Farewell to a familiar face of downtown – A service celebrates the life of Richard Tichenor, a homeless man who lacked many things but not friends
A single candle burned at the front of the chapel Thursday as a line of people stood to share their memories of Richard Tichenor, a gruff but good-natured denizen of downtown who lived on the street, but made many friends and fans along the way:
Staff from the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light shelter. Volunteers from the Downtown Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Parish.
A local businessman who grew up with Tichenor and later let him do odd jobs at his Northwest Portland vintage clothing store. A man who let Tichenor live in a tool shed on his property and paid him to do remodeling jobs on his house.
Tichenor, 57, struggled with alcoholism most of his adult life. He died from blunt force trauma to the head Saturday. His body was found about midnight in the 400 block of Northeast 39th Avenue in what police detectives have ruled a homicide.
Tichenor’s older sister, Sylvia Brown, hadn’t seen him much over the years and said she was stunned to see the impact he had on others.
“It’s sad, but I can see he didn’t completely fall through the cracks,” Brown said. “He wasn’t an anonymous face. People cared for him.”
About 20 people attended the service. Many said Tichenor could be a crotchety, stubborn man at times, but was hard-working and trustworthy. He had a memorable laugh that could fill a room, addressed people by their names and would give strong, lasting bear hugs. He tried several recovery programs, but often relapsed.
Tichenor was born in Astoria on Jan. 6, 1951, but grew up mostly in Portland. After graduating from Benson High School, he won a scholarship to attend a mechanics school in Beaverton. But he had a hard time holding a steady job because he drank. His longest job was four years as a mechanic for Jim Fisher Volvo off West Burnside Street, his sister said.
“We got together as much as possible — the only problem was we had to set certain boundaries,” said Brown, who lives in Northeast Portland. “If he was drinking, he couldn’t come over to our house, and that limited our time.”
Tichenor was a regular at the Salvation Army’s downtown shelter. Interim director Vernon Wease remembers Tichenor playing guitar outside the building as he waited for the doors to open.
“He was a warm individual, and he was a fun person,” Wease said, noting that he couldn’t say that about everybody in the shelter. “It was a big blow to our community. He will be missed.”
Jay Beaudoin, the owner of Reflections in Time on Northwest 21st Avenue, grew up with Tichenor. In recent years, Beaudoin paid Tichenor to vacuum and tidy up his store.
Beaudoin introduced Tichenor to his friend, Roger Ahlforth, who let Tichenor sleep in the shed behind his house and paid him to help remodel his Laurelhurst home. He was good at hanging Sheetrock and painting when he wasn’t drinking his favorite Camo beers, Ahlforth said.
Ahlforth last saw Tichenor last Thursday morning, waking up in a sleeping bag in Ahlforth’s yard.
Another friend, Trevor Jennings, said he saw Tichenor at Northeast 37th Avenue and Glisan Street a week ago about 7:30 p.m., hours before his death. Tichenor said he was on his way to Ahlforth’s house.
Carleen Corbett, a volunteer who welcomed Tichenor and others to the Downtown Chapel, was grateful for a chance to say goodbye.
“I’m so happy this service is taking place because life is so precious, and it needs to be honored and remembered,” she said. “There are too many people in this city who just disappear, and there isn’t anyone to mourn them. God bless Richard.”
Richard Tichenor struggled with alcoholism and homelessness for most of his life. Many people tried to help Richard, including people associated with Transition Projects, DePaul Treatment Center, Central City Concern, Comprehensive Options for Drug Abuse (CODA), Salvation Army HarborLight, Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center, the Portland Peniel Mission and City Team Ministries, Downtown Chapel, Sisters of the Road Cafe, the Sanction, Treatment, Opportunity, Progress (STOP) program, InAct, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, and the Tigard Recovery Center.
Autopsy reveals transient died from blunt force trauma
A man found in the street near NE 39th and NE Glisan Saturday night was the victim of a homicide, police said.
The man, who was identified as 57-year-old Richard Harold Tichenor, was found by neighbors just before midnight on Friday night.
Portland Police Officers responded to the scene and found Tichenor’s body in the street near the traffic circle in the 400 block of NE Glisan.
Initially, officers thought the man may have been the victim of a hit and run but an autopsy performed Sunday ruled that out.
The Medical Examiner’s office determined that Tichenor died from blunt force trauma and his death was ruled a homicide.
Police said Tichenor led a transient lifestyle. His last known address was a homeless shelter in downtown Portland.
No arrests had been made in the case.
EXTRA – Blow to head killed homeless man found in N.E. Portland, Oregonian, August 4 2008
EXTRA – Police investigating homicide at traffic circle, Portland Tribune, August 4 2008