A fixture in Vancouver city government and the local faith community died Thursday.
Ron Hart, 83, died peacefully at his home, according to his family. Hart served 12 years as a Vancouver city councilor and for 36 years as pastor of Walnut Grove Church.
Along with his work with numerous local boards and organizations, Hart had been a member of the Rotary Club of Vancouver Sunrise since 1967.
Some of the words family and friends used to describe Hart were energetic, faithful, loyal, generous, funny and friendly.
“Many sought him out just for counsel on a variety of issues — whether they be political, civic or spiritual,” Hart’s wife, Patti Hart, said. “He was loved by many and was regarded as a father figure and spiritual shepherd to a great many people.”
Ron Hart grew up in Sutter Creek, Calif., before moving north to attend the now-shuttered Cascade College in Portland. He met his wife during his senior year, shortly before earning a bachelor’s degree in history.
Ron Hart would also earn a teaching certificate from Cascade College, a master’s degree in education from the University of Portland and an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Florida Beacon Bible College.
The Harts, save for a year in Sacramento, Calif., spent their marriage of nearly 55 years in Clark County and had two children — Ryan Hart and Tracie Brooks.
“He had a real love for Vancouver and Clark County,” Patti Hart said.
He was elected to the city council in 1979. Toward the end of his tenure, he served alongside former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard.
Pollard said Hart worked hard to establish bonds with neighborhood groups that didn’t have cordial relationships with the city at the time.
“He was a frank kind of guy. He didn’t waste time in his comments to people,” Pollard said. “Not every council member did their homework, but he did.”
Ron Hart would regularly bring iced soft drinks to council meetings. He’d sometimes shake the drinks loud enough for Pollard to hear while wearing a mischievous smile. Pollard believes the routine was his way of gently teasing him.
“You would be surprised that he’s a preacher. He would get in your face and he was loud,” Pollard said.
Before each council meeting, Ron Hart would also hand cash to a homeless man who regularly sat outside City Hall.
“Ron was never a guy who tried to build a big church or any of that. He was just a guy who wanted to be alongside people and help them,” said Bill Ritchie, founding pastor at Crossroads Community Church who had known Hart since 1973. “He saw everybody as being equal.”
Ryan Hart, chief external affairs officer at the Port of Vancouver and Ron Hart’s son, recalls knocking on doors for his father’s campaign when he was 8 years old. He said his father’s example led him to pursue a career with a public agency.
“He instilled in me a love for community and giving back,” Ryan Hart said.
That sentiment extended to family time as well.
When Ryan Hart was about 5 years old, he developed a love of fly fishing. His father, an avid sports fan, didn’t share in his son’s newfound passion.
Nonetheless, while visiting family in northern California, the duo bought fishing rods and spent a day at Lake Amador learning how to fish.
“That’s what dads do,” Ryan Hart said. “I’ll always remember a day on the lake with my Dad.”