Our Voice: Loss of three extraordinary men opportunity for self-reflection

March 20, 2013 

We can only hope that the lives we live leave the world a better place. Maybe that's a lofty goal for some of us, but we can certainly admire those who serve the greater good.

Today we remember men we recently lost who spent their lives making a difference.

Gov. Booth Gardner

A relative unknown in the public sector when he ran for governor in 1984, Gardner's own campaign staff came up with the slogan: "Booth Who?" Gardner won and served two terms, becoming one of our state's most popular political figures.

He worked tirelessly to improve health care, education, the environment and social services for the citizens of Washington. After his time as governor, Gardner served as U.S. ambassador to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in Geneva.

But Gardner's greatest legacy may have been his final campaign. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1994, Gardner faded from the public eye after leaving office. He returned to the spotlight in 2006 to champion the death with dignity initiative. Two years later, Washington became the second state in the nation to make it legal for doctors to help the terminally ill who desire to die on their own terms.

Gardner did not control his own exit, but he was proud the option existed for others. Gardner died Friday of complications from Parkinson's disease at the age of 76.

Ray Whitlow

Whitlow, a partner with Hames, Anderson, Whitlow & O'Leary in Kennewick, specialized in worker's compensation, veterans' rights and labor law. He was also a former deputy prosecutor for Benton County.

One of his law partners, Bill Hames, probably put it best: "He was one of those exceptional human beings. He was just an exceptional person. Extremely generous."

The community was left reeling after his death in a car accident Monday on Snoqualmie Pass. Whitlow's life of service has been noted by many, and those he touched have favorite stories to tell.

Whitlow was a proud Cougar, having wrestled at Washington State University. He also dedicated his time and resources to Tri-Cities Prep, where he volunteered as the athletic director.

He was famous for his pep talks and slogans to encourage student athletes to perform at their best while having fun in the process. There was even a Ray Day with corresponding T-shirts.

Hec Hancock

For long-time readers of the Tri-City Herald, there is no name more synonymous with the sports page of this paper than Hancock's.

Hancock joined the staff in 1973, writing many columns over the years. He was at the first Seattle Seahawks game, knew everyone in the Pac-10, was good friends with former Miss Budweiser hydroplane owner Bernie Little and was a fan of horse racing. He always had a front row seat in the press box during Cougar football Saturdays.

He retired in 1986, but contributed columns for another 20 years. Hancock died Sunday at age 91.

These three men lived their lives following their passions and serving others in a myriad of ways. The best tribute to their legacies would be that we all strive to do the same.

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