Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Jayson Jacoby


Dick Haynes was a character.

Pretty much everyone seems to agree on that much.

Among adjectives associated with the man, "stubborn" comes up with some consistency, as does "passionate."

But about one point there is no quibbling, no parsing of language needed.

Dick Haynes loved Baker.

And he loved it without a trace of selfishness or provincialism.

Indeed his love was the opposite - he thought this place was so wonderful that other people ought to be able to love it as he did, but he also recognized that those people needed something more than affection if they were to stay.

A job, in particular.

And so his mission, one at which he amassed a lengthy record of achievement, was to make Baker livable, in an economic sense, as well as lovable.

Dick died on Thursday, here in the town he loved.

He was 89.

"Dick Haynes always did whatever he could to make Baker a better place," said Charles Hofmann, a Baker City doctor who served with Haynes on the Baker City Council.

"The community owes him a great deal of respect for all that he's done. It was a pleasure for me to serve with him on the council."

Dick served a total of 10 years as a city councilor, in four separate stints between 1973 and 2006.

When Dick retired as a councilor - for the last time - in 2006, fellow councilor Jeff Petry said: "Dick has always been such a huge fan of our little city and has volunteered so much of his life to make our city a great place to live, work and play. He is a shining example of what the next generation should aspire to be: a hard-working, self-made person."

What Dick accomplished during the 63 years he lived in Baker City can be measured both in tangible ways - the Maxi-Mart Shopping Center he built on Pocahontas Road, for instance, and the revival of the annual Miners Jubilee festival - and in ways much less obvious, and thus easier to take for granted.

Dick was the founding chairman of the Baker Industrial Development Commission, said Gary Schmitt, who worked for U.S. Bank in Baker City from 1978-89.

That organization assisted in a variety of business development projects in Baker County.

"I think if you look at many of the big developments that happened you'll find Dick's fingerprints on them in one way or another," said Schmitt, who now splits his time between Seattle and Vancouver, Wash. "Dick was always the voice of economic growth for the county. And that wasn't always an easy thing to do in Baker."

Schmitt, who was an integral player in bringing the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to Flagstaff Hill, said Dick, along with Leo Adler, were his "go-to guys" when it came to economic development.

"If you needed a thousand dollars to arrange a visit for a firm that was interested in locating in Baker, Dick always came through with the money," Schmitt said. "Even when you didn't see him directly engaged in something he was a catalyst behind the scenes."

"Dick worked on everything," said Randy Guyer, a Baker City CPA who worked with Dick on a variety of economic development and community projects.

Guyer credits Dick, along with Jack Turner, retired publisher of the Baker City Herald, with arranging the deal for land that brought Marvin Wood Products to Baker City.

Dick was a key member of the local group that formed Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) in 1987.

His involvement with what became OTEC started with a conversation instigated by a Baker City resident who in some respects was, and by her own admission, Dick's opposite.

Peggi Timm and her husband, Glenn, were already working to set up the member-owned cooperative.

"I knew we must have a respected businessman involved, and Dick came to mind," Peggi recalled in a telephone interview Thursday morning

But there was a problem.

A potential problem, anyway.

Dick and Peggi were not what you'd call friends.

Acquaintances, let's say.

"We did have some differences," Peggi said. "Oh, maybe 25 years worth."

The political divide between the pair was immense.

"I'm a rather progressive Democrat, and Dick was a conservative Republican," Peggi said.

But it was a purely local issue that spawned their conflict.

Peggi was the first and most vocal proponent of what became the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway, the paved path that parallels the Powder River through most of town.

Haynes' home borders the west bank of the river, opposite where the path was eventually built. He didn't think much of using public dollars for Peggi's project.

To that end he erected a sign near his driveway which indicated that the well-groomed landscaping on his property - Dick had an immaculate vegetable and flower garden - was paid for solely with private money.

So when Peggi approached Dick one day in the lobby of U.S. Bank - "you could almost always find him there," she said with a chuckle - she understood that he request was, well, a trifle unconventional.

"I said to him, 'you and I should kiss and make up,' " Peggi said.

"He looked at me kind of funny and said, 'well, maybe the make up part.' "

And from that an alliance was born.

Not long after, Peggi said, Dick flew his own airplane to Walnut Creek, Calif., to represent the OTEC committee in a meeting with officials from the CP National, the private utility that OTEC eventually replaced.

"What I heard was that Dick got into that meeting room, he took his shoes off and wiggled his toes in the nice, cushy carpet," Peggi said. "He often did that."

Dick did something else that day.

