(Published on OregonLive May 19, medical 2015.)
Bruce McCain with wife Kathy and two grandchildren. A member of the Reynolds School board, McCain died last month. COURTESY KELLY MARTIN

Bruce McCain with wife Kathy and two grandchildren. A member of the Reynolds School board, McCain died last month.

Bruce McCain, chair of the Reynolds School District board, died last month from brain cancer.

McCain, 60, was diagnosed in February with a highly malignant type of brain tumor. McCain was honored for his board service at a meeting April 8, the last meeting he was able to attend.

“Obviously it’s a tremendous loss,” said board vice-chair Joe Teeny. “He’s a great leader and mentor to I think all of us. We’re heartbroken.”

McCain had started chemotherapy and radiation in March, but a lung infection kept him from continuing treatment, said his daughter Kelly Martin. McCain was in hospice care for nine days before he died at his home.

“My mom was holding his hand,” Martin said, and McCain was surrounded by his children, two grandchildren and other family.

Her father ran for a seat on the school board because he wanted to contribute to his community, Martin said. McCain, from San Diego, first came to Oregon to take a job with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office. He retired in 2009 as a captain.

McCain was also a media commentator and analyst, an attorney, and he helped out with high school sports. He had a photographic memory and was “crazy smart,” Martin said.

“He had his hands in so many projects and really didn’t expect a lot in return,” Martin said. “He commanded respect, but he also didn’t need to be glorified.”

McCain was a frequent contributor to radio talk show host Victoria Taft’s political blog. Taft said she had hoped to see McCain before he passed, but did not make it to Portland in time.

Taft said she’d known McCain for several years and admired his professional work and character. She said his death is an incredible loss for the public arena.

“He would just make sure that every single aspect of an issue was covered before he wrote about it,” she said. “It was an impressive thing. You couldn’t have someone with better character in charge of policy-making for a school district.”

McCain filed for re-election and was the only candidate for his position on last month’s ballot. Martin said her father refused to take his name off the ballot, even as his health declined.

“He was still talking about what he needed to do to get ready for the election,” Martin said. “He gave 100 percent of his passion to everything he did.”

During McCain’s time on the board, the district hired a new superintendent and put together the bond measure, something that didn’t seem possible four years ago, Teeny said. McCain had wanted to see the bond pass, win re-election and attend graduation later this year, Teeny said.

District voters  approved a $125 million bond in order to to rebuild three elementary schools, perform renovations at Reynolds High and fund other safety upgrades.

Reynolds School District Superintendent Linda Florence said McCain immersed himself in his duties and participated in board and student activities.

“His leadership, his sense of humor and his devotion to the district will be greatly missed,” she said in a statement. “I will think about him often, especially during football games when he paced the sidelines, taking pictures and sharing stories. Even when he learned that he had cancer, he could only think of the students.”

According to district spokesman Andrea Watson, McCain was active on the board and completed the Oregon School Boards Association’s leadership training.

“He really is going to be missed,” she said. “He was really valuable, as far as really digging in and learning and finding out a lot about education.”

Multnomah County elections spokesman Eric Sample said that votes for McCain will still be tallied and reported to the district. The board will appoint a new member to fill McCain’s seat, and the position will be on the ballot in May 2017.