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Lisa Shara Hall ’74

March 9, 2019, in Portland, from ALS and related dementia.

At an early age, Lisa learned to cook at her mother’s elbow. She ran her own catering company when she was in high school and went on to forge a dynamic career as a food and wine writer, becoming a champion of Oregon’s wine industry.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Lisa imbibed the activist spirit of her dynamic parents, who participated in Martin Luther King Junior’s 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 March on Selma. As a teenager growing up in West Orange, New Jersey—just 18 miles from Manhattan—she was allowed to take the bus into New York City after school for art classes at the New School or visits to the Museum of Modern Art.

When it came time to choose a college, Lisa chose Reed over Radcliffe and drove her yellow Volkswagen bug west, eager to strike out on her own and be part of an intense intellectual environment. She fell in love with Portland and stayed for the rest of her life.

Majoring in religion, she wrote her thesis, “Kaleidoscope: The Patterns of the Contradiction in Judaism on its Definition of the Role of Women,” with Prof. Simon Parker [religion 1968–75] .

At a Valentine’s Day brunch in 1988, Lisa met Kirk Hall and married him later that year. She worked for civil rights enforcement for the City of Portland, in commercial litigation, and finally in community relations for Legacy Emanuel Hospital. 

Able to marshal a five-course meal for 40, Lisa was an early and enthusiastic supporter of organic foods. She began food and restaurant writing for Willamette Week and then for the Oregonian, specializing in restaurant news rather than reviews (what new place was opening, which special dish to try). With Prof. Roger Porter [English 1961­–2015], she coauthored The Food Lover’s Companion to Portland, a comprehensive guide to Portland’s developing culinary scene. 

Eventually Lisa got bored with food writing. “How many times can you write about roast chicken?” she said. She began sneaking in news about wine tastings or new wineries in Oregon. Her 2001 book, Wines of the Pacific Northwest, was a finalist for the Cookbook Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Visiting nearly every wine region in the world, Lisa judged wines and made friends with growers, vintners, and wine journalists. She wrote for The Oxford Companion to Wine, Decanter, and Hugh Johnson Pocket Guide and was a senior editor for Wine Business Monthly. 

Lisa, who had already gone through years of surgery for Crohn’s disease, diagnosed in her teens, was diagnosed with ALS in 2016. She was in hospice care for over a year and died peacefully at home at the age of 66. She is survived by her husband, Kirk, and her sister, Cathy Fantz.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2019

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