He secured for OTEC a deal that saved the fledgling cooperative something like $20 million, Peggi said.

"Dick was really good," she said. "He knew what the heck we needed to do."

And often as not, he did it.

Dick grew up in Salem.

He moved to Baker City in 1949 with his wife of two years, Marge, who was raised in Baker City and graduated from Baker High School in 1938.

For three years Dick taught agriculture to U.S. veterans recently returned from World War II.

After that program ended, Dick and Marge moved to a ranch in Baker Valley and started Farmterials, a fertilizer and seed business that they moved to their Maxi-Mart Center in 1969.

It wasn't long after that Dick had the idea to revive a local celebration, the Baker Mining Jubilee, that had lain dormant since 1941.

He and Marge put on Mining Jubilee Days events at Maxi-Mart in 1975 and 1976.

But then the Mining Jubilee, after its brief return, went again on hiatus.

But this time the interval was far less than three and a half decades.

Dick continued to advocate for the event, arguing that Baker should keep alive the mining legacy that precipitated the city's founding in the early 1860s.

Starting in 1982 the Baker County Chamber of Commerce has sponsored the Miners Jubilee every July.

The Chamber, by the way, honored Dick as its Legacy Man of the Year in 1992.

That was a more conspicuous event than was typical for Dick.

Many of his lasting contributions to the community were not so widely acknowledged or publicized.

In June 2009, for instance, at the behest of his friend, Bob Foree, Dick invited local artist Tom Novak to display, for just that month, some of his work in the Main Street building that was vacated when Barb Ackerman and Betty Dahlen retired and closed the Hallmark store.

Novak said he talked with several other artists who agreed to join him in what he deemed, given the circumstances, the Short Term Gallery.

June passed.

"Dick and Marge loved what we were doing, so they asked to stay for another month," Novak said.

Summer passed into autumn and "short term" had become almost half a year.

In November 2009, Dick told Novak he could continue to use the building, rent-free, for as long as he wanted.

"That allows us to sell artwork with no commission, and it's all due to Dick and Marge's generosity," Novak said. "It's just been so good for the local artists.

"Dick will be missed."

The Hayneses received the Downtown Success Story Award in 2010 from Historic Baker City Inc. for their contributions.

Another testament to Dick's philanthropy, this of a more personal sort, is the Baker City Christian Church on Highway 7 at the south end of town.

The 14,655-square-foot church opened in 2005 on a 4.5-acre parcel that Dick and Marge donated. They are members of the church's congregation.

Fred Payton, who was the head of the church's building committee and is a church elder, said the congregation had outgrown its previous location near Baker High School.

The Haynes' donation of the land, he said, "kickstarted" the project that culminated in the new church.

Payton said he worked closely with Dick on the building committee, and quickly recognized Dick's business acumen.

"He was very astute about that, of course, but he also understand that there are things that couldn't be measured with finances, especially when it came to the church," Payton said. "He was very generous."

More recently, Dick and Marge donated items for the Palmer Optical Shop display at the Baker Heritage Museum, as well as land next to the former Wilson's Market (which the couple also own) that the Baker Family YMCA plans to use for its programs.

Dick's projects weren't always without controversy.

In the 1980s he promoted a business that would have recycled electrical transformers. The proposal bothered many local residents who were concerned about the possible health effects of PCBs in the transformers.

The recycling plant wasn't built.

The transformer debate probably was an example of how Dick's stubborness - what could just as fairly be described as confidence - seemed off-putting to some.

"Dick was one of the more stubborn people I've ever met," Hofmann said, "and I was the recipient of some of that stubborness. But I think people misunderstood his stubborness to a certain extent."

However irascible Dick might have seemed at times, he always believed that his advocacy would benefit the city he loved, and its people, Hofmann said.

That love had much to do with Dick's favorite hobby of fishing, Schmitt said.

"Dick loved life, and Baker County was perfect for him," Schmitt said. "In recent years he would call me and tell me about his fishing trips."

Dick also was an experienced mountain pilot, adept at taking his plane into remote country.

"I went with him many times, and from time to time it was a white-knuckle experience," Schmitt said.

Dick was something of a social media enthusiast long before that term was invented and associated with such services as Facebook and Twitter, Schmitt said.

"He did a lot of traveling, and he had an ability to stay in touch with people, by postcards and the occasional phone call, all over the world," Schmitt said. "He was constantly promoting Baker County. Along with his family and his church, that was his great passion."

Guyer, while lamenting Dick's death as "a real loss for the community," points out that his legacy is visible in something as prosaic as the Christmas lights that adorn his home.

"That just says, Dick Haynes."