Longtime Ashlander Pugh dies

Prominent Ashland businessman and former Daily Tidings columnist Lance Pugh died Sunday of liver and kidney failure. He was 61.

Pugh and his wife, Annette, came to Ashland in 1971 and began a four-decades career of buying, renovating and renting historic properties.

He was on the Ashland Planning Commission for nine years and was its chairman for part of that time. The Pughs renovated the Odd Fellows building on the Plaza, now home to the Black Sheep and other restaurants, and began the restoration of the Historic Ashland Armory when it was put on the market by the Oregon National Guard.

Pugh was a longtime humor and history columnist for the Ashland Daily Tidings and compiled his essays in a book, "Essentially Ashland." He also wrote columns for the Sneak Preview.

"He was kind of controversial, and he really loved Ashland and wanted the best for it and its small-business people," said his wife, a real estate broker with Gateway Realty. "He was a good steward of the community."

When the couple arrived here in 1971, they found a "decaying, boarded-up Plaza," and they saw a vision for what it could be, she said.

Rabbi David Zaslow described Pugh as "one of those bigger-than-life characters who came with a pocketful of dreams and was able to manifest both the personal dreams and those of the community."

Pugh opened Lithia Grocery, a combination restaurant and organic produce spot, said Zaslow, and helped create Guanajuato Way, with its alfresco dining in the summer and craft fair on the weekends.

"Lance stayed out of politics and went to the heart, as a journalist of human interest stories," Zaslow said.

Ashland developer Lloyd Haines, to whom Pugh sold the Odd Fellows building, said, "He was a good friend, a visionary, ahead of his times and I'll miss him."

Longtime friend Allen Douma said, "I've never met a person who cared more deeply for Ashland. He spent a lot of time and energy looking out for the rest of us."

A celebration of Pugh's life will be held at Havurah Shir Hadash, said Zaslow. A day and time will be announced later.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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