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World War II veteran and popular legislator Bill Markham has died at 98

Longtime businessman, state legislator and World War II veteran Bill Markham will be remembered as a man of service to his family and community.

He died Monday at the age of 98.

Markham served Douglas County and parts of Josephine County as a Republican representative in the Oregon House from 1969 to 1997, a record 14 terms. He stepped down when new term limits barred him from running again, but longtime former Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson said Markham was so popular that without term limits he could easily have been reelected as many times as he wanted to be.

“He was a good friend and one of the most effective legislators in the state Legislature we’ve had,” Robertson said.

Markham was an 18-year-old student at Centralia Junior College in Washington when the Pearl Harbor attack began. He joined the Army Air Force the following year and piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress in missions over Europe.

“I flew 25 missions and felt fortunate to get home in one piece,” he told The News-Review in 2015.

He went on to graduate from the University of Washington, receiving a degree in business, and owned and operated an Oregon logging and construction business in South County. He helped found Umpqua Community College and served on its board for 24 years. He was also a co-founder of three independent banks — South Umpqua State Bank (now Umpqua Bank), Douglas National Bank, and Pacific Security Bank of Reedsport.

He was also instrumental in the origination of Wildlife Safari.

This background may have contributed to his passion for helping constituents who worked in natural resources industries, from timber to agriculture.

“He was a really committed supporter of his constituents no matter what the issue, but his background and understanding of natural resources was a real help to this district,” said Robertson, who knew Markham for four decades.

He also had a skill that almost seems like a lost art these days — the gift of being able to work with people on both sides of an issue.

“He had a great ability to be able to reach across party lines regardless of who the governor was. It just didn’t make any difference, or who the leadership of the House was either,” Robertson said.

Markham was always in the Douglas County Veterans Parade, but he didn’t talk much about his service unless he was asked.

He was also a founding member of the Southern Oregon Warbirds. Initially conceived as a group for World War II pilots, the group has expanded to include veterans of the wars in Korea and Vietnam as the number of World War II veterans has dwindled.

Former Southern Oregon Warbirds President Jim Little said Markham gave great speeches and was helpful when local veterans were campaigning for improvements at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“I admired him because he was approachable,” Little said. “A lot of people in those positions are standoffish and he certainly wasn’t.”

Longtime friend Stan Hermann, a fellow World War II veteran, described Markham as easygoing. He was the kind of guy who got along well with everybody and he was known everywhere, he said.

The two enjoyed traveling together.

“He was a good man. It’s good to have known someone like Bill,” he said.

He lived a long and eventful life. He will be missed by many.

Fremont seventh grader Skylar Knox helps raise osprey awareness in Roseburg parks

Ospreys have had safe places to nest in Roseburg for several years and now the public will be able to spot those nests a little easier with signs that went up in the last few weeks.

Fremont Middle School seventh grader Skylar Knox was instrumental in getting the signs installed.

“A wonderful cooperative effort, but definitely inspired by Skylar,” said Diana Wales, president of the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society.

Skylar, who is a contributing reporter for The News-Review, wrote an article about the ospreys last summer and got in touch with Wales and Kris Ammerman, program manager for City of Roseburg Parks and Recreation for research.

“Diana Wales said that it would be a good idea to have some signage about the ospreys and I asked how we could do that,” Skylar said.

The answer: get permission from the city, create the sign, edit the sign and get sponsorship for the sign.

“With the poles being there, Audubon had been thinking about, talking about — but had never really got around to — working with the city to put up signs on the posts, until Skylar did her article last summer,” Wales said. “That got us to really thinking we needed to do it.”

Ammerman said Skylar wanted to raise awareness for the birds in the area, but also the efforts by the organizations to help the birds.

The City of Roseburg and Pacific Power worked together several years ago to build the nest structures, which also helps keep the birds from building nests on power poles and on the light structures at the nearby baseball fields. Ospreys are protected under federal law, which means the birds, nests or eggs cannot be moved without the approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Skylar’s favorite part of the osprey signage is the information about the fledglings.

“Basically I just took some of the information from the article and some from sources online,” Skylar said. “I put in things that people like me would want to know.”

After she designed the horizontal signs to be displayed at Stewart Park, she was asked to make the signs for Gaddis Park vertical — so they could be attached directly to the osprey nesting pole.

The signs are sponsored by the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society, designed by Skylar and edited by Wildlife Safari Education Director Leila Goulet, and installed by the City of Roseburg.

“(Skylar) did a lot. She got most of the information, I just edited it and changed a couple of things,” Goulet said. “She’s amazing. She writes a bunch of articles about Wildlife Safari and will reach out to us every couple of months for information.”

Goulet said while students reach out to her occasionally about book reports or papers, it’s rare to see 12-year-olds involved in formal projects like this. “She’s kind of unique,” Goulet said.

This Saturday, HealTerra is organizing an event in the butterfly garden at Stewart Park that will include a short presentation about the osprey.

At 10:30 a.m., volunteers will be pulling weeds, mulching and cleaning the butterfly garden. At noon, there will be a talk about butterflies by Elkton Community Education Center followed by a presentation from the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society at 12:30 p.m.

Skylar will be there early with the Fremont Future Business Leaders of America, of which she is the president, to help clean the garden.

“I just really like to help out with the community,” Skylar said. “I didn’t know much about osprey. I didn’t know they were here until I wrote the article. I thought it would be great to have signs here, so other people could learn about them as well.”

DINT detective dives into river to retrieve more than 1 pound of meth during traffic stop

A Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team detective dove into the South Umpqua River to seize a bag containing more than 1 pound of methamphetamine during an attempted traffic stop in Myrtle Creek on Tuesday.

DINT detectives had been monitoring Robert Paul Muniain, 60, of Oakdale, California, as part of an ongoing investigation when Muniain was spotted driving north on Interstate 5 near Myrtle Creek. Detectives, with help from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, attempted to stop Muniain. He slowed but refused to stop initially, exiting the freeway into Myrtle Creek, a press release said.

As the pursuit crossed the bridge over the South Umpqua River, Muniain reportedly threw a bag out his vehicle window and into the river below before stopping.

DINT detective Matt Bird, fearing Muniain had tossed drugs into the river, raced down the riverbank and dove into the river once he spotted the bag floating on the surface. Bird was able to retrieve the bag before continuing to swim to the opposite side of the river, according to a court document. The meth inside the bag equaled more than 1 pound, which is far more than the personal use amount allowed by Oregon law. A typical addict uses an average of 1 gram of meth per day, the press release said.

Other than being wet and cold, Bird was uninjured.

Muniain was lodged in the Douglas County Jail on suspicion of meth possession and delivery. After Muniain was arraigned Wednesday, bail was set at $500,000. Further charges may be pending.