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Former Bend City Councilor, Mayor Craig Coyner III passes away homeless

(Update: Adding Mayor Kebler's statement at council meeting)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The story of former Bend City Councilor and Mayor Craig Coyner III ended sadly. He passed away while homeless after being admitted to the hospital in January.

“I used to call him 'tin foil hat' smart. He was a genius -- he was just so smart," Coyner's half-sister, Kristen Coyner, told us Wednesday. "I think that was his downfall, in a lot of respects., because he just was always thinking a few steps ahead of where he should have been."

Those who knew him in earlier years remember him as dynamic and compassionate. 

“He was very lively," former City Councilor and Mayor Kathie Eckman said. "He was very vocal about issues about he believed in."

Coyner served as a Bend city councilor from 1981 to 1992 and became mayor in 1984, following in the footsteps of his great grandfather.

The beginning of his end, as Kristen put it, came when his wife and father passed away within weeks of each other.

“He ended up spiraling pretty quickly after that," Kristen Coyner said. "She was his everything, and so that was awful for him. When my brother called to let him know about my dad, he told my brother that ‘I’ve been drinking for weeks and I'm going to stay drunk for weeks.'"

Craig Coyner struggled with alcohol addiction and mental health issues.

Kristen Coyner said, “He unfortunately ran into problems with law enforcement several times, so that’s how I could track him-and if he was in jail, I knew he was safe." 

Eckman added, "I felt bad that he had deteriorated so far without knowing about it.” 

She met Coyner shortly before 1981, and they both ran for and got elected to the City Council.

"Over the years that he was on the City Council, he was very involved in progressive kinds of things like the new sewer department, the sewer plant that we put in," Eckman said. "We were very involved in that back in the '80s.”

Attorney Terry Rahmsdorff also was a friend of Coyner.

“We all have our demons, and it would be wonderful if we say, 'But that will never happen to me or anybody that I know'," Rahmsdorff said. "Here’s an absolutely wonderful caring guy that couldn’t get past his demons." 

Before his death on Feb. 14, Craig Coyner was admitted to St. Charles Bend with frostbitten toes, one of which had to get amputated. He also suffered from alcohol withdrawal and had a stroke.

“The end was so painful," Kristen Coyner said. "It makes me feel so guilty. He wouldn’t accept help, but I still feel guilty that I couldn’t get it to him somehow."

Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler read this statement at the beginning of Wednesday evening's council meeting:

"I want to take a moment now to remember Craig Coyner III. Craig, who died on Valentine’s Day, devoted decades of his life to serving the Bend community. He was a Bend City Councilor from 1981 through 1992, and served as Mayor in 1984. He worked as a prosecutor and a public defender in Deschutes County. He helped homeowners free of charge when the housing market crashed in 2008.

"He was a city leader who created lasting impact here in Bend. As a fellow Bend High grad, I am proud to be a part of the legacy that he helped shape. I will think about Craig every time I bike down the Coyner Trail on the east side of Bend. He was proud of the work he did on the Council, including his advocacy for improving public gathering spaces.

"Craig’s story is an important one for our community to remember. I encourage everyone to read the article in the Bulletin by Bryce Dole about him. Craig achieved much as a city leader, but he also experienced family loss, mental health struggles, and homelessness. None of us are invulnerable to tragedy or pain. All of us need help from other people at some time in our life.

"I have expressed my condolences to members of Craig’s family. I can’t imagine how difficult this time is for them right now. I ask our community to remember Craig Coyner as someone who stepped up to lead in his community, and who left Bend a better place than he found it."

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.


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