Obituaries & Tributes

Hal R. Hartzell: April 19, 1946 – Nov. 27, 2023

Hal Hartzell, beloved member of family and community, died Nov. 27 at RiverBend Hospital after an abrupt health crisis. All his close family were able to say goodbye, and he chose to pass just as stories, memories, and laughter began to erupt in the room.

Born in 1946 in San Mateo, Calif. to Harold R. Hartzell Sr. and Beulah (Stevenson) Hartzell, he was the beloved older brother of his sister Hollis and brother Steven. Humor, a multitude of cousins, and an astounding number of household moves were the ingredients of his early years. He spent many a’summer on his grandmother’s farm outside of Medford; he graduated from high school there, before moving to Eugene for studies and a degree at the University of Oregon, where he majored in English.

From there, at the age of 20, intrepid Hal joined the Peace Corps and landed in the heart of Africa. He was in a market village, where he said he was welcomed wherever he went — an adventure which became the source of endless vivid stories … jumping on his motorbike to follow the sounds of drumming in the night; assisting the village in building 25 grain silos; digging a 200-foot well by hand, which involved lowering a person down with a twine rope; and utilizing shaman ceremony to break through rock.

Reentering the United States with culture shock brought Hal to the beginning of what became Hoedads Reforestation Cooperative, another adventure involving friendship, extraordinary people, passion, and hands in the dirt! Hal applied his intelligence and generous spirit to get this fledgling experiment in worker-owned business through enormous start-up challenges, epic parties, and exhilarating success. 1975 was the year his beloved baby girl Anna was born to Chris and Hal, marked by a thunderstorm and three girls bearing flowers to their door. 

Shortly after, the energetic Hoedad movement proved a natural affinity for politics and Hal jumped in as campaign manager for Jerry Rust, founding member of Hoedads, when he ran for Lane County Commissioner. The success profoundly startled and changed Lane County politics.  

The Oregon Country Fair delighted every bone in Hal’s body, and it is a little-known fact that Hal invented “the Sweep,” a musical, humorous, and trademark event that — just what it says — “sweeps” the fair-goers down the many paths to exit. In later years, he inherited an honorable position, with a rocking chair, on the History Crew.

Hal’s devotion to values of equality and generous endeavor is epitomized in his authorship of two important books, including: “Birth of a Cooperative,” an oral history chronicling the earliest, most challenging, and exhilarating experience of Hoedads. And “The Yew, a Thousand Whispers,” an award-winning biography of a tree through history.

These books and that diligence to writing came in conjunction with a publishing venture with friends in Eugene – Hulogosi Press. Seven books were published in a short span with contributions coming from friends in Eugene’s counterculture phenomena … The Grateful Dead, Merry Pranksters, Oregon Country Fair, and of course, Hoedads.

During those same years, Hal committed his love to Betsy and her family, Alex, Laura, and Noah Wemple to the best of his ability, including quietly but profoundly honoring their deceased father, his friend, Edd Wemple.

Cottage Grove became his home in 1997. Returning to their roots on Cougar Mountain Farm on the outskirts of town, he and Betsy together founded Kalapuya Books. This became a door to  friendships and cohesive community, particularly with the iconic Bread Club and Hal’s famous blackberry wine.

Preceded in death by mother, father, and son-in-law, he leaves behind Betsy, wife of 32 years; son, Alex; daughters, Laura and Anna; Anna’s mother, Chris; four grandchildren, Zarah, Zen, Audrey, and Auto; sister, Holly; brother, Steve; and all their numerous family and cousins.

The total of this life’s legacy involved fascinating adventure with the well-being of the community always at its core. He was articulate, funny, loyal, and generous. He loved the rain, and most importantly, planted almost a million trees — each one carefully planted into the ground with a hand cupped over the roots. 

In later years, he became considerably slowed down and quiet, finally requiring help in daily activities. This was the most tender time between him and Betsy, remarkable for his astounding patience, grateful acknowledgment of care, and a trademark sparkle in his eye.

A celebration of Hal’s life will be held Thursday, Dec. 21 from 5-7 p.m. at the Odd Fellows building at 317 E. Main St. in Cottage Grove. Please bring poetry, memories, and tall tales to share. An after-party will take place at the Axe & Fiddle and Kalapuya Books.

Death Notices

Richard Rex Clark, 82, of Cottage Grove, Ore. died Dec. 8, 2023. 

John Keith Wilson, 85, of Yoncalla, Ore. died Dec. 10, 2023. 

Terry Lee Simons, 69, of Cottage Grove, Ore. died Dec. 15, 2023. 

Above arrangements: Smith-Lund-Mills Funeral Chapel and Crematorium. 

Wayne W. Moore, 80, of Eugene, Ore. died Dec. 5, 2023. 

Thomas J. Mayer, 74, of Eugene, Ore. died Dec. 6, 2023. 

Allen Junior Shiroma, 68, of Eugene, Ore. died Dec.12, 2023. 

Above arrangements: Sunset Hills Funeral Home, Crematorium & Cemetery. 



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