Longtime Port of Pasco Commissioner Ernie Boston has died, just days after retiring from the commission so he could recover from surgery.
Boston, 86, died Wednesday in Richland, and colleagues said he leaves behind a void that will be difficult to fill not only at the port, but also in the Tri-Cities as a whole.
"It's a big loss for the community," said Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Development Council. "He was liked by everybody. He was just a prince of a guy."
Boston served 17 years as a port commissioner before it was announced at the May 21 meeting that he was stepping down to focus on his health.
Port commissioners and staff members remembered him as a "consummate gentleman" who brought sharp real estate expertise and a passion for the Tri-Cities Airport to his job as commissioner.
"As president of the port commission, I feel I can speak for Commissioner (Ron) Reimann, our dedicated staff and employees that we will sincerely miss Commissioner Boston," said fellow Commissioner Jim Klindworth. "He dedicated 17 years to the betterment of the port district and the Mid-Columbia area. He was a strong advocate and forceful voice for aviation and particularly the Tri-Cities Airport. We will miss his educated and balanced leadership as we move forward with the airport expansion."
Klindworth, who has served on the commission since 1987, told the Herald when Boston's retirement was announced that he would rank Boston as one of the top commissioners the port ever has had.
When Boston came onto the commission in 1995, he sold the other commissioners on the benefit of having some port staff educated in real estate issues.
Since then, some port employees undergo certification programs with the Building Owners & Managers Association of Tri-Cities. And that training has been important in the work of the port, Klindworth said.
Randy Hayden, the port's interim deputy director, told the Herald on Thursday that Boston's long tenure on the port helped bring stability to its operations.
"At the Port of Pasco, Ernie brought a level of professionalism to our real estate and business practices that elevated the port to look at the port more as a business, and to make sure we were customer-oriented in all of our business practices," Hayden said.
But aside from his business savvy, those who knew Boston said they will remember his gentle demeanor.
"He treated everyone -- no matter who you were -- with the highest level of respect," Hayden said. "That really permeated our culture here because of Ernie."
Former Commissioner Bill Clark, who retired in 2011, served with Boston for most of Boston's tenure, and said Boston was a dear friend who will be missed.
"Ernie was the consummate gentleman," Clark said. "He was just a very gentle man. Our hearts go out to his wife Betty and to their kids. I just pray that God comforts her during this time of loss."
Boston and his wife, Betty, owned Boston Real Estate Associates. The couple was active in the Tri-City Association of Realtors and were strong advocates for the local real estate community.
Boston also was instrumental in the transformation of the Tri-City Nuclear Industrial Development Council into the Tri-City Industrial Development Council -- now the Tri-City Development Council, or TRIDEC -- in 1985.
Adrian said Boston was one of the longest-serving TRIDEC board members.
"Ernie was really an icon kind of figure in ports and in business," Adrian said. "It's a very sad day for the community."
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org