorial service in the coming days. Please check back. (Many thanks to customers and Trader Joe’s for making a memorial on site.)

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Roger Gates captured the hearts and minds of Portland’s Northwest neighborhood where he sold the paper for seven years. In the two days leading up to Street Roots finding out about his death, nearly a dozen customers called the office asking where Roger was. He was loved.

According to the medical examiner and Roger’s family, he died peacefully of natural causes watching television. We would like to think that Roger passed watching a 6-4-3 double play, or possibly a two-out single that drove in a runner, keeping the inning alive. He had turned 60 years old in early July.

Roger was a true believer. He believed in people – from his fellow vendors to his customers to the staff at Trader Joe’s at NW 21st and Glisan. He rarely had a bad thing to say, but when he did, people listened. He was rough around the edges, but a gentle and well-articulated man. He was a natural leader.

More than anything Roger believed in the idea that all people were good, and that a higher power would forgive us all – regardless of whatever mess we might find ourselves in.

He wrote beautiful poetry, he attended vendor meetings encouraging people to take the roles and responsibilities of being a vendor seriously. “We had a message to deliver,” he would say. “We are the working poor. We should be proud of ourselves. Proud of Street Roots, and proud of the work we do.”

In many ways he had become the face of Street Roots. From helping create the vendor orientation video to speaking with students and journalists, Roger was always willing to communicate with individuals the mission of Street Roots. Like many of us – he lived and breathed the newspaper. It was his life for many years.

Of course, there’s more to Roger’s life than Street Roots. From the staff at the Joyce Hotel where he paid for a room night in and night out to his family and friends – Roger was one of a kind.

He was an avid baseball fan. Roger had studied the game. We often discussed the idea that baseball more than any other game mirrored life. It was a game of patience and persistency. Sometimes nothing would happen until late in the game, other times the game peeked early and never rose to that level of intensity again. One week you might be on a roll, unstoppable. The next week you might find yourself in a slump, unable to put one foot in front of the other. Trying to find that space in your mind and body that would allow you to deliver the best we all have.

Roger always gave his best. And he taught everyone around him to give there best. He was a big brother, a mentor, a friend and an anchor in the community.

Roger will always remain in the hearts and minds of the people that lived and worked in Northwest Portland in the early part of the 21st century. He will be remembered. He will be missed. “God bless you and all of your loved ones.”

EXTRA – Roger Gates found his ‘Roots’ – Portland Tribune, July 28 2008
EXTRA – Life story Roger Gates, the Oregonian, August 110, 2008