Ernie Boston, who died last week, was a community leader of the first rank, with a quick intellect, long institutional memory and a business and political ethic that was outstanding -- indeed, inspirational.
At the same time, he was the most ordinary guy you'd ever meet. He was on a first-name basis with everyone, which we'll honor in this column.
At a time when CEOs routinely made their deals during long days on the golf course, Ernie played the little nine-hole course in Packwood, once or twice a year, with his wife, Betty.
His leadership for decades was vital to the Tri-Cities. Following heart surgery this spring, Ernie retired after 17 years as a Port of Pasco commissioner, specializing in real estate and aviation.
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He became a nationally recognized expert on airports, undertaking many miles of travel, which Ernie embraced with his spirit of adventure.
He was always looking ahead, ready for action.
When their sons Brian and Kerry were young, the Bostons built a cabin in Packwood, acquired a noisy old Jeep and took off on the trails. They even climbed to the top of Tatoosh. The hard way. It was no Everest, but then Ernie was no Sir Edmund Hillary. He was after the experience, not the glory.
Still, even though he never sought it, glory came his way. His honors and awards are too many to name. One special to him was being named Tri-Citian of the Year for 1986. His small pyramid award will be interred with him.
Many of his honors were for his dedicated work to improve life for all of us here. Ernie was a major player in the creation of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. TRIDEC, now the Tri-City Development Council, was created out of a collapsing predecessor by a small group, with Ernie Boston in a leadership role. His services to Our Lady of Lourdes hospital influenced long-range planning and staffing decisions.
Another monument without Ernie's name on it, but which nevertheless will be a constant reminder of him, is TRAC, the Trade, Recreation and Agricultural Center. He pushed legislators for that.
In real estate, his profession after leaving General Electric, Ernie was the longtime chair of the Professional Conduct Committee.
Integrity, honesty and fair-dealing were at the core of his character. Although, like any ordinary man, he could occasionally bluff at cards.
He was a regular player in a Rotarian poker game and also created a small club for some friends. All proudly wore the T-shirts Ernie designed with -- the Great Pacific Northwest Hiking and Poker Club -- emblazoned across the front.
The Tri-City Herald never had a better friend than Ernie Boston. He respected the Herald's coverage and editorial viewpoints without always embracing them.
He found it most difficult to understand why the news stories almost never called the cable bridge by its proper name -- the Ed Hendler Intercity Bridge. Getting the former Pasco mayor's name attached officially to that bridge was another of Ernie's projects. He worked on it for years.
Rather than writing an angry letter, it was in his nature to tell Herald editors privately that he wished we would use the structure's full name. He didn't write angry letters.
He was a voracious reader, especially of newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal. He kept Herald editors supplied with clippings from The Week and news magazines in general.
He liked biographies and led a life that was clearly influenced by the great historical figures he read about.
A memorial celebration, including lunch, will be at 11 a.m. June 30, at Einan's Memories at Sunset Event Center, 915 Highway 240, Richland.
The Tri-Cities will deeply miss Ernie's presence, but his influence will be felt far into the future.