Longtime community leader dies

Donna Short volunteered on rodeo, city boards

— Longtime City Council member, Omak Stampede board member and community volunteer Donna Short was remembered as a strong-willed woman with a heart of gold.

Short, 86, died May 12.

“Donna was Donna,” longtime Stampede volunteer Ed Thiele said. “She gave anything she possibly could. She was a tremendous person for Stampede.”

Omak Mayor Cindy Gagne, who served for several years on the council with Short, said Short loved Omak and would mentor new council members.

“She was a good friend,” said Gagne, who added that Short helped judge Christmas decorating entries for several years, including 2012.

Gagne said Short told her that a council person and active community member could plaster her home’s walls with plaques and certificates, but should remember that it all could be fleeting.

“The walls of her house were filled with pictures of her kids and grandkids,” the mayor said.

Short had plenty of awards, including an Omak Stampede Hall of Fame statuette, awarded in 2000, and an Omak Chamber of Commerce citizen of the year award.

She was involved in her sons’ activities, from youth baseball to high school sports and Boy Scouts.

She and her husband, Rex, “were instrumental” in developing ball fields at East Side Park, Gagne said.

Short was appointed to the City Council in 1965 by then-Mayor George Laycock.

“I was 39, dumber than a post, no experience,” Short said during a 2009 interview with The Chronicle.

Although she didn’t know anything about city government, Short said she wanted to be involved in her community. She had energy, wasn’t afraid and had no agendas, she said.

For the first year, she sat, listened and asked questions. Once she realized what she could do, she started to champion her causes.

Short also was involved with construction of the airport terminal, police and fire stations, and wastewater treatment plant.

She ran for mayor in the late 1970s and lost to Clarence Nash, then left the council for a couple years until Nash appointed her to a vacant position. She left again briefly in the 1980s.

In all, she served more than 30 years on the council, leaving for good in 2009, when she chose not to seek re-election.

Short also spent 22 years on the Stampede board, serving as secretary for several years. During her time on the board, the organization built a new arena.

She was a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Gold Card holder and was named to the honorary (emeritus) board after leaving the active board.

“She worked with us while she was on the council,” Thiele said. “She did a great job for us.”

Among the memories several people cited was the time Short dressed as Lady Godiva, climbed upon a horse and rode through downtown Omak during a 1994 mini-parade to mark the return to Omak of then-Chronicle Publisher John E. Andrist after his 1993 stroke.

In recent years, Short battled medical problems, including a bout with cancer.

“No matter what was going on in her life, she never let it get her down,” friend Judy Z. Smith said. “She was one of the bravest women I know. She never, ever gave up.”

Short started college at age 48 and earned associate of arts and bachelor of arts degrees.

She worked for the state Employment Security Department and for two doctors; was on the North Central Educational Service District board; and volunteered with the Okanogan Valley Soroptimist Club, Ora Yarwood Orthopedic Guild, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Committee and Omak First Presbyterian Church.

A service will be at noon Saturday, May 18, at the Omak First Presbyterian Church, 9 S. Birch St. Her obituary is on Page A13.

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