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Douglas County mourns loss of museum director Gardner Chappell

S. Gardner Chappell during an interview with KPIC News. (SBG image)

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- The Douglas County community is mourning the loss of former county museum director S. Gardner Chappell.

Chappell presided over several events and programs at the museum over the years, such as teaching fourth graders about the Pioneer Period of the 19th century.

"The way we like to notice it is we don't see a single cell phone pop out, so that must mean we're doing a really good program," Chappell said in an interview during the program in 2015.

Chappell helped highlight coastal Douglas County in 2007 when county commissioners announced the Umpqua Lighthouse at Winchester Bay would be one of five on the Pacific coast pictured on postage stamps released by the US Postal Service. "We think it's a real recognition of the Umpqua River Lighthouse and all the efforts we've put into it the past few years, to really restore it, to bring the beauty of the lighthouse out," he said at the time.

Chappell ushered in the Snakes Alive exhibit in 2009, which included the history and mythology of snakes in cultures around the world. It was one of many programs highlighting his love of teaching children.

"It's been awhile since we have had some live animals and the great thing about having live snakes, lizards or turtles, is that they are animated," he said of the exhibit. "They are interesting. They really grab kids' attention and it's a great way to get them to learn about nature."

In 2016, Chappell helped spearhead a plan to turn the Colliding Rivers Visitor Center into an exploration station.

"It's really going to try to introduce people to what makes this area so unique," he said in an interview last May. "It's the ecology, the geology; all the different sciences."

Chappell had undergone treatment for serious medical issues that included a brain tumor. His work with local kids inspired them to mount a "get-well card drive" in December.

"All of these kids in Douglas County have been affected by Gardner for being able to go to Pioneer Day, the drive-in movie and other events at the school,” said Hucrest Elementary 5th grade teacher Emily Veale. “So to be able to show Gardner a little bit of love for all the love that he gives our kids was really important."

The community rallied in support, including a mustache-themed fundraiser at O'Toole's Pub in Roseburg that brought out hundreds of visitors.

"Gardner and I have been friends for the last seven or eight years,” said Roseburg City Manager Lance Colley. “Great guy, just an amazing personality, an outgoing personality, and so vibrant and so much fun, and we miss him."

"The Douglas County Commissioners are saddened by the recent loss of Scott Gardner Chappell," the commission said in a statement Tuesday.

"Mr. Chappell served as the Douglas County Museum Director for 11 years. He served Douglas County with a passion, dedication and enthusiasm appreciated by the employees and loved by the visitors of the Museum. He had an infectious attitude and was a tremendous asset to Douglas County. He will be sorely missed."

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