By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

A human transition that's shared by all

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Two remarkable women died this week in Yamhill County. The differences in their lives underscore the diverse ways exceptional people affect the lives of others; the nearness of their final breaths reminds us that our lives are part of a human transition shared by all.

Joan (pronounced Jo Ann) Austin, 81, died unexpectedly in her sleep Wednesday morning next to her husband and business partner, Ken Austin of Newberg. Together, they built A-dec into the nation’s largest privately-owned manufacturer of dental equipment, and Joan became widely known for her philanthropic, civic, business and community activities.

Those activities are subject of extensive news coverage, reflecting the far-reaching impact Joan and Ken have had in Oregon and beyond. A statement from the company quoted president and Austin son-in-law Scott Parrish:

“Aside from Joan’s dedication, breadth of experience, rich insight and business acumen, it’s her enormous capacity to give that will create the greatest void.”

A day earlier, Tricia Crawford died peacefully at home in McMinnville, just two months after learning that a mass in her left frontal cortex would shorten her luminous life.

A short news story today recalls her role as first director of Your Community Mediators of Yamhill County, and tells of her more recent passion as a cofounder of the Give A Little Foundation. The story doesn’t delve into her otherwise private life, but it’s impossible to ignore the power of more than 150 guestbook posts on a website that kept family and friends informed and connected.

In those two months, Tricia and her family taught people something about how to die, just as Tricia had taught so many of them how to live. Here are just two of the website posts:

“I loved Sara’s description of her strong, loving, almost unbearable gaze. Each person who received that gaze felt warm, strengthened and loved.”

“Tricia was indeed an angel in human form. My harper friend Sharon’s song for her daddy, ‘Dancing in Heaven,’ played in my mind. I feel Tricia’s spirit, dancing with the angels, dancing with us, reminding us to hold each other, and you, her beloved family, close in our hearts as we continue the journey this side of the river.”

From dissimilar walks of life, each woman fulfilled her calling by somehow transcending the trepidation that causes others to fall short. We are a better place for having shared it with Joan Austin and Tricia Crawford.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.

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