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William Campbell Church ’49

April 2, 2019, in Portland.

Considered Oregon’s first practicing solar architect, Bill served as the Oregon Governor’s Solar Advisor in 1977 and went on to become the commissioner for renewable resources for the Portland Energy Commission. 

He was born in Portland and followed his brother, Dudley Church ’42, to Reed. Bill’s year at Reed was followed by service in the U.S. Navy. He began studying architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but three years into his degree, he returned to Portland to begin a long and illustrious career. In a rare accomplishment for the time, he passed his architecture exams on the first attempt. Years later, he sat on the American Institute of Architects board of examiners to spearhead improvement for exams and learning outcomes.

An extraordinary visionary, Bill won many awards for his outstanding residential and commercial designs. He worked tirelessly on single-room-occupancy housing and energy conservation projects in the Portland area and authored books on these subjects. He served on numerous committees, boards, and task forces, often in leadership roles as president, chair, and director. In the ’70s, Bill was an instructor at the University of Oregon and for the Department of Energy. He was inducted as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1983.

Bill met his wife, Barbara Tague, while they wore both working at his father’s firm. A shy man, he was slow to ask her for a date. But their courtship deepened and the couple married in 1953. Barbara was quick to tell people, “Bill Church is the greatest man who ever walked the face of this earth.” Together with Barbara and a handful of like-minded friends, Bill designed and initiated a passive solar co-housing community in Portland that thrives 40 years later. Barbara died in 2010.

From kayaking to river rafting, backpacking, and mountaineering, Bill immersed himself in the natural world. A natural athlete, he participated in sports and was a devoted fan of the Oregon Ducks. He played tennis until arthritis won the game and then turned his attention to a book club. Late in life, he discovered painting and worked to loosen the grip on his drafting hand. He was graced with a traveling companion in his son-in-law, John Pisano, who took him to Scotland, to Central America, and on a road trip along Route 66.

Bill left this world gently in a cozy cloud of quilted comfort provided by his caregivers. He is survived by his daughters, Sara Church, Martha Wiedmaier, and Bronwyn Murray, and his brother, Dudley Church.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2019

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